For Marshall Newhouse, this time the opponent is just Jared Allen.
Three weeks ago, Newhouse also had to deal with the ear-splitting noise of an indoor crowd and the fast track of the Metrodome’s artificial surface, as he was assigned to block the NFL’s premier pass-rusher.
Allen got two sacks in that game and was in the backfield disrupting plays on other occasions, as well. In the rematch on Monday night, Newhouse will be within the friendly confines of Lambeau Field, though he’s not counting on that making Allen any less of a force to deal with.
“Being home there’s always a little comfort, but as soon as you let that dictate how you prepare and how you approach the game, you’re probably behind already,” Newhouse said. “Even though we’re at home, he’s going to bring it, and I’ve got to bring mine.”
Newhouse was making just his second start at left tackle and his fourth start as a pro back on Oct. 23 in Minneapolis. That’s worth noting, within the context of Allen’s history against the Packers.
Since coming from Kansas City to Minnesota in 2008, Allen has 11½ sacks in seven games against Green Bay, but 9½ of those have come against left tackles seeing him for the first time. Daryn Colledge and T.J. Lang filled in for injured veteran Chad Clifton in the two games in 2009, and Newhouse did so this year. In the other four games, Allen faced Clifton – the two having previously gone head-to-head in 2007 when the Packers played the Chiefs – and posted just two sacks, getting shut out twice.
Newhouse isn’t about to morph into Clifton overnight just because he got to battle Allen once, but having some experience against him can only help.
“There’s always a difference between watching film and the real thing on the field, and getting the speed for it,” Newhouse said. “It will definitely help having played him once, but you can’t hang your hat on that alone. You have to bring it all. The run game, pass game, the mental part, it’s all got to come.”
Allen has been as tough to handle as any pass-rusher in the league this season. His 12½ sacks through eight games lead the NFL, and he has not been held sackless in any game this season. He had one-half sack in Minnesota’s opener in San Diego, and he has posted at least one full sack in every game since, with four multi-sack games.
He has reached double digits in sacks each of his four seasons in Minnesota and, with 12½ this year, he’s only two short of his Vikings high and three shy of his career high, set in 2007.
“I think Jared Allen is clearly playing his best football, and he’s had some big-time years over there,” Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. “This stretch that he’s on in these first eight games is very impressive. He’s very technical in everything he does. He has a great motor.”
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers said Allen is playing as well as any defensive end out there, and he hinted the offensive scheme won’t be leaving Newhouse alone on an island with Allen more than it has to.
“He’s not going to be alone,” Rodgers said. “We’re going to make sure we get a presence over there and make sure we find ways to slow him down a little bit, change the rush angles on him. He’s a great player and he’s going to be coming all game.”
Allen’s impact plays clearly fuel Minnesota’s defense. Three weeks ago, in addition to the two sacks, he was involved three times in stopping a running play at or behind the line of scrimmage, and whenever he made an impact play, that series ended for Green Bay’s offense, either via punt or field-goal attempt.
“He gives great effort, has a very high motor, and you can’t relax for one second,” Newhouse said. “He takes advantage of guys who do.”
Just one of many lessons Newhouse can apply in round two.
“He has a game under his belt on their turf,” McCarthy said. “That’s a challenge and that’s experience he can draw from. We look for Marshall to perform well Monday night.”
Injury update: Defensive end Mike Neal returned to practice on Thursday for the first time since injuring his knee back in training camp. Neal was a limited participant in the workout, doing mostly individual drills, and McCarthy did not give any indication of a timetable for a possible return to game action.
“The report from (head trainer) Pepper Burruss is everything went fine today,” McCarthy said. “He’s off to a good start.”
Outside linebacker Clay Matthews missed practice and is now listed on the injury report with a knee injury, but McCarthy said he expects him back on the practice field on Friday, either as a limited or full participant.
Matthews told reporters he feels fine and would play on Monday.
Additional coverage - Nov. 10