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Packers' offensive line providing foundation for progress

Prep for Philly is already well underway on a short week


GREEN BAY – It wasn't just Aaron Rodgers who appreciated the offensive line's work in Sunday's victory.

The head coach definitely took notice, too.

Up front, the Packers shut out Denver pass rushers Von Miller and Bradley Chubb, and Rodgers took just one hit the entire game – on one of his best pass completions, the wheel route to fullback Danny Vitale that put the ball inside the 1-yard line.

While rookie second-round pick Elgton Jenkins made his first start at left guard and Matt LaFleur "loved the effort he plays with," it was the performance of the line as a whole that was vital in keeping Rodgers from getting banged up heading into a short week.

"Just their ability in pass protection in particular," LaFleur said Monday night of what he saw on the film. "You're talking about two of the better rushers in this league, and they did a great job with those guys. I also thought Aaron did an incredible job in the pocket, moving around and getting rid of the ball when he needed to."

Center Corey Linsley tipped the cap primarily to offensive tackles Bryan Bulaga and David Bakhtiari, who have faced challenging matchups on the edges each of the first three weeks.

"They played their tails off, as I think they've played their tails off the past two games before that," Linsley said.

The line play is as good a foundation as any for the Packers to get their offense clicking more consistently, which is the goal heading into Thursday night's showdown at Lambeau Field vs. a banged-up Philadelphia defense.

Against Denver, it was back-to-back fruitless drives in the third quarter that LaFleur said "left a sour taste in everyone's mouth" after a fairly productive game through two-plus quarters.

The main areas of focus are third-down conversions – the Packers were 2-for-9 vs. Denver and are just 9-for-36 (25 percent) through three games – and giving receiver Davante Adams and tight end Jimmy Graham more opportunities to make plays.

The third-down struggles are due in part to several long-yardage situations the offense must avoid. Even without any sacks of Rodgers, LaFleur counted six negative-yardage plays in Sunday's game ("too many"), and offensive penalties have been a factor each week as well.

But he puts the utilization of individual players on himself as the play-caller, particularly in the sense of setting a tone for Rodgers' go-to players.

"You always want to get your playmakers the ball," LaFleur said. "Davante is a premier playmaker in this league, so is Jimmy, and we have to do a better job making sure to get those guys involved, especially early in the game."

Defensively, the one negative statistic that sticks out is the run defense, which has allowed 347 rushing yards over the last two games. Denver's Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman didn't have any long runs like the 75-yarder by Minnesota's Dalvin Cook the week prior, but they were a thorn in the defense's side all day.

LaFleur gave the Broncos' backs credit for their hard-charging style but also felt the Packers should have held them in check better.

"We had way too many missed tackles," he said. "That was a big part of it. Those guys play hard, but ultimately we have to do a better job."

With the short week, preparation for Philadelphia was in full gear already on Monday. LaFleur's assistants were studying film of the Eagles on Friday and Saturday last week to get a head start, and the players this week are doing a lot of mental work, with walk-throughs slated for Tuesday to help them get their bodies back.

The film study of Sunday's game took place late Monday, but everyone was moving on, out of necessity, immediately after.

"We always recap the game," LaFleur said. "There's not a better teaching tool than game film. We reviewed that game, kind of put it to bed, and on to Philly."

Take another look at the Green Bay Packers' Week 3 win over the Denver Broncos.

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