Let's learn a little bit about the Saints opponent this week, the Green Bay Packers, shall we? And what better way to do that than by talking with the blogger who covers the team for SB Nation. So we've got a Q&A with Brandon from Acme Packing Company for all of you today.
I'd like to thank Brandon for taking time to answer my questions. For all your Packers info and to read my answers to his questions, check out Acme Packing Company.
Dave: How does the Packers roster and coaching staff look compared to last season, their championship year? Lots of turnover or mostly the same?
Brandon: Among the coaches, they only had one minor departure, wide receivers coach Jimmy Robinson is now in Dallas, and he was replaced by long time Packer running back Edgar Bennett. Yes, he's out of position, but I'm just going with it and the receivers are a veteran bunch anyway. Four long time players were released after they spent most of last season injured: LB Nick Barnett (now with the Bills), LB Brandon Chillar (free agent), LB Brady Poppinga (Rams), and RT Mark Tauscher (free agent). But they didn't sign any street free agent other than former Saint LB K.C. Asiodu, who didn't survive the final cuts.
Dave: With so many rookies on the Packers roster this year, tell us about a new face that Saints fans might not know about but may have an impact on the game this week?
Brandon: As they have in many past years, they created depth by adding rookie draft choices and undrafted free agents. ESPN reported recently that the Packers are the second youngest team in the NFL. The Packers have been one of the youngest teams for the past several seasons, but the Packers aren't relying on any rookie starters. The rookie standout this preseason was undrafted LB Vic So'oto, who had a monster game last week against the Chiefs with 1.5 sacks, forced a couple fumbles, and returned an INT for a touchdown. He won't start but he could be in the rotation as an outside linebacker for a few plays. The other noticeable rookie will be their 2nd round pick, WR Randall Cobb, who's fifth on the depth chart as a receiver, but they hope he can give their return game a boost.
Dave: A lot of people say the Saints and Packers are very similar teams. But where do you think the Packers differ from the Saints?
Brandon: There are a lot of similarities between both teams. Even the different defensive schemes (3-4 vs. 4-3) really isn't as pronounced because the Packers will play a 2-4-5 alignment for most of the game (especially against someone like Drew Brees). The biggest difference is that the Saints don't have a defensive playmaker like Clay Matthews, and I can't underestimate his role on the team. They wouldn't even make it to the playoffs without him last season.
Dave: What is the biggest weakness on this Packers team?
Brandon: We just had a poll on the Packers weakness over at APC, and the community (and I agreed too) said it was the offensive line. And it's not a bad unit, RG Josh Sitton is one of the best in the NFL, and everyone else is a solid player. But they can allow pressure, and they aren't a pancake run blocking type of unit. I guess it's a luxury that we have to go with a solid unit as the team's weakness
Dave: What do you think will be the most important matchup of the game?
Brandon: Any team that wants to beat the Packers has to be able to attack the middle of the field with their tight end and running back in the passing game. The Cardinals did it in the 2009 playoffs by attacking the middle with a bunched wide receiver set in the slot, so that's another wrinkle on the same idea. If Jimmy Graham can open up the middle of the field for chunks of yards, then it'll start to open up other areas in the secondary as the Packers adjust. Not little dump off passes for 0 YAC, the Packers will give that to you all day and then go for the INT, but getting past the linebackers and in front of the safeties for 15-20 yards.
Dave: Bonus: care to make a score prediction?
Brandon: If you're giving me the option, then I'll pass on a score prediction. I'm lousy at those, but I do think we'll see some sloppy play from both teams in their first week of action, and the score will be lower than many might expect.