In one corner, it’s the Green Bay Packers’ quick-hitting offense, which has allowed the seventh-fewest sacks in the NFL through Week 4.
In the other corner, it’s the St. Louis Rams’ defense, led by an elite front four, which is tied for second in the NFL with 17 sacks.
“Very good defense,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said on Wednesday. “Starts with the front, very talented. Their ability to create penetration and really I think it sets the whole tone for their defense.”
The Rams will pose a rare challenge in that all of their main defensive linemen are dual threats against the run and pass.
It starts with second-year defensive tackle Aaron Donald. His 12.5 sacks since entering the NFL are the most for any 4-3 defensive tackle during that span. He has 3.5 this season. Michael Brockers is the other starting defensive tackle. He’s more of a run-stopper, with 11.5 sacks since entering the league in 2012. To fortify that already-strong duo, St. Louis signed free agent Nick Fairley away from Detroit. He has a half-sack this year after a total of 11.5 in 2012 and 2013.
Interior rush is a quarterback’s biggest enemy. Against Seattle, the Packers’ offensive tackles gave up a lot of pressure but Rodgers was able to step up and get out of the pocket to extend the play. It’s much more difficult to do that if there is pressure from the middle to prevent the quarterback from stepping up in the pocket.
“Our philosophy on pass protection is always going to be the same. We want to keep the middle firm and keep the edges wide,” guard Josh Sitton said.
On the outside, right end Robert Quinn has 48 sacks since entering the league in 2011. That’s the seventh-most sacks during that span. Left end Chris Long, an eight-year vet, has 53.5 career sacks.
“I think they’ve got some premier pass rushers inside,” Rodgers said. “Most teams have either great guys outside or guys that are going to move the pocket inside. This front four can all get after the passer. I remember watching film on Donald last year (before the preseason game) and it was really impressive and he just keeps on getting better. He had an incredible year last year and he’s an impact player inside. So is Brockers. That guy is a stud. He has been for a long time. Nick Fairley, they added him into the mix, and obviously you have Quinn and Long on the edge. That’s the kind of D-line you’d love to have as a D-coordinator.”
Three of Green Bay’s six sacks allowed this season came last week at San Francisco. According to STATS, right tackle Don Barclay is to blame for four of the sacks and left tackle David Bakhtiari the other two. Guards Sitton and T.J. Lang and center Corey Linsley have been a brick wall. Combined, they’ve allowed no sacks or quarterback hits, according to Pro Football Focus. Sitton was charged with one hurry, Lang for three and Linsley for five.
“I think they’re good,” Donald said during his conference call with Packers beat writers. “I think they play good overall as an offensive line because they play great together. It’s going to be a challenge for us, so we’re just going to get after it.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.