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The Minnesota Vikings held division arch-rival Aaron Rodgers and his ragtag group of young receivers to just one touchdown last Sunday afternoon.
In their Week One matchup, only three Packers’ drives went over 21 yards the entire game, excluding their final garbage time drive.
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The first-year coach for the Vikings has his defense flying all over the field, piloted by their speedy linebackers, Erick Kendricks and familiar face Jordan Hicks. Meanwhile, the ball-seeking missile, Harrison Smith, roams the deep middle, preventing any big plays down the field.
However, in the three drives that Green Bay made it into Minnesota territory, Matt LaFleur took advantage of a defense that tends to over-pursue by using quick hitters and misdirection in the running game.
Minnesota Vikings Defense
Jordan Hicks is undoubtedly a name to watch out for in terms of players to exploit, especially if he’s covering Dallas Goedert. The Packers’ first drive into Minnesota Vikings territory began on a crossing route where Hicks, staring at a simple play fake, lost Robert Tonyan behind him.
These next two plays are miscommunications between former Packer cornerback Chandon Sullivan, Erick Kendricks, and Jordan Hicks. The first is a simple underneath crossing concept between Cobb and Aaron Jones, who is left wide open in the flat.
Second, Packers’ backup tight end Josiah Deguara carries a vertical route from the fullback position, leaving Sullivan in no man’s land. After the confusion, AJ Dillon makes a great grab against Jordan Hicks for a 12-yard first down.
The Packers also utilized their screen game and misdirection plays, particularly on the outside against two cornerbacks whose tackling and block shedding are their obvious weak points.
Here’s a play that somewhat shows it all. Randall Cobb comes in motion while Rodgers fakes the handoff up the gut and flips it to rookie Christian Watson who picks up seven yards.
Backup left tackle Yosh Nijman pummels Erick Kendricks while edge rusher DJ Wonnum and Jordan Hicks over pursue Dillon and Cobb. Tonyan gets out in front of Watson and puts cornerback Cameron Dantzler into the turf.
Dantzler’s running mate, an eight-time Pro Bowler, Patrick Peterson, is certainly not the guy whose tackling came under criticism during his career in Arizona. However, at age 32, the wily veteran is not the same physical presence who made the 2010s All-Decade team.
Here is a quick screen to Robert Tonyan where 23-year-old Christian Watson takes the 11-year cornerback out of the play.
Cameron Dantzler is a terrific coverage corner, but at six-foot-two and just 185 pounds, blocking wideouts can easily take him out of plays with ease.
LaFleur draws up an expertly designed run to Dantzler’s side, and just watch how Green Bay’s wide receivers pancake him and Jordan Hicks down the field.
Rodgers then tests Dantzler’s tackling one-on-one with Sammy Watkins later in the game. The former third-round pick dives at Watkins’ knees to make a solid tackle but doesn’t break down and wrap up, and that won’t suffice against AJ Brown or DeVonta Smith.
The Eagles can manipulate this fast-flowing defense with their dynamic RPO scheme. Throwing some Quez Watkins or DeVonta Smith bubble screens with blockers in front of them will have the Minnesota Vikings’ cornerbacks on their heels.
If he’s ever in a one-on-one situation with Dantzler, AJ Brown needs a Bat-Signal to Jalen Hurts. Simple slants with that amount of coverage space will test the young corner’s ability to make open-field tackles on the Eagles’ new WR1.
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