It’s Week 7, and we’re back again with the Interview with the Enemy series. This week, Jason Hirschhorn of Acme Packing Company answers 5 quick questions about the upcoming matchup between the New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers:
I imagine there's a lot of gloom-and-doom in the Packers organization and fan base right now. We've seen what a team like the Jacksonville Jaguars (with an even 3-3 record and tied atop the division) can do with mediocre QB play. Granted, the Jaguars have a young and exciting defense and talented skills players on offense. Are the Packers a team built to carry a QB short of Rodgers's ability to the postseason?
Like most teams, the Green Bay Packers lack the infrastructure to survive without at least a capable player under center. Aaron Rodgers certainly elevated the offense in a manner few if any other quarterbacks in the league could, but the offense has functioned in his absence before. How well it works without Rodgers depends on whether Brett Hundley proves to be a proficient signal-caller.
The Packers' best-case scenario involves Hundley following the path of Matt Flynn in 2010. That year, Rodgers left a Week 14 game against the Detroit Lions with a concussion with Flynn struggling in relief. A week later after the coaching staff gave Flynn all the first-team reps, Flynn led a near-upset of the New England Patriots on the road.
Hundley possesses more talent than Flynn and the same number of years in the system at those respective points. Hundley plays well from the pocket, something that should help him operate the Packers offense. Areas where he seems likely to struggle -- completing throws after breaking the pocket, attacking defenses down the seams -- will need to improve for the offense to maintain any acceptable level of efficiency. Still, if Hundley can take those steps in his development, the Packers could win enough games to sneak into the playoffs.
Back-up Brett Hundley will likely get the first team reps in practice for the first time this season. What are the odds that he's not the starting QB by midseason? I've heard whispers of Tony Romo and/or Colin Kaepernick's name getting thrown around as a potential replacement. Thoughts?
Unless Hundley suffers an injury, the Packers will stick with him under center for the foreseeable future. Head coach Mike McCarthy made sure to point out during his Monday press conference that the team invested three offseasons in Hundley to prepare for this type of situation.
That said, Colin Kaepernick and Tony Romo certainly offer some intrigue for the Packers offense. Of the two, Kaepernick seems the more likely as he remains interested in playing football while Romo has a cushy gig with CBS Sports. Green Bay has made it clear they don't intend to add anyone outside the organization to fill in at quarterback for now, but that could certainly change if Hundley struggles or injuries intervene.
The Saints have had success recently by taking advantage of poor play and injuries to opposing offensive lines. How has the Packers' O-Line fared thus far?
As recently as Week 5, the Packers had literally zero healthy offensive tackles available on their 53-man roster. That number hasn't markedly improved in the time since, with starters David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga both dropping out of last week's game against the Minnesota Vikings and backups Jason Spriggs, Kyle Murphy, and Don Barclay stuck on injured reserve for now. To further complicate matters, starting left guard Lane Taylor suffered ankle and knee injuries last Sunday and seems unlikely to suit up against the New Orleans Saints.
Which player that Saints fans might not have heard of (not named Brett Hundley) do you expect to make a big impact on the game?
Inside linebacker Blake Martinez has improved from a mostly anonymous player in the middle of the Green Bay defense to one of its most consistent performers. Over the past few weeks, Martinez has made numerous plays in the backfield, key stops on third down, and forced turnovers for a defense that badly needs them. He leads the team in tackles and looks like a future Pro Bowler. For the Packers to pull the upset on Sunday, they need another big day from Martinez.
Predictions for the game? Final score?
I don't predict scores, but I do see the Saints winning this week in Lambeau Field. Hundley should play better than he did in relief of Rodgers, but I expect the big changes to the offense will arrive after the Packers' Week 8 bye. Drew Brees should have a typically stellar day, and the improved New Orleans defense should force enough mistakes to seal the victory.
Thank-you, Jason, for taking the time to answer our questions. Saints fans, make sure you check out Jason and the work his guys are doing over at Acme Packing Company. You can follow them on Twitter @AcmePackingCo, you can follow Jason @by_JBH, and as always you can follow me @dunnellz.