Behind Enemy Lines: Part I

Was Detroit's opening week loss an aberration? Has Aaron Rodgers supplanted Brett Favre in Green Bay? These questions and more are answered in a Q&A exchange between RoarReport.com publisher Nate Caminata and PackerReport.com's Todd Korth.

Todd Korth: What do you feel is the key matchup between the Packers and Lions?
Nate Caminata: As it was in Atlanta, this game will be won in the trenches between Green Bay's offensive line and the defensive front of Detroit. Atlanta's inexperienced offensive line pushed the Lions all over the field, rushing for a team record 318 yards. Yet the Packers, at least on paper, have an even more formidable offensive line. Whether or not Ryan Grant plays is largely irrelevant; the Falcons could have lined up a chained Michael Vick at running back and the result would have been the same (probably better). If Detroit's front seven is unable to control the line of scrimmage, this game is over by halftime.

TK: The Lions seemed to do better on offense last week passing the ball. Can we expect to see Kitna dropping back to pass more against the Packers?
NC:
The Lions still want balance on offense, but after falling behind so quickly against Atlanta, they were forced to rely on Kitna's arm. Expect Detroit to hammer Green Bay with the run for as long as the score is reasonable, with hopes of the playaction becoming a viable call especially later in the game. The Packers' secondary is talented, but the Lions will get their pass yardage regardless -- it just might not be meaningful when they finally do.      

TK: Do you think the Lions have overcome their sideline bickering from last Sunday, or is it something that will linger?
NC:
We'll find out on Sunday. The Lions have written it off as Jon Kitna's emotion and passion for the game, but there was clearly miscommunication and errors on the coaching staff's end. In at least one playcall, Kitna was not given the correct package of receivers -- kinks that should have been ironed out in the first week of training camp.
     
TK: What is the most improved area of the Lions this season?
NC:
Evidently not their defensive line.
 
Entering 2008, the talk was about the vast changes made in Detroit's secondary. They brought in savy veterans Brian Kelly and Leigh Bodden at cornerback, replaced strong safety Kenoy Kennedy with the seasoned Dwight Smith, and former second-round pick Daniel Bullocks -- on IR most of last season -- will actually start beside him on Sunday. The idea was that the revamped secondary would be vastly improved because of their collective Tampa-2 experience, but this wasn't noticeable in week one. While Matt Ryan didn't dominate, he was nonetheless effective. Aaron Rodgers should provide a much more capable barometer.
     
TK: Is the Lions' run defense its weak link or did Atlanta just play that well?
NC: This is another question that we won't know until the conclusion of Sunday's game (or, perhaps, halftime). Absolutely every player on the defensive front seven played terrible, which leads to another question: Is it possible for every player on a defense to be God awful at their respective job? Or, perhaps more logically, did Atlanta's quick start throw Detroit off-balance for the rest of the game? Lions fans are hoping for the latter, but Green Bay will likely test that theory immediately.


Nate Caminata: Was Aaron Rodgers' performance an aberration, perhaps brought on by Minnesota's porous pass defense, or can we expect to see the Packers again led by a talented gunslinger in the pocket?
Todd Korth: It's safe to say that the Packers took advantage of Minnesota's nicked secondary as much as possible. Rookie safety Tyrell Johnson was playing in place of the injured Madieu Williams and Rodgers went after him quite a bit. Cornerback Charles Gordon also had to step in for the injured Cedric Griffin for a few plays and the Packers went after him as well. Rodgers completed nearly 82 percent of his passes Monday night, so look for coach Mike McCarthy to use Rodgers' proficiency again as well as run. The Packers' backfield is hurting with Ryan Grant (hamstring) and Brandon Jackson (concussion), so the Packers may pass a little more than some fans might think.  


Aaron Rodgers might have to carry the load on Sunday.
Getty Images
NC:  Will Charles Woodson's fractured toe affect his play against Detroit's Calvin Johnson? Is this a concern for the Green Bay coaching staff?
TK: Woodson didn't practice on Wednesday and Thursday. It seems as if there's a good chance that he won't play on Sunday. It might all depend on if he can practice Friday and how the toe responds in pregame warmups. If Woodson doesn't start, then the Packers will turn to second-year pro Tramon Williams.
 
NC: A follow-up to the last question: How do you feel Green Bay's secondary matches up with the Lions' receiving core?
TK: The Packers have probably one of the most underrated secondaries in the league. Cornerback Al Harris was named to the Pro Bowl last year and many feel that Woodson should have gone as well. Safeties Atari Bigby and Nick Collins are hard hitters. Bigby made the game-clinching play Monday night by intercepting Tarvaris Jackson in the final minute of the game. From this neck of the woods, it's a wash between the Packers' secondary and the Lions receivers. Of course, if Williams plays in place of Woodson, give the Lions an advantage.

NC:  Ryan Grant and Brandon Jackson are both entering Sunday's game at less than 100-percent. Tell us about rookie Kregg Lumpkin should he see action against Detroit.
TK: It's very possible that Lumpkin may be starting on Sunday. He entered this offseason as a rookie free agent out of the University of Georgia and a longshot to make the team. Now he may be in the starting lineup in Week 2. It's a crazy NFL World, eh? Lumpkin showed in training camp that he is a hard-nosed runner who can block well, especially on blitz pickups. His hands are not too bad at catching the ball out of the backfield, but that should improve as he gets more comfortable with the offense. He flew under the radar in the NFL draft because of his injury history at Georgia, but he out-performed two veterans - Noah Herron and Vernand Morency - in training camp to win the job.
 
NC: The Lions were looked at as a darkhorse in this division until the first quarter of the Atlanta game. Is it possible that Green Bay is looking past the Lions, especially after the performances of each ball club in opening week?
TK: I don't think McCarthy will let the Packers look past the Lions. Remember, the Packers entered this season with the youngest roster in the league, tied with Kansas City. The Packers have had the youngest roster in the league for the past two seasons, so it's very possible that they don't know any better than to take it one week at a time. McCarthy and his staff usually do a good job at keeping the team focused on the game ahead. In fact, minutes after the conclusion of the game on Monday night, there were large signs placed in the Packers' locker room reminding the players to be prepared for Detroit.


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