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PFW executive editor and resident Packers expert Dan Arkush presents the second of five key matchups this week in advance of the Packers' Week Seven game this Sunday against the Vikings at the Metrodome.
Packers OTs Marshall Newhouse and Bryan Bulaga vs. Vikings DEs Jared Allen and Brian Robison
On pace for a combined 37 sacks, Allen and Robison pose a major challenge for Newhouse and Bulaga, respectively. At left tackle, Newhouse has done a solid job replacing the injured Chad Clifton (hamstring), who did a great job rising to the occasion in his two matchups against Allen last season, limiting him to a combined seven tackles and one sack. In two starts, Newhouse has yet to allow a sack, but he needs to do a better job sustaining his blocks in run situations, especially against Allen, a superb technician who plays fast and is adept at sliding off initial contact.
Entering this season, Allen was known for being a notoriously slow starter, but that certainly has not been the case this season, as evidenced by his league-leading 9½ sacks. Allen was not at his best in his last game, however, matched up against the Bears' J'Marcus Webb, although he did show how dominant he can be with a sack, forced fumble and fumble recovery on one play. Allen faced a fair amount of double-teams against the Bears, and the Packers figure to use a similar ploy, with the tight ends and running backs chipping in more than a little.
But that tactic could bode well for Robison, who has turned up his game a notch as the replacement at left end for the departed Ray Edwards. Robison (4½ sacks) has been a consistently relentless pass rusher who has worked hard to also become a better run defender. In his first start after missing the previous two games with a knee injury, Bulaga did a nice job at right tackle against the Rams in Week Six, allowing only one pressure from the dangerous Chris Long.