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Updated: November 27th, 2012 12:44pm
Scouting Report: Vikings may try to avoid Packers rookie Casey Hayward

Scouting Report: Vikings may try to avoid Packers rookie Casey Hayward

by Sam Monson
Special to 1500ESPN.com
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The Minnesota Vikings will try to get back on track when they visit Green Bay on Sunday. Sam Monson of ProFootballFocus.com, which breaks down tape from every NFL game, takes an inside look at the Packers in his weekly scouting report:

Scheme

The Green Bay Packers have one of the league's most potent offenses, and it stems from their passing game. This might be the most timing-based offense in the NFL, with QB Aaron Rodgers at his best working in the shotgun and delivering quick passes to his stable of receivers. The running game tends to be an afterthought, often from the shotgun, and is really just to keep a defense honest rather than to establish as a legitimate part of the offense.

On defense, the Packers play a 3-4 scheme but will quickly move to nickel and have been running with dime packages as well this season. They've been dealing with a lot of injuries and thus forced to play a lot of reserves and backups that wouldn't normally be in and earning snaps. But the defense remains aggressive, mixing man and zone on the back end. They rely on their outside linebackers to generate the majority of their pressure but will send inside linebackers on the blitz to generate pressure by surprise and also to test the protection schemes up the middle.

Key players

Explosive, versatile slot receivers are the current fad in the NFL, and while Vikings WR Percy Harvin might be the best of them all, Green Bay has a pretty effective weapon itself in the shape of WR Randall Cobb. Like Harvin, Cobb operates in the slot and out wide, returns kicks and even gets snaps from the backfield as the Packers try to get the ball in his hands as often as they can. Unlike the Vikings, the Packers have other weapons out wide, so Cobb is fed the ball less earnestly than Harvin is 00 but he can be just as explosive. Cobb now leads all Packers in targets from Rodgers this season with 76 and has become an integral part of the offense, capable of turning any small reception into a big play in a heartbeat.

The hype surrounding some of the big-name rookies has been all-encompassing, but there isn't one performing better than CB Casey Hayward. He has been exceptional from the first snap in a Packers uniform and is easily their best performing corner this season. Hayward has still yet to allow a touchdown, has five interceptions and has allowed just 44.8% of passes thrown at him to be caught by receivers. Quarterbacks throwing at the rookie have a rating of just 28.0 -- significantly better than any other corner in the NFL -- and Hayward does it all without needing to resort to penalties to prevent catches because he has yet to be flagged. The Vikings might be best served taking the unusual step of avoiding the rookie in this game.

If there's one player capable of influencing the offense almost as much as Rodgers, it's LT Marshall Newhouse. After a pretty ugly start to his career, Newhouse had improved dramatically this season and for the first half-dozen games was fine. The problem is however that when he does have an off-day, it tends to be a disaster. His two games against St. Louis and on Sunday against the Giants account for exactly half of the total pressure he has surrendered this season and more than half of the number of times he has allowed the quarterback to hit the ground either with a sack or a knockdown. Vikings WR Jared Allen hasn't enjoyed the kind of season we have come to expect from him, but the battle between these two will go a long way towards dictating the kind of rhythm the offense can get into. If Newhouse can keep Allen quiet, it could be a long day for the Vikings. If Allen can make Newhouse have one of those bad days, then Rodgers suddenly has a much tougher job.

PFF stats

• Under pressure this season, Rodgers is completing 55.8% of his passes. Discounting drops from his receivers, though, he has delivered an accurate pass 77.8% of the time.

• Rodgers actually goes deep less than you might expect -- 10.6% of the time, good for 23rd in the NFL. But he completes 50% of those passes and has thrown nine touchdowns to just one interception.

• OLB Clay Matthews has accounted for 42 total pressures -- exactly the same number as the Packers' other six outside linebackers combined.

• With injuries biting deep, the Packers have used 27 players on defense this season.

• Only two packers are averaging more than four yards per rush this year, and neither are running backs. Rodgers (4.8) and Cobb (14.1) can't raise the team average above 3.8 yards per carry.

Sam Monson is an analyst for ProFootballFocus.com.
Email Sam | @PFF
In this story: Jared Allen, Percy Harvin
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