Four of Tolzien’s five interceptions have come against the blitz, and his passer rating is just 52.9 when opponents send five or more rushers after him.
“We prepare for pressure here regardless of who’s playing quarterback. Sometimes you get it, sometimes you don’t,” quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo said. “You can’t control what the defense calls, but you need to be prepared to handle anything they throw at it. We’ve been doing it with Aaron. We did it with Seneca (Wallace) and now we’re doing it with Scott. Whether it’s a pressure game, a coverage game, we’ll be ready for it. We look at pressure as an opportunity and we need to take advantage of it when it comes.”
As pointed out by ESPN.com’s Rob Demovsky, Tolzien has faced five rushers on 20 percent of his dropbacks, six rushers on 10 percent and seven on 1.3 percent. Although he’s only been sacked once, it’s still had an impact, clearly.
Rodgers had been blitzed on 25.6 percent of his dropbacks and had a 104.5 passer rating with five TDs and one INT on those plays. While Tolzien isn’t Rodgers, he has to be more productive when the opponent comes after him.
“I think it's just something that's in the back of your mind. But you've still got to play ball. It's a reactionary sport,” Tolzien said. “You just keep it there and you just try to make good decisions ultimately. I think the more you prep the better you feel about the decisions.”
Full Nelson: Tight end Jermichael Finley is done for the season. Wide receiver Randall Cobb is on injured reserve with the designation to return but didn’t sound particularly optimistic about playing on Dec. 15 against Dallas – the first game he’d be eligible to play. And wide receiver James Jones, after missing two games with a knee injury, hasn’t been the same player since returning (seven receptions, 116 yards).
Oh, and the star quarterback is about to miss another game.
And yet, on and on and on goes Jordy Nelson, who now leads the team in receptions (57), receiving yards (889) and touchdown catches (seven).
Asked if he feels any more pressure with those other playmakers sidelined, Nelson said he doesn’t.
“I don't think so. I'm going to play the game the same with or without those guys,” Nelson said. “I can only control one thing on game day – that’s the way I play. I would hope to believe that with Aaron out there, I would play the same if it's Aaron or Scott. Or if Randall and James (were) out there. I'm going to run my route to the best of my ability and try to get open. It doesn't matter who's throwing it or who else is out there. I can only control what I can control.”
Nelson’s career best season came in 2011, when he caught 68 passes for 1,263 yards and 15 touchdowns. He’s currently on pace for 91 receptions for 1,422 yards and 11 TDs. While he’s also leading the Packers statistically, his coaches say he’s also leading them another way.
“He’s always played well. He’s always been a consistent player. But he’s taken on a little bit more of a leadership role, especially with Aaron out of the game,” offensive coordinator Tom Clements said. “He’s been effective on the field and he’s been good on the practice squad with the younger guys and talking to them. He’s just an outstanding player.”
Marshall, Marshall, Marshall: With Barclay having been ruled out, Marshall Newhouse will get the start again at right tackle. He didn’t play well in relief against Chicago on Nov. 4, played poorly again in relief when Barclay went down against Philadelphia on Nov. 11 and was only slightly better last Sunday against the Giants. In three weeks, Newhouse has given up two sacks, two quarterback hits and seven hurries in only 125 snaps, according to Pro Football Focus.
“Marshall struggled in moments. For him, and for me, it’s just, he’s got to be more consistent,” offensive line coach James Campen said. “If you go out and you stone a guy, and then he rushes the same rush pattern and he gets your hands and gets around you, it’s like, ‘What the (expletive) are you doing?’
“That’s the consistency that gets really frustrating. Just do that, Marshall. He gets totally frustrated and starts to think, ‘I’ve got to do this, I’ve got to do that.’ No. Just do your two or three techniques and you’ll be fine.”
While far from perfect, the guy played left tackle for the better part of two seasons, and Rodgers won an MVP with him protecting his blind side. In 28 starts including playoffs at left tackle, the Packers were 22-6.
“I think it’s more just because I literally have taken thousands of reps at left tackle from college to now, and right tackle, it’s not even close to that. It’s just comfortability and being confident in trying things out,” said Newhouse, who’ll be a free agent at season’s end. “I think (Campen) is absolutely right. It’s just being cognizant during a game of what’s working and what’s not working. I still can’t be afraid to take chances. Playing safe most times will win you a block, but you also have to change things up.
“I feel like I can block anyone, block them well. It’s just a matter of connecting everything that’s up here (points at head) to my feet and my hands and all that stuff. No matter how well I did or what happens, I have to move on.”
If he doesn’t, the Packers will have to move on. Their 2011 first-round pick, Derek Sherrod, played three snaps last week on special teams after missing the better part of two years with a broken leg suffered on Dec. 18, 2011. Campen didn’t want to address the possibility of benching Newhouse and going to Sherrod if he plays poorly again, in part because of Sherrod’s limited practice time in pads.
“Not making excuses, but the guy started 30-plus games, but he’s also been sitting on the bench. Now, he’s got a full game, another one, let’s see what he does now,” Campen said of Newhouse. “I expect him, I shouldn’t even say rebound, I expect him to play at the level he’s capable of playing at. Because he is capable of doing that. We’ve all seen him. He’s capable of doing that. And I expect him to be better. And he does. He’s disappointed, but he’s got to learn, ‘Hey, throw away the shit game, learn from the good things and the bad things, and let’s move on.’
“I’m not avoiding your Derek question. Do I think Derek’s ready to play? Yeah, I do.”
The Packers need this one. The guess here is that they get it. If they don’t, Thanksgiving Day in Detroit either becomes very, very interesting – because Rodgers will do everything in his power to convince the medical staff to let him play – or a virtual moot point. McCarthy believes his team can win with Tolzien at quarterback, but the key word is team. If there was ever a time for every other phase to rise up, it’s now. We’ll see what happens. Packers 24, Vikings 14. (Season record: 8-2)
– Jason Wilde