Early Injuries Mean More Opportunities for Packers’ Young Players


The big news out of the Green Bay Packers‘ second week of training camp came on Tuesday, when top reserve offensive lineman, Don Barclay, was carted off the field because of a knee injury he suffered during a pass protection drill.

The Packers have been fortunate up to this point in camp on the injury front, at least comparatively to the previous few seasons.

Fifth-round pick Jared Abbrederis is done for the season with a torn ACL. Undrafted rookie tight end Colt Lyerla sprained his knee during the Family Night Scrimmage and could be out for at least a couple of weeks.

However, despite these few instances, the Packers’ core players have stayed healthy–Barclay being the most costly injury up to this point.

Barclay started 14 games at right tackle last season and headed into this season as the Packers’ top reserve on the offensive line with Bryan Bulaga back from injury.

Now, Barclay’s knee injury appears significant and the young lineman from West Virginia could miss the rest of the season, according to Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Even though Barclay wasn’t projected as a starter this season, his loss could hurt. The Packers valued Barclay’s ability to play four positions on the line, and his versatility will be difficult to replace on the roster.

Green Bay Packer tackle Derek Sherrod during training camp. Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

The next man up is 2011 first-round pick, Derek Sherrod. After having 2012 and 2013 null and void by injury, Sherrod is back and off to a good start in camp. At 6-foot-6 and 321 pounds, Sherrod still has the length and size to excel at tackle in the NFL. His athleticism hasn’t diminished either, and his ability to move his feet and quickly get his hands on defenders was a big reason Green Bay drafted him in the first round a few seasons ago.

In camp, Sherrod has largely played at left tackle with the second unit, but Sherrod can also play on the right side, which should help alleviate some of Barclay’s absence.

With Barclay out, look for Sherrod to step up and become the Packers’ top reserve tackle.

Barclay’s loss also leaves a void at guard behind starters, Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang. Second-year man Lane Taylor could establish himself as the top reserve guard with a good preseason showing, and fifth-round pick and reserve center Corey Linsley could also flex over to guard and demonstrate some versatility.

Even with Barclay out, the Packers still have plenty of depth at offensive line, and a similar theme rings true with injuries at other positions.

Abbrederis’ loss means more reps at wide receiver for bubble players, Jeff Janis, Myles White, Kevin Dorsey, and Chris Harper.

The top four spots at wide receiver seem locked with Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Jarrett Boykin, and Davante Adams, but the fifth and sixth spots are wide open at the position.

Abbrederis was off to a good start in camp and was the clear favorite to land the final roster spot at wide receiver. Now, the competition will come down to a heated battle between several young promising receivers.

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Myles White. Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Janis has plenty of athleticism and natural ability, but he’s been sidelined with an illness and had his first camp practice on Tuesday. The rookie seventh-round pick may be a bit behind from the rest of the guys at the position, but he’ll have a slight advantage when it comes to roster cuts as a rookie draft pick.

White is having strong camp so far. He bulked up and added some strength in the offseason, which should help him catching passes in traffic. White also factors in as a returner and could make a legitimate case for a roster spot, especially with Abbrederis out.

Dorsey and Harper have also flashed some ability in camp and offer speed and size as wideouts.

Look for the receiver competition to really heat up when the preseason games begin.

Unlike the offense, Green Bay’s defense hasn’t experienced any major injuries at this point in camp, but they have had a few players banged up and missing some time.

Burnett missed a practice last week with an ankle injury and has missed time this week with an abdominal strain, which could keep him sidelined for a bit.

In practice, first-round pick Ha Ha Clinton-Dix has started with the first team at safety alongside Micah Hyde in Burnett’s absence. According to MSJ’s Tom Silverstein, Clinton-Dix played admirably in Burnett’s place and was specifically well against the run up in the box.

It will be interesting to see whether or not Clinton-Dix starts this week against Tennessee in the preseason opener if Burnett isn’t ready to suit up by Saturday.

The other player to watch out for at the position is third-year veteran Sean Richardson. Richardson’s young career has been defined so far by a devastating neck injury he finally returned from in the middle of the 2013 season.

Green Bay Packers defensive back Sean Richardson (28). Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

A week-and-a-half into camp, Richardson has been one of the standout players on defense. According to Fox Sports’ Paul Imig, Richardson made the most of his opportunities with Burnett sidelined, intercepting two passes during team drills and leveling rookie tight end Richard Rodgers on a crossing route.

Richardson has been flying all over the field, making his presence known in the Packers secondary, and could make a push for m0re playing time, especially if he continues to outplay Clinton-Dix in camp.

With Hyde pretty solidified at the position, Richardson and Clinton-Dix have the most to gain with Burnett sidelined.

Similarly, third-round pick Khyri Thornton has flashed some ability in camp and could take advantage of other defensive linemen, like Jerel Worthy and Letroy Guion, missing time because of injury.

For many players, training camp is all about earning a job, regardless of how their opportunity to showcase their talent arises.

Starting this Saturday in the preseason opener, the fight for not only playing time, but for a roster spot, will go up another level as the Packers take the field in Tennessee.