While the Packers provided some thrills and chills with a last second win against the Miami Dolphins, many would argue that if it weren’t for a spate of injuries to the defense, the Packers offense wouldn’t have had to bail them out in the last second to start out with. This week’s injuries will really test the Packers as 6 of the 7 injuries are on the defense and most importantly 2 of them are the Packers starting cornerback tandem. With a decimated backfield and a defense that was already injured to start out with, will the Packers be able to handle athletic freak Cam Newton, who ironically is dealing with injuries himself?
Sam Shields: Sam Shields suffered an apparent freak injury to his left knee during the time in between plays during the 3rd quarter; even more odd is that Shields initially tried to limp off the field but finally gave up and called for the training staff. Perhaps most unsettling is that there was no apparent cause of the injury; while there isn’t really any film of players in between plays (the live broadcast was showing other thing and NFL rewind/All-22 omit these sections), it appears as if Shields was playing fine up until that point. With unusual injuries like theses, it’s very hard to pin-point the exact injury outside of Shields’ comments that he felt a pinching sensation and that the trainers didn’t believe it to be a tear (other possibilities include some sort of patellar tendon injury). Predicting a recovery is also murky, however non-contact injuries often times can be even more devastating than contact injuries because significant damage might have occurred for the knee to buckle in a non-stressed situation. Shields’ injury is likely the most variable at this point, but considering the Packers M.O. on injuries and the fact that Shields did not participate in practice it is highly likely that the medical staff will play the high side of caution with such a abnormal injury and de-activate him for the game against the Panthers at the very least. Expect to see Casey Hayward or Davon House to man Shields’ outside corner position.
Tramon Williams: Two plays after losing Sam Shields, the Packers were dealt another blow by losing their other starting cornerback to another knee injury. Apparently, Williams had his knee rolled up on by linebacker Brad Jones, who was an injury replacement for Jamari Lattimore himself (while Jones has played poorly this season by all accounts, blaming him for injuring Williams is pure lunacy). Williams was listed as questionable and did not return against the Dolphins. At the moment, the only thing that has been reported is that Williams believes there isn’t any significant damage to his knee (echoed by head coach Mike McCarthy’s statement that Williams was further along recovery than Shields) and that Williams did not participate in practice either. Based on the nature of the injury, it’s likely that Williams suffered a hyper-extension of the knee, which could result in surgery and likely a trip to IR if the damage was significant. However, taking Williams’ and McCarthy’s comments at face value, it looks like Williams’ suffered a less severe injury. Cornerback Antonio Cromartie suffered a mild knee hyperextension in 2013 and missed one game. I would suspect that Williams will likely follow the same protocol, with a timetable to return of 1-2 weeks. In the meanwhile, Casey Hayward, Davon House, Jarrett Bush and Micah Hyde will likely see more snaps at cornerback.
Jamari Lattimore: Lattimore suffered a neck injury during the 2nd quarter and did not return, however he was able to leave the field under his own power. Later Mike McCarthy commented during his presser that Lattimore’s injury is likely a “stinger”. Stingers or nerve pinches sometimes occur when a players body ends up in a position where the brachial plexus (nerves connected to the neck, arms and spine) get over stretched (such as pulling of the head and shoulders apart) which leads to sharp pain followed sometimes by a weakness of the limbs or even more seriously paralysis. Luckily it does appear as if Lattimore suffered a concussion as well, which is something that ultimately ended Johnathan Franklin’s football career. Even more promising is that Lattimore was a limited participant during practice on Wednesday suggesting that his injury was less severe than it could been. However, it will be important for the training staff to monitor Lattimore’s health as players can be forced to retire due to stingers, with the last notable case being New York Giants running back David Wilson retiring after several concussion and neck/stinger injuries. Based on his fast recovery, Lattimore has a good shot of playing this week against the Panthers but if not, Brad Jones will likely be the first man up followed by Sam Barrington.
Jarrett Boykin: 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, Vikings and Dolphins. Boykin has finally managed to return to practice, albeit in a limited fashion for the first time since his injury. Again the fact that he missed nearly 3 weeks of practice points to the severity of his injury, especially if it mirrors former Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings groin injury/sports hernia. If it is indeed a similar injury, unfortunately Boykin’s return to practice might not be a great sign to his recovery; Jennings was also in and out of the lineup and practices for weeks before finally admitting defeat and electing to have surgery. Again 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. Kevin Dorsey and Jeff Janis were both active against the Dolphins and both could very well see more action with Boykin still out. At the moment, its possible that Boykin feels recovered enough to try and play and he might even have some positive results like Jennings had, however it’s likely Boykin will have to have surgery at some point, it’s only a question of when.
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. Jones did not practice the week afterwards and was ruled inactive against the Dolphins. This isn’t Jones’ first time with ankle issues as his rookie season was partially derailed during the preseason when fellow first round pick Jonathan 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. Jones finally returned to practice this week as a limited participant and based on Jones’ previous comments there is a shot that he will play against the Panthers (then again he was pretty confident that he would play against the Dolphins as well). 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. Barrington was a limited participant in practice since then but was upgraded to a full participant this week. With the injury there is a need for Barrington to return to play and it seems like his recovery has come at just the right time. 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). Brad Jones has continued to play ineffectively against the Dolphins and some fans are beginning to wonder if Barrington will get his chance should Jones continue his poor play. It should be noted however that Barrington is actually AJ Hawk’s primary backup and not Lattimore’s, however if Lattimore does not end up playing against the Panthers, Barrington could be called to man both spots. Another possibility is that Carl Bradford gets an opportunity to be a backup inside linebacker.
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, Boyd was a limited participant in practice leading up to the game against the Dolphins and did play 22 snaps in Miami, and graded out well mostly in pass rush. It appears that Boyd’s position is safe considering Mike Pennel and Luther Robinson played 3 snaps combined but Boyd might have lost some snaps to Letroy Guion, who has played very well in the last two weeks. At this point, expect Guion to remain the starting nose tackle while Boyd rotates in as a defensive end in the base 3-4 packages and 3-technique defensive tackle in the nickel——————
Thomas Hobbes is a staff writer for Jersey Al’s AllGreenBayPackers.com.