Nothing ever comes easy during a playoff run. If it’s not one thing, it’s another when it comes to the Green Bay Packers. Next Man Up was the mantra during the Super Bowl XLV run when injuries seemed to plague the team on all sides.
This year is no different. If they Packers are to emerge victorious as NFC Champions, they are going to have to dig deep into the depth chart to do it. And unlike the 2010 season, that plague has struck the receivers.
THE WALKING WOUNDED
Things are looking up for the veteran wide out. We all knew it was bad when he headed to the locker room with his head in his hands after sustaining multiple rib fractures. That type of fracture hurts. A lot. But things are starting to look promising over at 1265. His status is still listed as “day-by-day” and the party line will, of course, a Saturday decision to have him on the active roster. But don’t hold your breath. He isn’t 100% just yet. He’s admitted that it no longer hurts to breathe. Rib fractures take about 2-3 weeks to heal. It will be exactly 2 weeks when the Packers hit the field in Atlanta this weekend. That’s the narrowest of that window. What good would Jordy be if every cornerback gunning for him knows exactly where he is sore and healing? Nelson would definitely be further towards “back to normal” in 2 1/2 weeks from now which happens to correspond with the final game of the entire NFL Season in Houston.* If I were a gambling person (and I’m not because I am terminally cheap) I’d be hedging my bets for a 100% Jordy that is ready to go the first weekend of February.
Expect Nelson to sit this Sunday.
Not surprising after Adams’ left ankle managed to get torqued in ways it should not be this past Sunday in the heart-stopping victory against the Dallas Cowboys, the second year receiver has yet to practice this week. And according to head coach Mike McCarthy, he doubts that Adams will even practice until Saturday. He continues to receive therapy for his injury and is very much in the fix it, not test it stage of healing. Of course McCarthy is going to be exceptionally vague about this. But the fact that he hasn’t even had limited practice this week is not a good thing. Adams has overcome his case of the butterfingers from last year and has become one of Aaron Rodgers’ favorite targets. He’s definitely someone the Packers are counting on to be a part of the aerial attack. But the big question is if time is on his side this time. The week is quickly coming to an end, and unless we see a promising change of status, there is a good chance Adams is unable to be that deep threat in the endzone.
Magic 8 Ball says “check again later.” (But Kelly isn’t holding her breath on this one.)
Wait, he’s hurt too? Yup, add Geronimo to the injury report with a sore hamstring. He did not practice today. But he didn’t vanish from the game last Sunday with an injury either. Adams did, and Geronimo kept on going like an Energizer Bunny. Don’t panic just yet; Rodgers played with a sore hammy and did just fine. It is very possible the training staff is letting Allison’s hamstring settle down a bit before returning him to practice as a conservative precaution. If it’s only slightly tweaked, why aggravate it further unnecessarily. For some reason, I’m more optimistic he will be in the lineup down in the ATL.
Hunch tells me Allison plays.
Good god, he’s hurt too? For Janis, it’s an injured quadriceps (thigh) muscle. But fortunately he’s still practicing, albeit in a limited fashion today. While he doesn’t factor into the aerial attack as much (though he could if called up to fill a gap with the absence of Adams or Allison), he is a key feature as gunner on kickoffs. Of all the receivers, he seems the least injured. Or at least appears so on today’s injury report.
Wild horses won’t keep Janis off the field. Let’s hope he’s learned to run a clean route.
THE HEALTHY AND READY TO GO
At times this season, Cobb has been the heart of the offense–never quite willing to give up and capable of dragging the entire offense down the field on just his fierce determination. When Nelson went down against the Giants, Packers fans everywhere worried that he had suffered the same fate as Cobb during last year’s divisional round playoff match-up against the Arizona Cardinals. But Cobb’s collapsed lung is all but a distant memory at this time and he is healthy heading into Atlanta. He seemed to vanish into the woodwork last week at times, but don’t expect him to do so this weekend. With the possibility of Nelson and Adams on the sideline, it will be imperative that Cobb step up and become the leader of the receiving corps this weekend just as he did two weeks ago. The Packers will need that fire that motivated him earlier in the season and kept the Packers’ playoff chances alive.
Cobb plays and will be the go-to receiver Rodgers will need to keep the Packers ahead of the Falcons.
Jersey number says he’s a receiver, boots on the ground make him look like he’s a running back. Miraculously he is not on the injury report. The Packers have relied heavily on him to be that running back that can excel in the north/south direction instead of the usual pinballing east and west that others seem to do. This week should be no exception. Montgomery is the true offensive threat to teams because he can line up as a RB but at the last shift, slide into a receiver formation and inflict damage on the receiving end of a Rodgers pass. But with all of the WRs on the injury list, do not be surprised if we see McCarthy call on him to catch more than rush this week. And not just with slant passses. He may run downfield in other formations as well. If the receiving corps is gutted in Atlanta, Montgomery may very well need to return to his original role in the offense and let Christine Michael shoulder more of the rushing burden.
Montgomery will feature heavily this Sunday and his versatility will be key if the Packers are to win this Sunday.
Well, will you look at that, the Packers have found themselves a joker receiver that doesn’t drop the ball or showboat after a seven yard reception. And he’s healthy. With his sure hands and toes that can grip the edge of the field, there is no question the Packers are where they are today because of this free agent acquisition. He’s quickly earned Rodgers trust and is the final piece to the puzzle in this passing offense. With so many injuries, expect Cook to factor heavily into the plan this coming weekend.
Cook will be absolutely crucial and a frequent target in Atlanta.
Remember this guy? Hail Mary v. 1.0? While he isn’t a rock star, Richie Rodgers is healthy and ready to go. Yes, he’s solid but not flashy. But not everyone has to be star of the show to have an impact. Regardless of the injury list, Aaron Rodgers will have several choices to throw to this weekend. And Richard Rodgers is consistent enough that his presence in the game will force the Falcons defense to commit to defending him, because he will be a preferred target if they gamble and don’t put anyone on him. Sure 9 times out of 10, he may be a decoy, but if you choose poorly and assume he is in that role yet again, that is exactly when QB1 will exploit that poor bet and get a first down or another touchdown in the endzone.
Richard Rodgers is always a choice either to move the chains or score a quick 6.
The Packers receiving corps is not dead in the water. Sure, they will have challenges with filling gaps left by injuries. But this is the one place on on the roster of 53 where the talent runs deep and next man up is a sure bet for success. Time will tell who will be able to suit up come Sunday, but there is absolutely no question Aaron Rodgers will adapt and find way to move the chains and score points.
*Apologies for not posting on my usual day. Let’s just say I live in BFE and the internet connection decided to be less than magnanimous on my actual posting day.