The Green Bay Packers went into the bye week with a significant number of injuries. After only three games into the season, the Packers looked like a pretty banged up team that needed a rest. The bye week came at just the right time.
Now, Green Bay has returned to the field and held their first practice after having the week off. The good news is that both Eddie Lacy and Morgan Burnett fully participated in practice today. Both players could be huge additions this week when the Packers host the division-leading Detroit Lions on Sunday.
It can’t be emphasized enough how much Green Bay has missed Burnett’s presence in the secondary this season. Last year, with Burnett calling the shots in the Packers’ defensive backfield, Green Bay’s pass defense allowed 218 yards per game and ranked 11th in the league. Without Burnett, the Packers’ pass defense has given up 311 passing yards per game and ranks 28th in the league.
The Packers young safeties have steadily improved over the first three games, but the group, overall, is so much better with Burnett in the lineup. In fact, the Packers defense in general is much improved with the 4th-year safety from Georgia Tech on the field.
Burnett brings leadership. He quarterbacks the secondary. His ability to read offenses and call audibles can’t be taught overnight, and the Packers learned this the hard way in their week one loss when the San Francisco offense put up 412 passing yards on them.
The more concerning news today is the list of players inactive from practice.
According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Jermichael Finley (concussion), Clay Matthews (hamstring), James Starks (knee), Casey Hayward (hamstring), John Kuhn (hamstring), and Jarrett Bush (hamstring) all sat out of practice today.
Finley will most likely be a game-time decision this week. Concussions are always difficult to assess, and with the NFL’s new protocol, it’s hard to tell how close a player is ready to play until they’ve cleared all five stages of the concussion recovery process. Finley’s hit looked pretty bad in the Cincinnati game. I wouldn’t be surprised if he sits out this week. The Packers offense will definitely miss him if this is the case.
All the hamstring injuries have to be a concern. This is the type of injury that can easily be re-aggravated. It’s also the kind of injury that tends to reoccur with the same players. Matthews has missed time every year so far in his pro career because of hamstring issues. Green Bay is most likely being conservative with the players recovering from hamstring injuries. They don’t want the issues to worsen and the players to miss even more time this season.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the Packers decide to sit Matthews this week, and even Hayward, Kuhn, and Bush for at least one more week. Typically, hamstring strains last at least 3-4 weeks before they’re fully healed, but again, we’ll have to wait for the official word from the team later this week to know for sure.
If the Packers will be without Matthews on Sunday, the other players on the defense have to step up and provide pressure on the quarterback. Stafford has only been sacked three times this season, and outside of Matthews, the Packers’ front seven has only produced two sacks this year (Johnny Jolly, Mike Daniels).
Green Bay desperately needs more production from Nick Perry, Mike Neal, and rookie defensive lineman, Datone Jones. Neither one of these three have produced a sack this season, and being their role on the team this year, these players should produce quarterback pressures. In all fairness, all three of these players are still transitioning to a new position, but hopefully, they’ll get it together soon.
Stafford and the Detroit passing offense ranks fifth in the league with a 309-yards per game average. If the Packers will be without nickel corner Hayward for another week, then pressuring the quarterback will be imperative in stopping Detroit from picking apart a struggling and banged up Green Bay secondary.
On the flip side, maybe Green Bay is just resting players like Matthews and Hayward during practice so they can be ready to play on Sunday. I hope this is the case, but we won’t know for sure until the team releases their injury report later in the week.