GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The same question was posed to two different players on the Green Bay Packers: Do they have the best defense in the NFL after three dominating games to open the season?
Said one: "Oh yeah, I know that. For a fact. That’s everything. Watch the film."
Said the second: "I always say the first four weeks you want to form an identity as a team. I think those guys continue to show up, and I think we’re forming that identity. I’m going to give it one more week before I tell you what it is. One more week. But we continue to make plays, guys continue to get the ball, and over the past years, at times when we’ve been able to get the ball, that’s when we’ve had a lot of success."
One answer came from a second-year pro.
The other came from a 13th-year veteran.
It’s not that Williams, 36, isn’t hyped about what the Packers have done in the first three weeks.
Among the accomplishments:
35 points allowed, their fewest in the first three games of a season since 2001.
Eight takeaways, their most through three games since 2009.
12 sacks, including 7.5 by free-agent additions Preston Smith (4.0) and Za'Darius Smith, who already have surpassed the season total by last year’s starting edge rushers Clay Matthews (3.5) and Nick Perry (1.5).
"He believes in himself," Williams said. "Off the charts. His belief in himself is off the charts.
"That’s all that matters: As long as he believes it, he can do it. He definitely has the talent to do it. I think we have it across the board. He continues to show up week in and week out."
Without saying so, Williams knows the Packers didn’t exactly face a lineup of All-Pro quarterbacks in Weeks 1 through 3. Chicago’s Mitchell Trubisky ranked 29th in Total QB heading into Monday night’s game at Washington. Minnesota’s Kirk Cousins ranks 28th. Denver’s Joe Flacco ranks 12th. In the next six weeks, the Packers face five quarterbacks currently in the top 13, beginning with Philadelphia’s Carson Wentz (No. 9) on Thursday and including No. 1 Dak Prescott on Oct. 6 and No. 2 Patrick Mahomes on Oct. 27.
"I almost forgot the quarterbacks we’ve played," Preston Smith said.
When reminded of the trio, Smith indicated they compared favorably to what’s ahead, saying, "They’re of the same caliber."
The numbers say differently.
Trubisky was without a touchdown pass heading into Week 3, while Flacco and Cousins combined for five touchdowns and four interceptions through three games apiece.
The Packers' next three opposing quarterbacks have a combined 21 touchdowns and six interceptions. And that doesn’t include Mahomes, who has 10 touchdowns without an interception.
"I feel like it’s only going to get tougher," Za'Darius Smith said. "There’s a lot of great quarterbacks out there, and there’s a lot that we’ve got to face coming up, but we’re just going to continue to do what we do and practice hard and play hard."
The more they do what they’ve done, the easier it will be to believe what Alexander said.
At this point, all anyone can do is debate where the Packers' defense stands.
Ask quarterback Aaron Rodgers how he determines if a defense is for real.
"A lot of it is how the personnel is playing really individually," Rodgers said.
The signal-caller said he looks at players in contract years such as Packers linebacker Blake Martinez; free-agent additions such as the Smiths and safety Adrian Amos; and high draft picks such as Alexander -- the 2018 first-round pick -- and 2019 first-round picks Rashan Gary and Darnell Savage.
"Preston had three sacks [on Sunday], ‘Z’ had two sacks today; we draft a kid in the first round, and he got his first sack," Rodgers said after Sunday’s victory. "The other kid we draft in the first round, he got a pick. ‘Ja’ has made obviously a great jump and been a great defender; he had a fumble recovery. And Blake again, double-digit tackles. And that’s not even mentioning Kenny Clark, who was the player of the game last week, and Adrian Amos, who was the player of the game the first week.
"So you look at the individual performances, and I think that tells you. Obviously, collectively they’re playing well, but the individual performances have been noteworthy by those type of guys."
The Packers haven’t had a top-10 defense since their Super Bowl seasons of 2010. The D ranked 13th after Sunday’s games but second in points allowed.
"We definitely have some [top quarterbacks] coming in, but time will tell," Williams said. "We’ll see. I’m not going to sit here and tell you.
"I will tell you we have the ability to do it. I will tell you that. But time will tell."