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Dolphins at Packers preview: Aaron Rodgers, red zone performance, and never running the ball

Green Bay Packers v New England Patriots Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The Miami Dolphins will face the Green Bay Packers tomorrow in a late-afternoon Week 10 showdown. Miami comes into this game looking to move to two games over .500 and in the playoff positioning. The Packers are attempting to right a season that has not gone up to their lofty expectations and move to .500 on the season.

To get a better look at the Packers, we turned to SB Nation’s Packers team site, Acme Packing Company, and Jason Hirschhorn, who took the time to answer my questions. You can check out my answers to Jason’s Dolphins questions over on their site.

1. Obviously, 3-4-1 is not what was expected from the Packers mid-way through the 2018 season. What has been the biggest issue facing the team thus far?

Offensively, the Packers have struggled in the red zone. They have only scored touchdowns on just over half of their red-zone trips, down nearly 10 percent from a 2017 season in which Aaron Rodgers only played in six games. That drop-off has most significantly affected the overall scoring output. While the offense has improved in that regard recently (60 percent over their last three games), that doesn’t fix how it performed during the opening month of the season.

2. Aaron Rodgers’ knee has been a story seemingly all season long, yet he is still out there every game. What is the status of his knee and do you notice any limitations in his game because of it?

Rodgers’ knee has become less and less of a factor in recent weeks. Since returning from the Packers’ Week 7 bye, Rodgers has shed the knee brace and hasn’t appeared physically limited. The Packers didn’t even bother to list him on their final injury report either of the last two games.

Still, Rodgers hasn’t played up to his usual standard and the knee injury (and the practice time missed as a result of it) have probably played a role. Even if he appears comfortable on Sunday, Rodgers might continue to miss on passes he normally hits in his sleep.

3. The Packers simply do not run the ball, ranking 29th with just 176 attempts this season. Dolphins fans are frustrated because Miami does not like to run the ball, and they rank 17th with 216 carries this season. Is there a frustration that Green Bay does not run? Is there a reason, other than Mike McCarthy, that Green Bay does not run the ball?

The Packers don’t run often, which seems strange since they do it so well. The offense currently ranks fifth in rushing efficiency by DVOA and could improve further as Aaron Jones receives more work. Jones averages nearly 6 yards per carry and compares favorably to Pro Bowl running backs like Alvin Kamara on a down-to-down basis.

All of which makes the Packers’ refusal to lean on the run confusing. Some games have forced Green Bay to pass more than they might have originally planned, but that doesn’t explain away the low rush totals. As for Mike McCarthy, he only recently began to utilize Jones as his primary back, a decision that bewildered anyone paying attention. Perhaps the coaching staff adjusts this during the second half of the season, but it doesn’t reflect well on McCarthy thus far.

4. How do you attack the Packers if you are the Dolphins?

While the Packers’ O-line has performed decently overall this season, the right side has recently fallen off with Byron Bell’s struggles at right guard and Bryan Bulaga’s knee injury suffered last week. Building a game plan that adds extra pressure to that side of the offense will go a long way towards slowing Rodgers and the offense.

On the other side of the ball, the Dolphins should do what they can to strike deep down the field. Green Bay hasn’t completely figured out how to fill the void left by the Ha Ha Clinton-Dix trade, and the secondary already had trouble with big plays. If Kenny Stills can suit up, he could make a huge difference for Miami.

5. What are your expectations for the rest of the season? Are the Packers able to rebound and make the playoffs?

If the Packers find a way into the playoffs, it probably says more about the NFC North and rest of the conference. Green Bay simply doesn’t have the overall talent it did during its eight-year playoff streak, and the coaching staff hasn’t done enough to overcome those deficiencies. Rodgers’ presence gives them a chance, but those odds still don’t look great.