this Sept. 11, 2016, file photo, Jacksonville Jaguars running
back T.J. Yeldon (24) is tackled by Green Bay Packers defensive
end Mike Daniels (76) during the first half of an NFL football
game in Jacksonville, Fla. The toughest test yet of the season
looms on Sunday for the Packers’ league-best run defense. No
NFL team has moved the ball better on the ground than the Dallas
Cowboys better this season.
GREEN BAY — The
toughest test yet of the season looms on Sunday for the Green Bay
Packers' league-best run defense.
No team has moved the
ball better on the ground than the Dallas Cowboys so far this season.
Mike Daniels and the
Packers' defensive front against a Cowboys offensive line that paves
openings for rookie tailback Ezekiel Elliott .
strength. The Packers hold opponents to 42.8 yards rushing per game.
The Cowboys rush for 155.2 yards per game.
starting point each and every week for both football teams,"
Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "So it'll be an excellent
Elliott is only the
third rookie in NFL history, after Eric Dickerson and Mike Anderson,
to run for at least 130 yards in three straight games. Mobile
quarterback Dak Prescott has three rushing touchdowns.
This is a good week
for the Packers' defensive front to be reinforced.
Lineman Mike Pennel
is eligible to rejoin the active roster this weekend after being
suspended the first four games by the NFL for violating the league's
substance abuse policy. Pennel was a key backup last season,
especially effective against the run.
His impending return
would mean that Green Bay would have its full complement of linemen
again. Tackle Letroy Guion rejoined the starting lineup last week
alongside Daniels after missing a game with a knee injury.
this Sept. 18, 2016, file photo, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak
Prescott (4) congratulates teammate running back Ezekiel Elliott
(21) after a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football
game against the Washington Redskins in Landover, Md., Sunday,
Prescott and Elliott started the season as a Dallas novelty not
seen since Roger Staubach and Calvin Hill nearly 50 years ago.
Now the rookie quarterback-running back combo is setting NFL
Kenny Clark, the
team's first-round draft pick, has also played well for a rookie.
Hybrid linebacker-lineman Datone Jones has helped fill the void up
Now Jones may be able
to focus more on pass-rushing duties. Either way, Green Bay's deep
group of outside linebackers, led by Clay Matthews and Nick Perry, has
extended the wall against the run to the edges.
"We're all on
the same page. We're clicking," Perry said after practice
Wednesday. "This is our opportunity to be the best ... to be
aggressive and to compete on all downs."
Cowboys coach Jason
Garrett has taken notice. The Packers, he said, play well against the
run regardless of whether Green Bay is in its base 3-4 defense, or if
a fifth defensive back is on the field in what would normally be
Garrett also likes
how his offense has improved running the ball no matter the defense.
certainly a lot of areas where we have to get better," Garrett
said, "but we're doing a good job coming off the ball, getting
into blocks and finding places for runners to run. The runners are
Ellliott, a 6-foot,
225-pound rookie, will certainly be tough to bring down. But keep in
mind that the Packers have already held Vikings running back Adrian
Peterson to 19 yards on 12 carries in Week 2 before Peterson got hurt.
But facing a mobile
quarterback such as Prescott presents the Packers with a new challenge
this season. McCarthy said handling the Cowboys' play-action game will
they're stacked in their numbers in the run game. So maybe we'll have
to throw it a little bit more," Prescott said in a conference
call. "But that's a great defense that they've got over there.
We're excited for the challenge."
"You catch the
ball, you throw it a little more accurately and, you know, don't throw
it away as much. Maybe I should start taking some more sacks. No, you
know what, I've got to be more accurate and I will. We've got to make
the most of the opportunities on 50-50 balls and the balls we should
catch and complete." — QB Aaron Rodgers, when asked about his
uncharacteristically-low 56.1 percent completion rate through four
games, which is 31st in the NFL.
WR Randall Cobb was
limited in practice with a neck injury after taking a hard hit late in
last week's 23-16
win over the Giants. ... RB Eddie Lacy (left ankle) and CB
Damarious Randall (groin) were also limited. ... Backup RB James
Starks was held out with a knee injury. The Packers have no running
backs on the active roster after Lacy and Starks, though they have
used Cobb and fellow receiver Ty Montgomery in the backfield at times.