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Final Thoughts: The Rush Plan for Rodgers Requires Smarts, Not Haste

Playing Aaron Rodgers is no different than playing any other quarterback. Getting pressure on the passer is paramount. The manner in which you attempt to get pressure on the passer is vastly different with the future Hall of Famer, though.

“We’ve got to do a good job just like always with our rush plan and covering those guys down the field, because when he starts scrambling around they’re headed right to the end zone,” defensive coordinator George Edwards explained. “Guys got to be disciplined with their eyes, disciplined as far as leverage in coverage, and we’ve got to do a good job with our rush plan up front.”

A rush plan is a set of rules and a game-specific strategy the defense sets during the week as they attempt to defeat an opponent’s blocking scheme and disrupt the quarterback. A non-mobile, pocket passer requires a different rush plan than a quarterback who is blessed with mobility and is able to execute throws outside the pocket. In Rodgers, Green Bay has one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history at avoiding pressure and throwing outside the pocket.

“Right, that’s why I said it doesn’t matter what system he’s in, he’s such a dynamic talent at the quarterback position, decision making and being able to have that kind of presence in the pocket to move around still release the ball down the field,” Edwards said. “Not only that, but he’s got a quick release. If you’re pressuring him he’s got the ability to get the ball out quick. No matter what system he’s in, I think those traits are going to carry over within what they’re asking him to do.”

Sunday’s rush plan will not be all about speed and haste. It will be important for the Vikings rushers to be aware of what the other rushers will be doing so there is an understanding of where Rodgers may try to flee. Additionally, those in coverage must be aware of Rodgers’ ability to buy more time, which gives receivers an extra chance to break open.

Look back at photos over the course of time featuring games between the Vikings and the Packers.

Hidden offense

The Vikings offense scored four touchdowns last week. But doing so did not require offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski to dive deeply into his playbook or bag of tricks. The first two touchdown drives totaled six plays, after all.

“We’ll take it,” Stefanski said. “Our special teams giving us the ball right there. The defense giving us the ball right there. So, being up 21-0 early like that was really unique. Again, we want to play complementary football and I would love for that to be an every-week thing. I don’t expect that, but we’re ready. When given the ball in short fields, we need to go get seven points, so that was our mentality.”

An added benefit to how the game unfolded for the Vikings offense is there was less for Green Bay’s defense to study as they prepared to host the Vikings.

“We specifically talked about that, Diggsy (Stefon Diggs) and Adam (Thielen) and I on the sideline during the second half of the ballgame,” Stefanski recalled. “We talked about all the things on that call sheet that we can save and hold for another week. Certainly, as a coach, you want to try all these things and in a game. You’d love to have 100 plays and try all these fun things you’ve been practicing on, but there is a level of trust in knowing that those plays are good and saved for another day.”

View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster for the 2019 season.

Injury Report

The Vikings will be without nickel cornerback Mackensie Alexander (elbow) on Sunday; he did not practice this week. Guard Pat Elflein (knee), cornerback Mark Fields (groin) and linebacker Ben Gedeon (groin) are listed as questionable after missing practice time at some point during the week. Cornerback Mike Hughes (knee) continues to inch closer to playing but is listed as doubtful for Sunday.

For Green Bay, the biggest name to watch on Sunday is left tackle David Bakhtiari, who is listed as questionable with a back injury.

Fan Mail

Should I be concerned about Mike Hughes? I haven’t heard of him or seen him play on Sundays this year. What’s his situation?

-- Simon Jacob

Ottawa, Ontario

It’s always a concern when players have an injury and miss time, but concern is not the operative word with Hughes right now because coach Zimmer has sounded more and more optimistic about the second-year cornerback’s chances of playing as the weeks have progressed. The biggest sign of good news was when the Vikings removed Hughes from the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list and put him on the active roster. This move signaled that Hughes would be able to play before Week 6 because leaving Hughes on the PUP to start the season would’ve made him ineligible to return until after six weeks. Ultimately, Hughes will be a week-to-week proposition but it’s realistic to expect him to play as soon as next week at home vs. the Oakland Raiders or the following week at Chicago.

Quotable

“This isn’t the first time we’ve had some defensive backs that are hurt, so we’ll go out and play good.” – Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer

Next man up! That’s essentially the message coach Zimmer is promoting in his response to a question about how he feels about his depth at cornerback heading into Lambeau Field to play Rodgers and Co. The next man up mentality reigns supreme in the NFL, but it’s not a concept as easily adopted by fans and media. Truly, though, Zimmer and his staff have prepared all week knowing there’s a chance one or both Alexander and Hughes would be unavailable.

Stat of the Week – 4 sacks

The Vikings compiled four sacks last week against Atlanta, the 26th time they’ve recorded at least four sacks in a game since head coach Mike Zimmer was hired in 2014, tied with Chicago for the most such games in that span. The Vikings are 21-4-1 in those games.

Broadcast Information

National Television: FOX

Play-by-play: Chris Myers

Analyst: Daryl Johnston

Sideline: Laura Okmin

National Radio: ESPN Radio

Play-by-play: Marc Kestecher

Analyst: Jack Del Rio

Local Radio: KFAN-FM 100.3/KTLK-AM 1130

Play-by-play: Paul Allen

Analyst: Pete Bercich

Sideline: Greg Coleman and Ben Leber

Pre-game show: Mike Mussman – 10:00 a.m. CT

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