Bill Huber: Conventional wisdom says if you can pressure a quarterback, he'll throw a few passes up for grabs. That conventional wisdom has been shot down this season. Four teams have allowed fewer sacks than the 31 absorbed by Rodgers this season. He took a combined 14 in two games against the Minnesota Vikings. Rodgers is the rare strong-armed, long-ball-throwing quarterback who plays it conservatively — maybe too conservatively. For better or worse, Rodgers stands in the pocket rather than unloads the ball. So, Rodgers has been content to take a beating, but he hasn't been firing last-second bullets into triple coverage. He's got one sprained foot and a sprained big toe on the other foot. Those injuries kept him out of practice on Wednesday and Thursday, so it will be interesting to see if the injuries or lack of practice time impacts his play.
Matthew: The Packers needed to improve on defense from last year and it appears they have, as the Pack are ranked in the top 10 in every major defensive category. What has accounted for the resurgence?
Bill Huber: Facing St. Louis, Cleveland and Detroit are a big reason for the success in Dom Capers' first year as coordinator. The Rams, Lions and Browns couldn't field a credible offense if you combined all three teams, so take those defensive rankings with a grain of salt. With that said, the defense has shown one obvious improvement from last year. The Packers couldn't stop anyone on the ground last season, but they've played mostly superb run defense the last four games. Adrian Peterson looked like a mere mortal in the two matchups with the Vikings. Plus, just like last year, the turnovers are coming by the bushel. Charles Woodson has four interceptions, and Green Bay ranks fourth with 17 takeaways. About the only thing that hasn't been working is the pass rush. Capers' 3-4 defense is renowned for inflicting beatings on opposing quarterbacks, but that hasn't happened. Brett Favre could have retired and unretired a couple times while surveying the coverage in those two matchups.
Ryan Grant is stuffed by Barrett Ruud at Tampa Bay last year.
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
Matthew: Who has benefited the most from the addition of defensive coordinator Dom Capers?
Bill Huber: You won't see him this week, but the one player who has emerged on defense is linebacker Brandon Chillar. A part-time player last year, Chillar replaces A.J. Hawk in nickel situations — and because this defense plays a lot of nickel — Chillar has played 50 or 60 snaps in some games. Heck, when the Packers had injury issues at safety, they started him at safety in a package called "Big Okie" that includes three linemen and five linebackers. Chillar broke his hand last week and had surgery, so he's out. That means Hawk will be an every-down player, and his suspect play in coverage might be an area for the Bucs to exploit with Kellen Winslow or the backs.
Matthew: The Sporting News recently named Charles Woodson and Al Harris the best cornerback tandem in the NFL right now. Have they lived up to that billing this season?
Bill Huber: Even with the new defensive scheme meaning more zone coverage than in the past, Woodson remains on top of his game. He's got four interceptions in seven games, giving him 23 in three-plus seasons with the Packers compared to 17 during his eight seasons in Oakland. You'll see Woodson blitzing several times per game in his new role. Harris remains Harris. He's aggressive — sometimes too aggressive — but he remains an effective player even at 34. According to the Web site FootballFocus.com, opposing quarterbacks have a passer rating of just 55.0 against Harris. In the last three games, he's allowed four completions in 15 attempts in his direction. Are they the best in the league? Maybe, maybe not — I don't see much of other teams around the league — but they're hard to blame for last week's 38-26 loss to Minnesota.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.