With injuries comes opportunity. With the Green Bay Packers best player, Clay Matthews, out for at least the foreseeable future, and the injuries overall at the linebacker position in Sunday’s win against the Detroit Lions, the Packers’ depth is being stretched to the limit.
At inside linebacker, starter Brad Jones was injured, paving the way for Robert Francois, who was licking his chops at an opportunity. Unfortunately for Francois, his season ended when he tore his Achilles tendon in Sunday’s win.
Enter Jamari Lattimore, probably the most athletic among the ILB group. He will get the start this Sunday against Baltimore, as Jones (hamstring) has been ruled out.
The third linebacker injured in the game was Matthews, who had surgery Monday on his thumb, and will be out for as long as a month, maybe more.
This means the Green Bay Packers have a new set of “Bruise Brothers,” Nick Perry (6-3, 265 pounds) and Mike Neal (6-3, 275 pounds). Both played defensive line in college, both are top five strongest on the team.
Neal is the strongest man on Team 93, and Perry is in the top five. Both are strong, ascending players at the critical OLB position. Each has an injury history.
Perry is in year two of his transition, and Neal was just converted this off season. Combined, they have played 14 games at that position.
However, each did play their best game against Detroit, combining for 11 tackles, 3 sacks, and 2 quarterback hits. Perry even forced a fumble that the Packers recovered.
Losing someone of Matthews’ stature is going to hurt, but the Packers have always had “a next man up” mentality, so they should be prepared for this. If Neal and Perry can stay healthy and the depth can stay where it is, Green Bay can ride this out until Claymaker returns.
Andy Mulumba was unable to take part in practice today due to a swelling ankle from the Lions game.
So the HAT is squarely on the Packers’ two new “Bruise Brothers” at outside linebacker. Both are talented enough to become difference-makers, and now they both have the opportunity to actually go out and do it.