Saturday, August 18, 2012

Packers Injured, Opportunities Knock

It’s no secret the Packers are already dealing with a rash of injuries in this preseason.  Last week, 18 different players missed practice time and/or preseason game 1 versus the Chargers.  As they headed into the game against the Cleveland Browns, that same number of players were out of action.  Notables were Greg Jennings (concussion), Jermichael Finley (quadriceps), Davon  House (shoulder), Sam Shields (elbow), James Starks (turf toe), Brandon Saine (hamstring), John Kuhn (ankle), and Diondre Borel (groin).  With this many regulars out, it opens up an opportunity for some of the guys vying for a roster spot.

The running back position is especially thin and newly acquired Cedric Benson did not play in the contest.  That leaves 3 healthy backs.  Alex Green is on a “pitch count” and his reps are being monitored as he continues to return from knee surgery.  Marc Tyler will get a long look after last week’s performance at San Diego.  He is a dark horse to crack the roster but could certainly make a case for the team’s practice squad.  Ball security was an issue last week and he will need to hang onto the rock.  Lastly is Nic Cooper who had an outside chance at the PS but depending on what the team does to address the current injuries to Starks and Saine, Cooper could catapult up the depth chart. 

With WR’s Jennings and Borel out, this would seemingly offer an opportunity for Tori Gurley and Shaky Smithson to get some reps and even if it’s not in Green Bay, garner some interest around the league.  Unfortunately for Smithson, he is out with an ankle injury.  He was put on IR last year before the season began and is again battling bumps and bruises this year.  At this rate, he is likely seeing some of his last days in Green Bay.  Gurley entered training camp the favorite to grab a 6th WR spot after performing well last year on the team’s practice squad.  He has seemingly been overtaken by Borel who has proven to be more durable and has performed better overall in practices.  Borel looked good in game action last week before suffering the injury.  IF the Pack decide to keep 6 wide out’s, health may play a big factor in who is in that spot.

The injury to Desmond Bishop will likely sideline him for the season and this means the end of any talk that the team may not keep AJ Hawk.  Hawk and DJ Smith will likely start the season at ILB.  With Bishop out of the equation, this opens up an opportunity for Robert Francois, who made a few key plays last year when Bishop and Hawk were hurt in the middle of the season.  Francois likely would have been kept for special teams purposes, could find himself back on the field.  Rookie Terrell Manning will surely get a look and is likely to stick as a ST player as well.

It’s being reported that TE Andrew Quarless has his sights set on a week 1 return.  This was especially surprising to hear given the gruesome nature of the knee injury he suffered in December’s game at New York.  Quarless was high on the team’s list of hopeful’s before he went down and if healthy, would be a welcome sight in uniform.  I’m skeptical that he will be ready, however.  He will probably start the season on PUP and miss some time.  With Finley and Quarless out, it’s time for DJ Williams, Tom Crabtree and Ryan Taylor to battle it out.  If the Pack are going to keep an extra WR, they may not have the luxury of carrying 5 TE’s so one of those guys could be headed home.  It’s going to be a tough decision as all 3 have been contributors on ST and in game.  My guess is that if push came to shove, Taylor would be the odd man out.  Health will likely be the key.

On the O line, Andrew Datko can expect to see some increased reps at tackle.  Marshall Newhouse isn’t listed  as inactive today so it’s uncertain whether he gets in.  Coach McCarthy’s conservative approach with injuries has me speculating that Newhouse will be held out if there is any question whether he’s ready to return after suffering a concussion 2 weeks ago.  Datko needs to win his 1 on 1 matchups if he wants to keep his jersey.  He was marginal in last week’s game versus the Chargers and understandably so.  It’s his first in-game action since being drafted and he will need to develop.  The Pack just may not have the luxury of giving him that time.  Veteran Herb Taylor will need to put up a much better performance against a starting unit than he did last week.  Taylor had trouble all night and especially against a very active Antoine Barnes, who had 8 sacks last season. 

This conversation brings back memories of 2010 when guys were dropping like flies throughout the year.  The team went on to fill the holes and win a Super Bowl.  While that’s a somewhat comforting thought, it’s a bad sign that so many players are dinged up already.  It’s hard to practice without getting physical and MM has had to try and maintain balance between preparing his defense to play better than it did last season and to stay healthy.  This will be a key to the Pack’s success this year so hopefully the training staff and doctors can work their magic and get some of these guys back in action soon.  Week 1 is less than 1 month away.

Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships.

 - Jason Perone (@WSB_Jason)

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