Does anyone else around here feel like if the Green Bay Packers dealt with even an average-to-above-average number of injuries they’d be like the early-mid 2000’s Patriots? Tuesday’s news cycle brought the news that Randall Cobb is ineligible to practice with the team for the next 6 weeks and ineligible to play for the next 8. His return should be in week 15 against Dallas, which will result in him having 3 games in which to prepare for a possible playoff run. Nick Perry, coming off of clearly his two best games as a professional was surprisingly ruled out of this week’s game with a broken foot that was originally thought to be a sprained ankle. James Jones might not play this weekend against the Browns after suffering a knee injury that cost him the rest of the game. The Packers were able to go in to the house of the Super Bowl Champs and get a win, yet for the second consecutive week, it really felt so much was lost.
As I said in last week’s recap, the Packers do get something of a reprieve. Their upcoming opponents are not particularly good, and the one that concerned me the most, the Chicago Bears, appear to be having serious injury issues as well. The difference is, however, that the Bears don’t have a Ted Thompson to supply them with a seemingly endless supply of depth. It would appear that the Packers could conceivably get to Randall Cobb’s return against the Cowboys only dropping a game or two, if any. Does Minnesota scare you? Does 1 win Atlanta frighten you? Do you worry about a game against Philadelphia at home in which Clay Matthews might play?
Quote of the Week:
“I think we’re somewhat fortunate with Randall, as weird as it seems,” “That was probably one of the most, to me, disgusting injuries I’ve seen. To sit there and watch it, it made my stomach sick, so I know there’s positive coming out, it wasn’t completely blown out.” -Jordy Nelson
1. AJ Hawk- I’m not sure whether I believe what I’m seeing or not. One would certainly think that AJ Hawk is what he is at this point. Here’s the deal though, he isn’t. AJ is a half sack from his most productive pass rushing season after 5 games. He looks lighter, quicker, maybe even faster. He seems to be single handedly holding the defense together and making plays. Hawk has always been steady, if unspectacular, but if he can continue to make impact plays (and not look lost in coverage) it would bring an element to Coach Caper’s 3-4 defense we haven’t seen.
2. Micah Hyde- my guy Micah got it done in both phases that he competes. He was decisive and effective returning punts and a terror defensively. I’m not really sure what prompted the coaches to remove Davon House from the lineup (I was there, Davon was playing well) buy Hyde was extremely effective defensively. He was able to be effective in coverage, made a few really solid tackles, and showed the defensive staff that he could play effectively inside as a blitzer, delivering a crushing sack of Ravens QB Joe Flacco.
3. Jordy Nelson- Jordy had a fine game on Sunday, putting behind a costly 1st quarter drop to put together an impactful game. He was able to get open on a double move against Ravens top CB LaDarius Webb. Aaron Rodgers hit him on a 64 yard “long handoff” that was reminiscent of the 2011 season. That double move to the post is the kind of shot play that used to be frequent in the Packers attack. If Eddie Lacy and the running game can continue to be effective, those kind of plays are on the table. If Jones is going to miss time, the loss of Randall Cobb makes this passing offense Jordy Nelson and Jermichael Finley’s. If Nelson continues to play like he did Sunday, it’ll be good enough for the Packers to get a win more often than not.
1. Injuries- it really is dumbfounding. The responsible thing to do as a journalist and an intelligent fan is to chalk it up to unfortunate coincidence. It’s not fair to call for other people’s jobs if your favorite team is having a problem. It’s a very “Minnesota Sports Fan” thing to do. I just can’t believe that if you look at the last 5 seasons that there isn’t something different that could be done to keep more of the Packers on the field and less on injured reserve. The losses of Jones and Perry are certainly bad (Perry is a bigger loss with Matthews hurting than he would be individually). Randall Cobb is a different story. The ability to use Cobb out of the backfield and in the slot is something that no other player on the Packers offense provides. He will be missed, but the fact that he will again play in 2013 has to be considered an upgrade over injuries of previous seasons.
2. Offensive rhythm- When I watch this offense, no matter what it just feels like they’re working on something. The unit I see in front of me isn’t a finished product. Rodgers is trying to figure out how to play with a competent run game, and the run game itself is trying to prove it can operate without having to be a “surprise”. There’s going to be a definite difference in the way that the Packers attack teams until Cobb comes back. I expect to see Finley flexed out in the slot and out wide, and I expect to see multiple TE sets. Stoneburner, Finley, and Bostick are all big targets for Rodgers. One thing that I wouldn’t sleep on is Myles White’s vertical speed. In a straight line, White is faster than even Randall Cobb was and may provide a shot on the “9” route than no other receiver can.
3. Jerron McMillian- this is really hard for me to write, because Jerron is one of my guys. I wrote a very long and reasonably popular article this offseason on how everyone needed to relax about safety being a need for the Green Bay Packers going in to the 2013 draft. I compared the “slow” start of Nick Collins’ career to that of McMillian. The problem is that he appears to be that Jerron is regressing. His slip and fall while having deep middle responsibilities allowed the ravens to convert a 4th and 21 that almost allowed them back in to the ballgame. He has struggled mightily in coverage and is not being trusted enough to make an impact on first down defending the run.
Bottom Line: The hits just keep on coming for the Packers. The two positives that I can point out, however, are that the team is still in better shape than they were in 2009 and 2010 and that there isn’t much in the way of resistance in front of the Packers. What looked originally to be a difficult schedule is actually full of teams that were thought to be good before the season, but just aren’t.