Green Bay Packers (1-1) safety Morgan Burnett (hamstring) has been ruled out of Sunday’s game against the AFC North favorite Cincinnati Bengals (1-1), as the Packers will have a challenge ahead in defending Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green and company. Not only the defensive secondary, but the offensive line is expected to have their hands full of Bengals all day Sunday. The Packers’ offensive line has allowed six sacks in two games (t-10th most in NFL entering Friday), while the Bengals’ defense has only recorded two sacks.
The Bengals’ defense recorded 51 sacks (3rd-best) last season, so a Packers offensive line which allowed opposing defenses to record 51 sacks on quarterback Aaron Rodgers (most in NFL) should be expected to struggle, right? Wrong. The Packers’ defense has recorded only three sacks in two games, both games which were against mobile quarterbacks. The Bengals have recorded only two sacks, but that was against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Chicago Bears.
Last season, both the Bears and Steelers struggled in pass protection, allowing 44 (8th-most) and 37 (t-14th most) sacks, respectively. Entering Friday, the Bears’ offensive line has shown massive improvement after they have allowed only one sack against the Bengals and Minnesota Vikings. With the loss of All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey, the Steelers’ offensive line has continued to struggle, allowing seven sacks (t-7th most).
The problem for the Bengals is that they are facing a more mobile quarterback on Sunday than Jay Cutler and Ben Roethlisberger and a statistically better offensive line than the Steelers. The Packers’ running game even showed great improvement since the second half of their season opening loss against the San Francisco 49ers, which makes the offense one of the league’s most dangerous units.
The Bengals may not have defensive end Michael Johnson on Sunday, but the defensive line in Cincy is still incredibly deep. Even if Johnson does not play, the Bengals’ seven-man defensive line rotation includes defensive ends Carlos Dunlap, Wallace Gilberry and 6-foot-8, 280-pound rookie Margus Hunt along with defensive tackles Domata Peko, Brandon Thompson, Devon Still and All-Pro Geno Atkins. The Bengals’ defense has recorded 10 hits on Cutler and Roethlisberger, and the defensive line alone has deflected three passes in the first two games.
If you look more closely at the sacks though on Rodgers in the Packers’ first two games, only four of the them fall on the shoulders of the offensive line. One sack in San Francisco on Rodgers was the result of a broken play, and another sack at home against the Washington Redskins was the result of Rodgers mistakenly not keeping an running back in the backfield to block on a cornerback blitz.
If the Packers can clean up the mental mistakes on offense and if the offensive line allows no more than two sacks against a gritty Bengals defensive line, it should be another great day in Mr. Rodgers’ neighborhood. With the Bengals going against a statistically better offensive unit and a more mobile quarterback, the Packers’ offensive line should help dominate this game, right? Let’s sure hope so.