The Packers finally got a bit of rest this week after a grueling 3 week gauntlet that included 3 division rivals, including a short week against the Minnesota Vikings. With a mini-bye to fully rest their bodies, the Packers should be healthy and ready to go against the Miami Dolphins.
Datone Jones: Jones injured his ankle against the Vikings in the 2nd quarter after someone rolled over his leg (even Jones isn’t entirely sure what happened); while he was able to get off the field under his own power, he was then carted to the training room and did not return for the rest of the game. This isn’t Jones’ first time with ankle issues as his rookie season was partially derailed during the preseason when fellow first round pick Johnathan Cooper landed on his leg on his first snap as a NFL player. After that Jones’ was in and out of the lineup all season and didn’t appear all that explosive when he was. At this point, only the Packers know the full extent of Jones’ injury; Jones did not participate in practice this week, but Mike McCarthy has listed Jones as “day to day” (astute Packers fans will recognize that McCarthy is almost always optimistic about injuries, there have been plenty of times where McCarthy has stated good news only to be followed by sending a player to IR the following week). On the flip side, Jones does seem optimistic that he will be able to play against the Dolphins, which typically points to a less severe injury. Overall, Jones has a shot at returning with the mini-bye but likely will be held out against the Dolphins in week 6. Luther Robinson will likely get the call again and hopefully Josh Boyd will be recovered enough to make up for the loss of Jones. Speaking of Jones, while he (and the rest of the defense to be honest) have been having their issues in run defense, Jones is also one of the unheralded stars of the defensive pass rush, who this year has graded out higher than Clay Matthews and in line with Mike Daniels in rushing the passer.
Sam Barrington: Barrington’s hamstring injury is a little bit of a mystery since it appears to have occurred likely sometime during the Bears game in week 4. With the short turn around between the Bears game and the Thursday night game against the Vikings, the Packers likely made the conservative move with Barrington quickly and did not activate him in week 5. More troubling is this might be a re-aggravation of the same hamstring injury that derailed his rookie season when he managed to play all of 1 snap (against Cleveland in week 7) before getting sent to IR. Like with fellow linebacker Clay Matthews and cornerback Casey Hayward, hamstring injuries tend to be more of the nagging than the serious variety; while a hamstring injury usually doesn’t require any more treatment than stretching and rest, not being able to push off at the snap severely limits a player’s ability to get a good jump on the ball and more importantly, pulling or re-injuring a hamstring again is quite easy. Barrington was a limited participant in practice this week and has a shot to be active from a health perspective. However, Barrington’s role has been very limited through 5 weeks, with his most significant action being 18 snaps against Detrioit in week 3 (he has a total of 20 snaps through the season, with no snaps against the Seahawks or the Jets) and Brad Jones was finally healthy enough to be active against the Vikings, so it appears likely that Jones will man the backup inside linebacker position while Jamari Lattimore and AJ Hawk remain starters. As such, Barrington likely will be inactive since he’s coming off an injury and the Packers have enough depth at inside linebacker to cover.
Josh Boyd: Boyd suffered a knee injury during the first half of the Bears game in week 4 and was inactive for week 5 against the Vikings. While exact details of Boyd’s injury have not been made public, considering his progression from not playing at all in week 5 to being a limited participant in week 6, chances are good it’s nothing too serious like a ACL/MCL tear. With Boyd inactive against the Packers, undrafted rookie Luther Robinson was activated from the practice squad and made a “Howard Green” play by hitting Christian Ponder’s throwing arm, allowing outside linebacker Julius Peppers to intercept the pass and return it for a defensive touchdown. Boyd has been a limited participant during this week’s practice and figures to have a shot playing in the Dolphins game; with fellow defensive end Datone Jones injured the Packers are rather thin on the defensive line, Robinson might get another shot at playing or they could move former defensive lineman Mike Neal back into the dirt for a game.
Jarrett Boykin: Jarrett Boykin was another surprise injury; Boykin appears to have injured his groin sometime during the Lions game in week 3 or practice leading up to the Bears game in week 4. Boykin has been held out of practice since then and was inactive against the Bears and Vikings. Boykin has yet to even begin practicing and is almost certainly not going to be active against the Dolphins (Mike McCarthy basically stated as much last week, which points to the severity of the injury). Again not much news has been released by the Packers or the media, but this is beginning to look a little like the abdominal tear/sports hernia that former Packer Greg Jennings suffered in 2012 that ultimately derailed his last season as a Packer. Sports hernia injuries typically are caused by sudden twisting of the body (something wide receivers do all the time and compounded by the fact that Rodgers prefers to throw away from wide receivers to shield them from getting hit). Unfortunately, since this is a core injury, recovery is very slow since there is no way to really not use your groin/abdomen in daily life. For instance going back to Jennings, he suffered the injury week 1 of the 2012 season, missed game 2 entirely, then played a normal number of snaps in week 3, then played only a handful of snaps in week 4 and finally gave up and elected to have the tear surgically repaired, which lead to Jennings missing 8 weeks. Should Boykin have suffered the same injury as Jennings, he is a candidate for IR at this point; with Jeff Janis finally being activated and Kevin Dorsey being called up from the practice squad, it appears as if the Packers are bracing for the worst from Boykin at this point.
Brad Jones: Jones injured his quadriceps during the 3rd preseason game against the Raiders and did not play except for the season opener against the Seahawks, then bowing out again to his injury. Jones finally was able to return to play last week against the Vikings recording 7 snaps on defense, mostly during the end of the game protecting a blowout win. It appears that Jones’ injury has paved the way for Jamari Lattimore, who has played admirably in Jones’ place. At the moment it doesn’t seem as if the Packers coaches will let Jones slide back in as a starter; Lattimore has graded out as the 11th best inside linebacker according to PFF (and the Packers best, AJ Hawk ranks in at 48th) while Brad Jones doesn’t even qualify for PFF rankings (he would be 87th if he did). Perhaps more importantly, Lattimore has be good in pass coverage, something the “soft underbelly of the defense” really needs to work on with the influx of big and athletic tight ends in the league.——————
Thomas Hobbes is a staff writer for Jersey Al’s AllGreenBayPackers.com.