The Packers swept last season's series against the Vikings, but there have been two major roster changes since then.
Brett Favre was traded out of Green Bay. Minnesota traded for Jared Allen.
Allen, acquired from the Chiefs before the draft for one first-round and two third-round draft picks, led the NFL with 15.5 sacks despite being suspended for the first two games of last season.
Adding Allen to the Vikings' defensive line is like adding a Bentley to a collection of luxury cars.
"He's a great player, and the more great players you can put on a front, that's going to make everyone else better," Packers right tackle Mark Tauscher said. "You respect the way he plays because he plays hard every snap. He's not just a guy who wants to go rush the passer."
Allen will face standout Packers left tackle Chad Clifton on Monday night. Allen was limited to a half of a sack when the Packers visited Kansas City last season, but Allen has a lot more help in Minnesota.
Pat Williams and Kevin Williams are about 630 pounds of run-stuffing defensive tackle who almost always give the interior of the Packers' offensive line fits. Opposite Allen, Ray Edwards has his sights set on breaking Michael Strahan's single-season sacks record. That's a lot of bluster, but Edwards will be the beneficiary of a steady diet of one-on-ones this season, so he should do better than last year's five sacks.
"I think they have definitely improved their play from both defensive end positions," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Thursday. "That is evident in the preseason. That is a talented defensive front. That is the strength of their defense, in my opinion. Jared Allen is a Pro Bowl player. Well-documented what he accomplished last year, so we're planning accordingly, and it will be an excellent challenge for us."
That challenge is heightened with the merry-go-round that has been the Packers' offensive line since Day 1 of training camp. More tinkering was needed this week when center Scott Wells aggravated his cantankerous back. Right guard Jason Spitz moved back to center, with Tony Moll thrust into the lineup at right guard.
Allen, speaking to reporters at Lambeau Field via a conference call, didn't mince many words when asked about the state of the lines.
"Obviously, anytime you put a backup on Pat and Kevin, we're expected to win," Allen said. "We like our matchups, but everything can look great on paper. That's the cool thing about football. You've got to go out there and you've got to play it. Snap after snap, series after series, we've got to go out there and we've got to dominate. We've got to go out there and win every play. That's going to be the true testament to how these matchups turn out. But, right now, we're excited about them."
Vikings coach Brad Childress and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier no doubt are excited about having Allen, who has 43 sacks in his first four NFL seasons. Fifteen years ago, adding Reggie White lifted the entire Packers' defense. Allen isn't of White's caliber, but the impact could be similar.
"I don't think there's any downside to having good football players," Childress said in a conference call. "It's not like they play off of each other, but guys inside appreciate the fact that there's a good rusher outside, and vice-versa."
Allen disputed the notion he's the hired gun needed to push the Vikings past the Packers in the NFC North and into Super Bowl-contender status. He sees himself as one piece to the puzzle — albeit a puzzle piece who could earn more than $70 million with his new six-year contract.
"That's what's cool about this organization. There's none of that pressure," Allen said. "I put so much on myself to be the best at what I do and a perfectionist in that sense, so any outside pressure is minimal compared to what I put on myself.
"But the cool part about this organization, they weren't like, ‘Now that we've got you, we've got to get this done.' I'm just a piece to this puzzle. We've got Pat, Kevin, a great linebacking corps, (Darren) Sharper on the back end, not to mention Adrian Peterson and the offensive line. I'm just happy to be a piece of it. That's one reason why I wanted to come here, because of the fact that I wasn't looked as that missing link to where all eyes are on me. The rest of the team has a responsibility to uphold, as well, and I'll be here to work with them."
Bill Huber is editor of Packer Report and PackerReport.com. E-mail him at email@example.com.
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