Francois tore his Achilles tendon on the same series Clay Matthews left Sunday’s game with a broken thumb. Francois was playing in the place of starting inside linebacker Brad Jones, who left the game with a hamstring injury.
With Jones’ injury status unclear at this point, Francois’ loss leaves the Packers thin at inside linebacker. Third-year player Jamari Lattimore came into the game after Francois went down and recorded one tackle. Lattimore could get the start this week in Baltimore if Jones isn’t ready to go.
Francois will also be missed on special teams. He’s been one of the team’s top coverage players for a few years now. I expect rookie linebacker Sam Barrington to take over this role for the remainder of the year.
When a roster spot opened up after placing Francois on IR, the Packers did not elect to sign another linebacker. Instead, they brought up first-year cornerback James Nixon from the practice squad.
Nixon spent some time last year on the practice squad, but this will be his first time on a regular season 53-man roster. The undrafted cornerback has good speed and size and reminds a lot of people of Sam Shields.
This was a curious move considering the Packers already have plenty of healthy defensive backs on the roster and have a considerable amount of injuries at the linebacker position.
Green Bay may go to Baltimore this Sunday with only three healthy inside linebackers. The ever durable A.J. Hawk and two unproven players in Lattimore and rookie wildcard Sam Barrington. If Jones may be out for a few weeks, maybe Green Bay will decide to bring back former Packer, Terrell Manning, who was recently released by the San Diego Chargers.
However, it’s hard to tell what Ted Thompson will do. Perhaps, the Packers are comfortable playing a game with just three healthy players at inside linebacker. Maybe they felt it was more important to add depth to the cornerback position. It’s hard to see this though considering Nixon will be playing behind five defensive backs on the roster, and six when Casey Hayward returns.
With the uncertainty at the returner position, maybe the Packers will utilize Nixon’s top end speed and have him return kicks?
Maybe this was the plan all along when they decided to bring up the young cornerback to the active roster instead of signing a free agent linebacker.
I guess we’ll find out what the Packers intend to do with Nixon come Sunday.