The Packers will start their third different quarterback in a 13-day span when they face the Giants Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
First, Green Bay lost franchise passer Aaron Rodgers to a broken collarbone in a loss to Chicago on Nov. 4. Then, Rodgers’ replacement, Seneca Wallace, suffered a season-ending groin injury in Sunday’s loss to Philadelphia, giving way to third-year pro Scott Tolzien, who had never before played in an NFL regular-season game.
Now, it’s Tolzien’s turn to start, and he draws a Giants defense that’s played lights-out
In theory, the Giants’ defense should have the edge Sunday against the Packers’ hobbled offense. Still, Giants safety Antrel Rolle told reporters Monday that New York couldn’t afford to take Green Bay lightly.
“We’re 3-6. We’re in no way, shape or form to underestimate anyone,” Rolle says. “We know exactly who we have ahead of us. I think they have something that they haven’t had there in a long time, which is a run game, and we’re looking forward to playing those guys.”
The Packers’ ground game should help Tolzien’s transition to the starting lineup. Rookie Eddie Lacy (158 carries, 669 yards, four touchdowns) is the focal point of the rushing attack, which is gaining an average of 143.1 yards per game and 4.8 yards per carry.
It will be interesting to see how the Giants defend the Packers on early downs. It would not be surprising if they crowded the line at times and tried to make Tolzien beat them.
And he might be capable of doing it. In relief of Wallace on Sunday, Tolzien played well, completing 24 of 39 passes for 280 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.
With a full week of practice with the first-team offense, Tolzien could improve in his first start. Packers coach Mike McCarthy will also have had a week to tailor the gameplan to his young quarterback’s skill set. The Packers did well to put Tolzien in optimal situations against the Eagles; there were plenty of short, high-percentage passes. Expect more of the same on Sunday.
The 6-foot-3, 208-pound Tolzien has a quick, whiplike release. He has the arm strength to make field-stretching throws down the middle and on the edges as long as he’s on time with the passes.
Generally speaking, he threw with accuracy and touch against the Eagles. He also showed good mobility on rollouts and had a 19-yard run up the sideline when his receiving options were covered.
Tolzien has an above-average receiving corps at his disposal, with wideouts Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Jarrett Boykin the top three targets. Tolzien threw one-third of his passes to Boykin, who hauled in eight receptions for 112 yards.
While the Packers’ passing game still has some punch with Tolzien in the lineup, let’s make no mistake: there will be plays for the Giants’ defense to make on Sunday. Tolzien is inexperienced, and the Giants could have a chance to force a turnover or two.
The Eagles picked off Tolzien twice on Sunday. The first came in the second quarter, when cornerback Brandon Boykin intercepted Tolzien in the endzone. Tolzien had Nelson open, but the pass was too flat, short and inside, and Boykin took it back 76 yards. Then, in the third quarter, Eagles inside linebacker DeMeco Ryans caught a deflected Tolzien pass, setting up a Philadelphia field goal. On that interception, Tolzien threw into coverage.
Tolzien also had multiple passes knocked down at the line. The Giants’ defensive linemen will need to get their hands up if the Packers are going to use quick passes.
The Giants need to force Tolzien into high-pressure situations — the third-and-longs where the crowd is loud and the defense knows the pass is coming. If Tolzien beats the Giants making a series of big plays in those spots, the Packers deserve to win — and Big Blue's playoff hopes deserve to take a hit.