As the Packers prepare to face the Seahawks at Lambeau Field Sunday, much of the talk surrounds Green Bay’s star players. Will Aaron Rodgers get his accuracy back? How effective will Aaron Jones be running the ball? Will Preston and Za’Darius Smith be able pressure and sack Russell Wilson. But football is the ultimate team game. Here are five Packers players who aren’t getting a lot of attention but could be difference makers on the Frozen Tundra Sunday:
1. RS Tyler Ervin
Ervin helped revitalize the Green Bay return game in December after the Packers brought him in to do just that. Ervin has been a very consistent performer for the Packers over the last four games of the season.
The former Jacksonville Jaguar has returned six kicks for an average of 26.7 yards and 11 punts for 9.6 yards per return. Prior to adding Ervin, the Packers had minus-eight yards in punt returns as a team in 12 games.
Ervin doesn’t even need to break a long return to make affect the outcome of the game. By just doing what he’s averaged since he joined the team, he could make a difference in field position for the inconsistent Packers offense.
Just adding another 10 yards of field position could make a big difference for the offense on any given drive and it could also be the difference in a close game between punting the ball away or getting into scoring position.
2. The Offensive Linemen
The Packers offensive line was banged up in the season finale in Detroit with center Corey Linsley and right tackle Bryan Bulaga both unable to finish the game. Backups Lucas Patrick and Jared Veldheer both did solid jobs filling in as the Packers completed their comeback win. Right guard Billy Turner mangaged to play the entire game on a sore ankle.
It looks like the Packers offensive line will be intact and ready to go Sunday thanks in part to having a bye last week. Bulaga cleared the concussion protocol on Wednesday and has been cleared to play. Turner told reporters his ankle was “Yeet” and he would be playing Sunday and Linsley has been a full participant in practice all week as he returns from an elbow injury.
The Packers offensive line has done a good job all season of run blocking and protecting Rodgers. Having the starting five all available and in the lineup will be a big boost for the Packers as they look to open holes for Aaron Jones and to keep Jadeveon Clowney and company away from Rodgers.
3. WR Allen Lazard
The Packers know the Seahawks defense will concentrate on shutting down Davante Adams. Adams remains the Packers most dangerous and reliable receiving weapon but it’s Lazard who has developed into a consistent second wideout.
Rodgers trusts Lazard to come up big on pivotal plays. In fact, 24 of his 35 receptions have resulted in first downs which helped move the chains and keep key drives alive.
Seattle has a pair of big corners in Tre Flowers (6’3”) and Shaquill Griffin (6’0”), but Lazard (6’5”) is still bigger than either of them.
With the defense focusing on stopping Adams, the Packers will need a reliable second target and Lazard is the leading candidate to fill this role. Look for Lazard to make a few key catches on Sunday even if he doesn’t finish the game with overwhelming statistics.
4. DBs Tramon Williams and Chandon Sullivan
All the talk is about how the Packers are going to cover the Seahawks receiving duo of Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf with an emphasis on the coverage by starting cornerbacks Jaire Alexander and Kevin King. But nickel and dime DBs Tramon Williams and Chandon Sullivan will play an important role in coverage also. They will be matched up with the slot receiver, help double Lockett and Metcalf or play zone defense depending on the situation and Mike Pettine’s play call.
Williams is also one of the Packers most experienced players and the big stage of a playoff game should be familiar to him. Sullivan has quietly been a very effective dime back who makes the occasional big play on defense.
Look for Williams or Sullivan to be involved in a few important plays on Sunday that could be difference makers.
5. P JK Scott
Scott has been a big part of the Packers special teams all season. His punting was a big factor in several games especially the season opener in Chicago. Scott’s punts helped the Packers gain an advantage in field position even when the Green Bay offense struggled. The Pack often gained 10-15 yards on each exchange of punts as a result of Scott’s efforts.
Scott should have an advantage as he is more used to kicking in the cold conditions of Lambeau Field than Seattle’s Michael Dickson.
In a close game, field position could be a deciding factor.
Follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers
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