The Super Bowl season of 2010 was marred by Packers injuries. A team that wasn’t down by double digits once the whole season somehow had six losses. Injury problems continued for most of Mike McCarthy’s tenure with the Packers, though never quite to the same extent. After two mostly big injury free seasons, Matt LaFleur’s version of the Packers may be facing the same problem.
The Packers have seven guys who are legitimate every-year all-pro level players. Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams, Jaire Alexander, David Bakhtiari, Elgton Jenkins, Za’Darius Smith, and Kenny Clark. Four of those players are out right now at least for the short term. I want to look at what losses would totally kill this season for the Packers and how the team might adjust to losing some other big names.
This one is obvious. Jordan Love may someday be an above average starter but if Aaron Rodgers goes down the season is over. Love doesn’t have the chemistry with Davante to target him almost half of the time. He doesn’t have the years of experience to make pass pro adjustments with three backups on the o-line. To be honest, he might not even have the arm talent, all things considered, that Rodgers has right now. The Rodgers quick release screen throws are something Love’s long release wouldn’t be able to handle.
We have evidence for this one, I firmly believe the Packers make the super bowl last year if Bakhtiari doesn’t tear his ACL. This season, the offense has looked like a shell of itself. Neither running back has consistently produced good gains on first down. The non-Davante Adams receiving options haven’t really produced period. And the constant need for chip help and quick throws has thrown a wrench into the offense. If the Packers are going to be an elite offensive team, David Bakhtiari needs to play.
I wrestled with whether I think Davante is crucial to the team’s success. When he’s missed time over LaFleur’s tenue, the team has played better at times. LaFleur digs deep into his bag and calls plays more creatively. Rodgers gets the ball out on schedule. The run game steps up. But all of those things are short-term solutions. Over the long-term, the Packers need Davante Adams – he is the best wide receiver in football after all.
Jaire changes the defense when he’s on the field. You can put him on a man and not worry about it. You can even lock him on a wide receiver to erase one and then play zone coverage with the rest of the defense. Without Jaire, there is always a weak link somewhere.
PFF analysts are fond of saying a defense is only as good as its fifth best player. The four best players can be neutralized to an extent. You can chip pass rushers. You don’t have to target cornerbacks. You can run away from linebackers. But you can only make so many adjustments before your offense is broken. If Jaire is gone, there are far more ways the Packers’ opponents can adjust against the team’s defense.
I’m sure you’ve seen the stats. Kenny Clark has like 15 pressures on his own and the rest of the d-line has combined for 7 or something. If Clark goes down, the defense goes down. The scheme is based around shutting down the run with light boxes using alignment. Well alignment doesn’t matter if everyone is getting blown off the line. Without Clark to dominate inferior guards and take up double teams, the rest of the d-line will be dominated.
The replacement level players on the offensive line aren’t the only thing slowing the Packers’ offense over the past few weeks. With MVS on the bench, the team has been forced to play more horizontally. No deep threat allows the opposing defense to play a lot more aggressively.
Luckily, MVS should be back soon. If he were to miss extended time, look for the team to add another speed wide receiver – Equanimeous St. Brown isn’t cutting it.
Adrian Amos/Darnell Savage
Both of the Packers’ safeties are above average players. The real reason for them on this list, though, is the backups. Henry Black hasn’t had a single play that I remember watching and Vernon Scott has missed what feels like several months with a hamstring injury. If one of these two misses an extended period, the team will need to find someone to fill in.
Who would’ve thought before the season that an inside linebacker would be crucial to the team’s success? You couldn’t have said that at any point in the last 10 years. But Campbell fits Joe Barry’s system perfectly. He has the ability to run sideline to sideline and tackle better than any linebacker I’ve seen play for the Packers. If he gets hurt, the replacements are a player the Cowboys chose to pay $7 million not be on the team and an undrafted free agent from last year. It gets substantially worse after that.
The Packers roster is strong. The team has a good combination of incredible players with depth. Players like Za’Darius Smith, Aaron Jones, Eric Stokes, and Elgton Jenkins who would be surefire starters for most teams in the league could be lost because the depth at the position is good enough.
Mike Price is a lifelong Packers fan currently living in Utah. You can follow him on twitter at @themikeprice.