As Minnesota's first game of 2020 nears, the Vikings have been prepping for Aaron Rodgers, figuring out how to replace Danielle Hunter and working toward a fast start from their offense.
But what are some key storylines from the other side?
To find that out, Vikings.com chatted with Packers reporter
Wes Hodkiewicz for a glance at what Green Bay is thinking before Sunday's Border Battle.
Here is the season-opening edition of Opposing Viewpoint:
It was an unusual offseason for all NFL teams, but what one word would you use to describe the past six months for the Packers? And why?
WH: Flexible. [Head Coach] Matt LaFleur, [Offensive Coordinator] Nathaniel Hackett and [Defensive Coordinator] Mike Pettine had a very clear vision for what they wanted this offseason and made all ends meet. Hackett even brought in a friend, who is a teacher, to provide tips and pointers for the coaches to get the most out of their Zoom meetings with incoming rookies and new players. Once the team reported for training camp, players really hit the ground running. I expected organized chaos in those first few practices but frankly they were sharper than the first week of camp last year. The coaches were cognizant and mindful of what they were asking of players, and the Packers enter Week 1 in relatively good shape.
What was the biggest storyline that came out of training camp in Green Bay?
WH: The emergence of 2019 first-round pick Rashan Gary has big implications for this defense. If Gary can carryover that momentum into the regular season, that would do wonders for a pass rush that already boasts Za'Darius and Preston Smith, and Pro Bowl nose tackle Kenny Clark. Gary returned for Year 2 in magnificent shape. At 6-foot-5, 275 pounds, Gary is not only a good edge-setter against the run but he also possesses across-the-line versatility much like Za'Darius. Only 22 years old, Gary already possesses a great detail of strength. He's one to watch in the Packers defense this season.
Who is a sneaky name on the Packers roster that Vikings fans should be aware of before kickoff on Sunday?
WH: Marquez Valdes-Scantling. I know that's not a new name to diehards out there, but the third-year receiver seems to have recaptured some of the magic from his eye-opening rookie season in 2018. MVS is a 4.37 receiver who constantly threatens a defense with his ability to rip the top off a defense. What's been missing is his mastering the finer aspects of the position – running the proper depth on his routes, field awareness and winning underneath. He did all those things this summer, and Rodgers has taken notice. Much to the chagrin of some Packers fans, the team didn't draft a receiver this past April. But MVS and Allen Lazard are eager to prove the organization right for having confidence in its young receiving corps.
By my count, this will be the 12th overall matchup between Rodgers and Mike Zimmer. What is the state of Green Bay's offense as you head into Year 2 under Head Coach Matt LaFleur?
WH: Rodgers and the offense seem to have taken another step in LaFleur's scheme. Rodgers looked as good as he ever has during training camp. He was lights-out in practice during the final week, including the quasi-scrimmage the team conducted inside Lambeau Field. With Rodgers throwing darts, the offensive efficiency was through the roof. Everyone knows what Davante Adams and Aaron Jones can do, but Rodgers made use of all his young skill-position players during camp. The way I described it in a recent Q&A with fans: "It's looking the way it's supposed to look." The offensive rhythm is faster, crisper and you get the sense everyone is more comfortable with the scheme.
And finally, what is the single biggest key to success for the Packers in 2020 as they look to repeat as NFC North Champions and make another deep playoff run?
WH: Discipline, both on and off the field. From a health standpoint, it's going to be imperative for the Packers to not to get complacent in this battle against COVID-19. Players and coaches have to remain vigilant and accountable for the next four months. On the field, the most well-prepared team will be the one that succeeds, especially during the first month of the season. Mistakes will be made, but it'll be critical to learn and adapt over the next 17 weeks. One of the primary reasons the Packers won 14 games last year and came within a game of the Super Bowl was how it well all the pieces fit together in the locker room. They'll need that kind of cohesiveness to prevail in a deep, hungry and competitive NFC North. I've said for years that this division is the most underrated in football. I have a hunch the NFC North will again prove me correct in 2020.