It is only Week 3 and the Green Bay Packers have already had to deal with injuries to a number of key players on both offense and defense.
Before the Packers’ Week 2 contest against the Seahawks even began, Green Bay had lost starting linebacker Sam Barrington and number one wide receiver Jordy Nelson for the entire season. A knee injury kept Bryan Bulaga out of the game, and his status for the next few weeks remains unknown. Morgan Burnett missed the season opener with a calf issue.
Over the course of sixty minutes of football on Sunday, Green Bay’s injury situation kept getting worse and worse. Eddie Lacy sprained his ankle in the first quarter and did not return. Davante Adams suffered an ankle sprain and returned in the second half, though he was clearly hobbled by the injury. Josh Boyd broke his ankle and is now out for the season.
But despite losing a number of key players, the Green Bay Packers persevered and came out of the game with a 2-0 record and their NFL-best ten-game home winning streak intact.
Green Bay has been forced to play with a “next man up” mentality, and each player that fills a void has been able to help maintain the team’s success. For the most part, the Packers have not been slowed by the backups who have been forced into bigger roles.
When the Packers lost run-stuffing linebacker Sam Barrington for the season, Nate Palmer and the entire Green Bay defense had to step up against one of the NFL’s top rushing teams. They responded by holding Marshawn Lynch to just 41 yards on 15 carries.
Don Barclay was forced to start in the absence of Bulaga. While Barclay allowed more pressure than Bulaga typically does, no sacks were credited to Barclay and he held his own in the running game as well.
With Nelson out for the season and Adams clearly affected by his sprained ankle, rookie Ty Montgomery was given his first significant playing time on offense. He responded by hauling in four receptions for 37 yards, three of which came on the Packers’ go ahead touchdown drive.
When Lacy’s ankle injury proved too severe for him to re-enter the game, James Starks stepped up and contributed 95 yards rushing.
Time and time again Green Bay’s players, often young and relatively inexperienced, have been forced into bigger roles with almost no warning ahead of time. In the Packers’ Super Bowl winning season in 2010, the team had to put 16 players on season-ending injured reserve. Yet other players stepped up, and the season culminated with the team’s 13th championship.
The Packers were essentially without just Nelson and Burnett in Week 1, so the mantra of “next man up” has only been tested in one game thus far for Green Bay. But just because it is a small sample size does not mean that it should be viewed as less impressive: that game was against one of the top teams in the entire league.
With the status of some of Green Bay’s players, most importantly Lacy and Bulaga, still relatively unknown heading forward, a number of the Packers’ backups may find themselves in increasingly important roles in the coming weeks.
Green Bay would obviously like to have its star players back as soon as possible, but the Packers have shown that they have the depth to continue to be one of the top teams in football.
Sean Blashe is a Packers fan who grew up in Bears territory and is currently a journalism and history major at Marquette University. Sean is a writer with PackersTalk.com and you can follow him on twitter at @SeanBlashe .