The Green Bay Packers practiced again on Monday in preparation for their last preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs this week Thursday. They also began to implement some of the changes that will need to take effect from the fallout of a few major injuries from last week’s preseason game against the Oakland Raiders.
Nose tackle B.J. Raji suffered a torn bicep and will reportedly have season-ending surgery soon. Center J.C. Tretter suffered a significant knee injury, according to head coach Mike McCarthy, and will miss multiple weeks.
On Sunday, it was also reported that Tretter’s injury did not reveal any ligament damage and will not require surgery. That moves his timetable for return from 6 -10 weeks closer to 4 – 6 weeks. It also means the Packers don’t have to deal with whether to use the injured reserve – designated to return option on Tretter and can instead save it for another emergency injury that may occur.
Let’s be honest, it’s not a matter of “if” another injury will force a major role player to miss time, it’s “when”. We have been through this too many times and too many seasons in a row to think that anything will be significantly different in 2014. Yes, injuries are hard to predict and many are not preventable. Yes, the Packers have implemented some new practice routines and dietary elements to help reduce injuries. But it’s still football and we’re talking about the Packers so we almost have to assume that there is more to come, right?
It’s all about depth in today’s NFL with as many injuries as are occurring around the league. No team has a perfect solution at each position and to replace their starter, but some teams are better prepared than others. Are they Packers one of those teams this season?
That is still yet to be determined but one thing I can say is that we shouldn’t expect the Packers to panic and start scouring the waiver wire or calling up old friends. They have enough guys that are currently in camp to make up a solid roster of their own. Adding anyone in, even a veteran of the system like a Ryan Pickett or Johnny Jolly, would mean having to get a new guy integrated and up to speed. The Packers don’t have that luxury this late in the game, as we saw with the quarterback situation last year. In the case of Pickett and Jolly, they’re now obsolete and don’t fit with the quicker and more athletic front that the Packers seem to want to employ. In a pinch, sure, they could be serviceable options, but that would be a last-ditch effort.
Today began Josh Boyd’s quest to take over at nose tackle and Corey Linsley’s stint as the starting center.
Boyd was with the Packers last season and spent time playing with the defense so he comes in with some experience and knowledge of the system. He’s not Raji, but Boyd deserves a chance to prove his worth in the middle of the line.
Linsley is a rookie so he has no NFL experience minus the snaps he has taken during the first three preseason games. He’ll be thrown into the fire now with Tretter out at least the first month of the regular season. Linsley is saying all of the right things so far, that he’s not anxious about having to assume the starting role because he is preparing well and knows how to play center. If nothing else, the Packers have to like a guy who exudes confidence and who doesn’t seem phased by the task in front of him. Linsley was a team captain at Ohio State so there wouldn’t seem to be a lack of confidence.
It’s not so much the confidence factor that has many wondering how the Linsley experiment at center will go. It’s getting his first NFL start on opening night, on the road, in Seattle where it’s extremely loud, with a quarterback that he has spent virtually no time with in practice and during preseason games. Silent counts, line calls and the bright lights of a nationally televised game can easily jar even a well-established veteran in those circumstances.
If the Packers want to beat the Seahawks, they will have to play virtually mistake-free. If they manage to get that type of play from Linsley, who will be handling the ball on every offensive snap, it would be all that the team can hope for against the toughest (at least on paper) opponent on their schedule.
Some highlights during Monday’s practice:
- Defensive tackle Letroy Guion practiced for the first time since training camp began. By participating today, Guion became ineligible to be placed on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list, and probably a good thing. Guion immediately made an impact in individual drills and appeared to be fresh, according to Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. If the Packers decide to keep Guion, they will likely have a slightly overloaded defensive line group, which is never a bad thing with as many sub packages as they run.
- Quarterback Matt Flynn took all reps with the first team, an indication that Rodgers likely won’t suit up against the Chiefs on Thursday. Flynn has shown well in practice, but still hasn’t taken a complete hold on the backup quarterback spot. Barring any major changes, however, Flynn should enter the season as the primary backup to Rodgers.
- DuJuan Harris continued to take the first team reps with the kick return unit, all but solidifying his spot on the roster. Harris has run well at running back and if the Packers like the possibilities he offers as a returner, he’s a lock for the 53-man roster.
- Jeff Janis also took some reps at kick return and dropped one opportunity deep in the end zone. The Packers continue to try and work Janis into their special teams units, a sign that they see him as a strong candidate to be on the final roster. At this point, Janis appears to be the fifth or sixth wide receiver, depending on how many the team keeps. Myles White or Kevin Dorsey would likely be the fifth or sixth receiver, if six are kept. White struggled with a few drops during Monday’s session, something that has also been an issue for Dorsey throughout camp.
- Tight end Jake Stoneburner had a strong showing in Monday’s practice with some nice catches on long patterns and a big block on linebacker Adrian Hubbard. If the Packers opt to keep five tight ends, Stoneburner likely gets the nod over rookie Justin Perillo.
- Rookie wide receiver Davante Adams had a few touchdown grabs on Monday, one being a nice grab of a low ball in the back of the end zone. Adams seems to be quietly improving each week, as he grasps more and more of the offense. With Jarett Boykin having had an up-and-down camp so far, Adams may be called on to contribute sooner than later this season.
- Mike Neal continued to line up at defensive end, despite having dropped some weight. His role this season is one to watch as it develops. That he’s healthy and able to contribute should start to erase any doubt left after early-career injury issues plagued his first two seasons.
- Forgotten linebacker Nate Palmer had a big hit in practice and has been seen projected on several roster predictions thus far. Can he overtake Nick Perry and get more second-team reps this season?
- With inside linebacker Brad Jones nursing a quad injury, Jamari Lattimore took his place with the first team in the base 3-4. McCarthy didn’t seem to indicate that Jones’ injury would be long term.
The Packers will not practice on Tuesday and will do their usual walkthrough on Wednesday with the game being on Thursday. They open their regular season schedule on Thursday, September 4th. Including today, that is just 11 short days away.
Jason Perone is an independent sports blogger writing about the Packers on AllGreenBayPackers.comFollow Jason Perone: