Injuries Mount in Green Bay Packers’ Week Six Thriller


The Green Bay Packers may have escaped with a close win in a last-second thriller in Miami on Sunday afternoon … but at what cost?

It’s a known fact that the injury bug has been making a home in Green Bay, Wisconsin, for the last couple of years. Obviously, it thrives in the cold weather situations that normally drives bugs out of town.

That streak came to a halt on Sunday as Packers Nation watched emergent linebacker Jamari Lattimore and half of the secondary (Sam Shields and Tramon Williams) leave the field due to injuries sustained.

However, with a change of offseason schedules for training camp and OTAs, a change in practice schedules during the season and some small nuances added in like mandatory massages and trips to the chiropractor weekly, the Packers have managed to stay quite healthy, especially when compared to past seasons.

Stars like Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews (who both missed considerable time last season) have managed to stay on the field and keep the offense and defense chugging along through six games.

That streak came to a halt on Sunday as Packers Nation watched emergent linebacker Jamari Lattimore and half of the secondary (Sam Shields and Tramon Williams) leave the field due to injuries sustained.

Lattimore had won the starting job away from linebacker Brad Jones, who was injured early in the season but never really showed the promise or potential that Lattimore consistently has.

Tramon Williams and Jamari Lattimore. Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports photograph

Sam Shields signed a big contract this offseason to stay in Green Bay and shut down elite-caliber receivers for a few more years.

With secondary troubles abounding last season, Shields really proved his worth to the team. He single-handedly defensed opponents like A.J. Green, Calvin Johnson and the tandem of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey. He is a valuable asset and has only made the secondary better since his extension.

Williams has been on and off throughout the years, but has been coming on strong – the tail end of last year, leading into the first five games of 2014, Williams has been solid and the cornerback position has seemed stout and locked down.

In the first half of Sunday’s win against the Dolphins, Jamari Lattimore suffered a neck injury and did not return. Lattimore is a diamond in the rough. He plays fast and has a nose for the ball.

He’s always in the mix and seems to be a dedicated tackler, something that Brad Jones has often been criticized for being too little of. When Jones lost his starting job to Lattimore, I exhaled deeply and said, “finally.” Brad Jones has been mediocre, at best. Where he is often out of position and slow, Lattimore is in the thick of things and flying around the field.

Lattimore is raw, don’t get me wrong; and he has some learning and growing up to do. But Brad Jones is not the answer at inside linebacker and Jamari Lattimore was helping put together a more formidable defense built on young and emerging talent.

With Lattimore out of the game, Jones resumed his role of … whiff-master. Fresh from the bench with healthy legs, Jones had an opportunity to make a stop behind the line of scrimmage and instead took a terrible angle and allowed a play of 21 yards, in the midst of a Miami furious comeback.

Green Bay Packers linebacker Brad Jones. Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports photograph

Later, on the final Miami drive that could have closed the door on the Packers, he sacked Ryan Tannehill for a nice loss. Oh, but wait – he was called for illegal use of hands to the face. Should have known there was a caveat to that positive play.

While Lattimore’s injury hurt the Packers, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the total disarray that the Shields/Williams injury created. In the first half, the Packers secondary held Tannehill to under 100 yards passing, and the Packers had a 10-3 lead.

Coming out of halftime, Shields and Williams went down on back-to-back plays. Shields with an apparent knee injury and Williams with an ankle injury. They were both sidelined the rest of the game. With a good mix of guys making the rounds at safety and cornerback, the depth was seemingly there.

However, Tannehill led two long (80- and 79-yard) touchdown drives that brought the Dolphins even with the Packers at 17-17 at the start of the fourth quarter.

It takes practice and consistency to get good results from the corners and safeties, that’s true. With another week to prepare for a starting role, Davon House, Casey Hayward and Micah Hyde can competently cover the cornerback position, at least temporarily.

McCarthy hasn’t released a timetable for return on any of the three injured defensive starters, but said that none of the injuries were deemed serious or season-ending. Shields has a knee sprain and Williams has no structural damage in his ankle – but neither should be rushed back into service too quickly, or the injury could reaggravate and become more serious.

For now, the secondary rotation will need to change.

Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix has been a solid addition to the Packers’ secondary and can hold down the fort if Micah Hyde needs to be moved to cornerback. In the end, however, we are going to need all three of those guys healthy and back in action sooner rather than later.

The Packers are moving toward the mid-season bye week with a full head of steam and it’d be a shame to see them cooled off against the Panthers this week because of that familiar bug, once again.