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Packers facing first of possibly three rookie QBs in 2018

Green Bay has strong track record, but young signal callers have played better in recent years


GREEN BAY – Bills quarterback Josh Allen, who's coming into Lambeau Field on Sunday, likely won't be the only rookie signal caller the Packers face in 2018.

With Josh Rosen in Arizona and Sam Darnold with the New York Jets taking over those starting jobs, and both teams on Green Bay's schedule in December, the Packers could face three different rookie QBs this season, which would be the most in one year in the Mike McCarthy era.

Given that, now is as good a time as any to take a look at the Packers' past results against rookie QBs, dating back to the start of McCarthy's tenure in 2006.

The bottom line is the Packers have faced a rookie starting quarterback 15 times over the past 12 seasons, going 10-5 in those games. Ironically, the most recent contest against a rookie QB was in Cleveland last year, where DeShone Kizer, who's now in Green Bay's locker room, lost to the Packers in overtime.

One caveat: Included in the mix is Russell Wilson's Fail Mary at Seattle in 2012, so if you'd prefer to say 11-4, you're entitled.

A chart of the results is below. The stats are all over the board, but if there's a trend, it's the better rookie QB play over the last two years, even though the Packers won three of the four games.

Dak Prescott led Dallas to a victory at Lambeau Field in 2016 with the most efficient rookie QB performance, a 117.4 passer rating. Last season, Chicago's Mitch Trubisky (97.0) and Kizer (99.4) both posted solid ratings that rank fifth- and third-best, respectively, in the chart. (For the stat geeks, Wilson's 99.3 passer rating in the Fail Mary game would have dropped to 54.9 if the Packers had been awarded the interception.)

It's no secret rookie quarterbacks are getting thrown into the fire sooner, and many are finding their share of success. The days of Aaron Rodgers sitting behind a veteran starter for three years are long gone. Rodgers and McCarthy both have mentioned many times how young QBs are more prepared for the pro game now coming out of college than they were a decade ago, so the landscape continues to change.

Allen didn't start in Week 1 for the Bills, but their season began so disastrously with Nathan Peterman the Buffalo coaching staff had no choice but to turn it over to the rookie first-round draft pick.

His numbers aren't spectacular (39-of-70, 515 yards, two TDs, two INTs, 76.8 rating), but last week's convincing win at Minnesota was his first victory and undoubtedly a huge boost of confidence.

Allen actually leads the Bills in rushing (97 yards, two TDs) but strangely, even with that athleticism and mobility, he's been sacked 11 times. His biggest passing plays have been a 57-yard completion to receiver Zay Jones and a 55-yarder to running back Chris Ivory.

Buffalo is looking to get No. 1 RB LeSean McCoy back from a rib injury this week, so his presence could change things for Allen. Certainly the running games Prescott and Trubisky leaned on in their rookie performances against the Packers made a difference.

Allen's own running ability could be the wild card here. He put himself on every highlight reel by hurdling Minnesota LB Anthony Barr in the open field last week. It was a dangerous and risky play but one that showed containing him in the pocket might be the first place to start, limiting the opportunities for him to bail out the offense with his legs.

"This is a big athlete with good vision," Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said. "You give him an open lane and he's going to take it. He'll make you pay. We have to be disciplined in what we do."

With all the talk of the Packers' defense lacking sacks and turnovers through three games, Pettine's message of discipline is an important one. If the Packers try too hard to force mistakes, they may just make a mistake of their own.

One blueprint against rookies is to mix up rush and coverage looks to try to confuse a young QB who hasn't seen much in the NFL yet. Another approach is to see what he wants to do early and then adjust to take those favorite things away as the game goes on.

How Pettine decides to play it is what Sunday is for, and the results will factor into how the Packers handle the rookie QBs further down the road this season, too.

Packers vs. rookie starting QBs (2006-17) Date/Opponent, Result, Rookie QB, Stats (Att-Com, Yds, TD-INT, rating)

10-29-06 v. AZ, W 31-14, M. Leinart (14-35, 157, 1-1, 51.7)

12-21-06 v. MIN. W 9-7, T. Jackson (10-20, 50, 1-1, 35.4)

10-5-08 v. ATL, L 27-24, M. Ryan (16-26, 194, 2-1, 94.1)

11-8-09 @ TB, L 38-28, J. Freeman (14-31, 205, 3-0, 99.5)

11-26-09 @ DET, W 34-12, M. Stafford (20-43, 213, 1-4, 30.5)

9-18-11 @ CAR, W 30-23, C. Newton (28-46, 432, 1-3, 72.0)

10-23-11 @ MIN, W 33-27, C. Ponder (13-32, 219, 2-2, 59.2)

11-14-11 v. MIN, W 45-7, C. Ponder (16-34, 190, 0-1, 52.3)

9-24-12 @ SEA, L 14-12, R. Wilson (10-21, 130, 2-0, 99.3)

10-7-12 @ IND, L 30-27, A. Luck (31-55, 362, 2-1, 81.0)

11-23-14 @ MIN, W 24-21, T. Bridgewater (21-37, 210, 2-1, 79.8)

10-16-16 v. DAL, L 30-16, D. Prescott (18-27, 247, 3-1, 117.4)

11-28-16 @ PHI, W 27-13, C. Wentz (24-36, 254, 0-1, 75.5)

11-12-17 @ CHI, W 23-16, M. Trubisky (21-35, 297, 1-0, 97.0)

12-10-17 @ CLE, W 27-21, D. Kizer (20-28, 214, 3-2, 99.7)

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