EAGAN, Minn. — There has not been a more-frequent opponent for the Vikings than the Packers.
The teams have met 115 times and are set to renew the Border Battle on Sunday at Lambeau Field.
This time, however, there will be a little less familiarity for Minnesota with Green Bay’s defense.
The Packers hired Mike Pettine this offseason. His unit limited Chicago to 7-for-17 on third downs (41 percent) and 294 net yards on 66 plays.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer was asked about what he’s been able to learn about Pettine’s rendition of the Packers.
“It’s a lot more varied, I guess, is the best way to say it,” Zimmer said Wednesday. “Different coverages, different looks, mixes the front up a lot.”
Green Bay used its first two picks of 2018 on cornerbacks Jaire Alexander (18th overall out of Louisville) and Josh Jackson out of Iowa (45th). The Packers also used their first pick of 2017 (33rd overall) on cornerback Kevin King out of Washington.
King started and played all 70 snaps for Green Bay against Chicago. So did veteran DB Tramon Williams, and safeties Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Kentrell Brice. Alexander (49 snaps) and Jackson (46 snaps) also played significant time against the Bears.
Zimmer said “it’s really hard to say” what he expects from the Packers secondary after one game but noted the Packers recent efforts to add talent to their secondary.
“They do a lot of different variations in the secondary,” Zimmer said. “Obviously, they’ve got some good, young talent. They’ve been drafting corners there for quite a while now, so we just have to see as the week goes on.”
Here are four other topics discussed by Zimmer:
1. Which version of Rodgers might Vikings see?
The status of Aaron Rodgers, who suffered a knee injury against Chicago but returned to action and led Green Bay’s substantial fourth-quarter comeback for a 24-23 win, remains undetermined for Sunday. He was a non-participant in Wednesday’s practice.
Rodgers historically has inflicted quite a bit of pain when allowed outside the pocket, but the mobility issue kept him between the tackles. The quarterback did not participate in practice Wednesday.
“He didn’t move quite as well, but he did move and make some throws,” Zimmer said. “He didn’t really get outside of the pocket after that, but the guy is incredible. [He] can make every throw, gets the ball out quick, sees pressure, but we’ll just have to see going into the game.”
Zimmer said the Vikings will try to “prepare for every scenario.”
“If he doesn’t move as well, try to do these things,” Zimmer said. “If it looks like he’s moving pretty well, then we have to adjust to some other parts of the game plan.”
2. Going big at nickel
The Vikings implemented a package defense with safety Jayron Kearse playing the nickel spot.
Part of it was necessity with Mackensie Alexander out and Mike Hughes having to shift to outside cornerback after Trae Waynes was sidelined. It also was part of a plan that the Vikings have been developing this offseason.
Zimmer said Kearse and George Iloka, who also is 6-foot-4, could provide another option going forward.
“We’ve been practicing for a while. I think there’s a chance for Iloka to get in there some and do it and Jayron,” Zimmer said. “We’re really just trying to use the pieces that we have and figure out the ways we can use them the best to help us and defend the team we’re playing.”
3. Update on Pat Elflein
Second-year center Pat Elflein is continuing to mend from ankle and shoulder injuries sustained during his promising rookie campaign, but Zimmer said he is progressing. He was limited Wednesday.
The Vikings started Brett Jones, who was acquired in a trade with the New York Giants on Aug. 26, at center. Minnesota started Tom Compton at left guard and Mike Remmers at right guard.
“He’s come a long way. He’s had a good week,” Elflein said. “He feels good about things. We’ll have to see how practice goes this week.”
4. The feel of Lambeau in Sept.
Sunday’s forecast in Green Bay is calling for sunny skies with a high of 81 and a low of 61.
That’s a far cry from the Vikings first four trips with Zimmer at the helm:
2014, Week 5: 62, rain, 98% humidity
2015, Week 17: 24, night, wind chill of 13
2016, Week 16: 37, wind chill of 31
2017, Week 16: 10, night, wind chill of 0
Rather than note the big temperature difference, Zimmer said he expects the grass playing surface to be in better shape than it is at the end of the season.
“The grass is going to be really good there this week, whereas in the past, when we’ve played them at the end of the year, the field has not been that good,” Zimmer said. “I’m hoping that’s a positive thing for us. I’d rather play them here, but the schedule says go there.”
The Vikings will host the Packers in Week 12.