After struggling against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 1, Russell Wilson’s performance in Game 2 against the Dallas Cowboys was an improvement. His numbers were unremarkable overall, but he showed more confidence and seemed more comfortable with his role as the starting quarterback on an NFL team.
One big difference between the two games was that the Seahawks were able to rely heavily on the running game after opening up a big lead early on. Marshawn Lynch was able to shoulder the load and reduce the need for Wilson to produce through the air.
For his third game of the season, Wilson will face his first prime-time test on Monday night.
His opponent will be a Packers defense that has shown two different faces during its two appearances in the 2012 season. Against the San Francisco 49ers, the Packers defense was slow and sloppy. Against the Chicago Bears, four nights later, the Packers defense was aggressive and crisp.
In order to bring Wilson down after his relative success against the Cowboys defense last week, the Packers will have to take the success of their Thursday showing and keep their feet on the proverbial gas pedal.
The first step towards making Wilson feel like an outclassed rookie will be for the Packers front seven to have another strong game.
Standing strong against Lynch’s powerful run game early on will be, perhaps, the biggest key to accomplishing that goal. By stalling the run game and relying on the offense to produce an early lead, the defense will force the Seahawks to take to the air.
By pressuring the pocket when Wilson has the ball, the Packers defensive line can contribute there, as well. If every man on the defensive line can carry his own weight, it will pave the way for the linebackers, led by Clay Matthews, to get good penetration to the quarterback.
Of course, the other key to pressuring Wilson in the pocket will be excellent coverage by the Packers' secondary. Taking away Wilson’s targets will force Wilson to make quick decisions in the pocket, which is advantageous no matter how you look at it.
The more uncomfortable Wilson feels in the pocket, the more likely he is to make costly mistakes—either holding on to the ball too long or getting rid of it irresponsibly. Either way, the Packers defense can take those moments of panic and leverage the rookie’s inexperience against him.
Putting together a full-scale defensive attack of the magnitude the Packers mustered against the Chicago Bears is the defense’s best bet for revealing Wilson as the rookie he is. The Green Bay defense will have the benefit of a long week off to rest and prepare for its first road game of the season. They have the talent, and they have demonstrated the ability to perform as a cohesive unit, if inconsistently.
It must be kept in mind, though, that this won’t be an easy game. As the Cowboys learned last Sunday, Century Link Field can be a very inhospitable environment on both sides of the ball. The Packers, who have had the benefit of home games until this point in the season, will need to overcome the challenges facing any road team heading into a loud and relatively unfamiliar environment.