The third week of the NFL regular season ended in a thrilling overtime victory for the Packers. Fans won’t be surprised to hear this is the first OT victory in Aaron Rodgers’ career, as the defensive stop was highly unlike the defensive breakdown in OT against Arizona in the 2015 postseason. What some might not know is this was his first victory over the Bengals, the last non-Packers team Rodgers had yet to defeat. Win or lose, this game also yielded several lessons that should carry over through the rest of the season.Embed from Getty Images
Josh Jones Lives Up To The Hype
After posting a quietly good preseason and flashing against the Falcons, Josh Jones had a breakthrough game against the Bengals. Lining up mainly at inside linebacker with Morgan Burnett moving to slot cornerback, Jones led the team in sacks with two and tackles with 12, including 11 solo tackles and three tackles for loss of yards. But more important than box score numbers, Jones looked like he belonged on the field. He looked like Micah Hyde in the final stretch of last season, making plays in the decisive moments of a close game. Jones’ third down sack led to a missed field goal that swayed the momentum of the game. And his third down tackle in OT paved the way for Rodgers’s scoring drive to end the game.
His success wasn’t just the result of a poor Bengals offensive line, even if that did help. Jones has exceptional speed, strength, athleticism, and physicality, and a player of his talent will eventually be in position to make plays. The only question was his awareness and discipline, which is why Jones slid to late second round, but so far he has put those concerns to rest.Embed from Getty Images
Geronimo Allison Isn’t Another Brandon Boykin
After a successful rookie season that started on the practice squad, some compared Allison to former Packers received Jarrett Boykin. After posting five receptions in 2012, Boykin stepped up after Greg Jennings left for the Vikings and injuries meant lost time for Randall Cobb & James Jones. Boykin ended 2013 with 49 receptions for 681 yards and three TDs, but saw no NFL action after ending 2014 with three receptions.
Standing at 6’2″, the lengthy Boykin had limited speed but made up for it with good hands and quickness off the line of scrimmage. Unlike Boykin, the 6’3″ Allison has translated these traits into success in his second season. Allison has demonstrated a consistent ability to generate yards after the catch, showing an elusiveness that Boykin seemed to lack.Embed from Getty Images
Blake Martinez Might Be More Than a JAG
From the time he was drafted in the fourth round, most pegged Martinez as ‘just another guy’ at inside linebacker. High effort, decent at playing the run, but a liability in coverage–in other words, a classic Packers ILB. During his first season, Martinez more or less lived up to that assessment. Jake Ryan and Blake Martinez couldn’t be on the field at the same time, or the Packers could expect to be gashed by receiving TEs and RBs. This is why Joe Thomas and Morgan Burnett saw extended playing time at ILB, even sometimes in their 3-4 “base” formation (“base” in name only, as the Packers’ base defense is effectively nickel).
During his second season, Martinez has had increasingly productive games. He has had at least one tackle for a loss in each game and had one sack against the Falcons. Against the Bengals, Martinez saw many snaps next to Josh Jones and finished second on the team with 11 tackles, 7 solo. If Martinez keeps up this progress, a position that was a weakness in 2015 could become a strength in 2017.Embed from Getty Images
Honorable Mention – Packers Trust Marwin Evans
Packers have a lot of trust in Marwin Evans, as the special teams ace saw heavy action at safety with Josh Jones and Morgan Burnett displaced close to the line of scrimmage. Evans was regularly seen in the vicinity of AJ Green, even in the end zone. Even if the results were not always ideal, Marwin showed why the Packers’ safety group is the deepest in the league when one considers he’s a fifth-stringer.