Aaron Rodgers dominates the spotlight in Green Bay.
The 10th-year pro is an NFL and Super Bowl MVP. He’s on track to be fit for a gold jacket in Canton. He’s responsible for the Discount Double Check and bringing Hans and Franz back, for Pete’s sake.
“It’s going to be a great challenge,” Bucs safety Dashon Goldson said of facing the three-time Pro Bowler. “Everybody knows who Aaron Rodgers is in this league and around this locker room and what he can do week in and week out.”
Rodgers is likely going to surpass 4,000 yards passing Sunday for the fifth time in his career, needing just 163 in Tampa Bay, and has thrown for 35 touchdowns and just five interceptions through 14 games.
But opponents of Green Bay can ill-afford to come down with “Aaron Rodgers fever,” as Goldson said Wednesday in reference to the quarterback’s wide-spread popularity. This Green Bay offense is packed with established stars and those rising to similar heights. They’re not all primarily involved in the passing game, either
Second-year running back Eddie Lacy broke onto the NFL scene last season with 1,178 yards and 11 touchdowns in 15 games. He may join Rodgers by reaching a single-season milestone on Sunday, too, if he hits 60 yards on the ground. Lacy currently sits at 940 yards and eight touchdowns rushing to go with 396 yards and four scores receiving.
At 5-foot-11, 230 pounds, the 24-year-old is a hard-running back who’s a load to handle when he gets moving. According to Pro Football Focus, 538 of Lacy’s 940 yards rushing have been picked up after contact.
Known for playing his own physical brand of football, Goldson at first downplayed the challenge of facing a bruising back like Lacy, but said it’s going to take a collective effort to slow him down.
“It ain’t nothing but football, just tackling, no matter how big [a player is],” Goldson said. “We just have to get him on the ground and can’t allow any explosive plays. We’re aware of what he is and how he runs. He’s a strong runner for sure, downhill guy, and you can’t underestimate his speed, either.”
Bucs defensive tackle Akeem Spence will see plenty of game time again Sunday with Gerald McCoy’s deactivation and said he thinks dealing with Rodgers should become incrementally more manageable if Lacy can be bottled up early.
“First we have to knock the run out and slow Eddy Lacy down,” Spence said. “Therefore they can’t be two-dimensional. [We have to] try to make Aaron Rodgers throw the ball 40 or 50 times and try to beat us with his arm, which he can do. But at the same time, that’s when the front has to takeover, the rush has to get there and we have to try our best to get him on the ground.”
That’s a dicey proposition and Rodgers is 2-1 this year when attempting 40 or more passes, including the lone loss last week in Buffalo when he went 17 of 42 for 185 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. In those three games, Rodgers combined completion percentage does dip to 52.4 compared to his 64.0 season-long rate. His touchdown-to-interception rate in those first two games prior to Buffalo, however, was 6-0.
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