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Browns know tough challenge awaits in Aaron Rodgers-less Packers

Posted Dec 6, 2017

Green Bay will lean on third-year QB Brett Hundley, stable of RBs in Cleveland

CLEVELAND — The Packers will face off against the Browns this weekend without all-world quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who hasn’t played since breaking his collarbone almost two months ago.  But if you think that’s giving Cleveland solace this weekend, you’re wrong.

“When you run against a different quarterback other than Aaron Rodgers playing Green Bay’s definitely a load off your shoulder, but you have to still respect the player that's playing on Sunday,” linebacker Christian Kirksey said. “We’ll game-plan him well, and we will be ready to play him.”

That player is third-year quarterback Brett Hundley, who’s guided the Packers to a 2-4 record in Rodgers’ absence (including an overtime win last weekend against the Buccaneers). In six starts and eight games, Hundley has completed 61 percent of his passes for 1,269 yards, five touchdowns and eight interceptions.

Green Bay has also leaned on a run game that includes Hundley and running backs Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams. Since losing Rodgers, Green Bay is averaging 128 rushing yards per game. The typically-stout Browns run defense, meanwhile, has struggled in recent weeks, allowing an average of 122 yards over the past four weeks.

“I think they’re trying to do everything they can to put their team in a winning situation. Obviously, they don’t have their (starting) quarterback,” coach Hue Jackson said.

While Hundley has struggled at times and taken 23 sacks, he’s also shown some promise with both his arm and legs. Kirksey likened the young quarterback to Colts’ second-year signal caller Jacoby Brissett, whom the Browns played in September.

“They have a mobile quarterback that can stretch the ball down the field and make a play with his arm, a first-read guy,” he said. “You don’t see the read then run the ball. A lot of times, they’re trying to read the defensive tackle, the three-technique and they can pull the ball with the quarterback. He’s definitely a versatile guy. He can run the ball.”

And while Hundley is no Rodgers (who could return from injured reserve as early as next week) the Browns — who are still searching for their first win — made clear they’re prepared for this weekend in Cleveland.

“That means that we have to do everything that we can to stop the run and play our gaps better," Jackson said, "do those things and see if we can get the young quarterback to have to throw the football.”

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