As the mantra goes, next man up, but how will the Green Bay Packers replace their number one receiver?
New head coach Matt LaFleur had a good handle on injuries leading into the season. A break from what the norm has been the past few years, this Packers team remained pretty healthy through the first three weeks. Outside of Oren Burks and Lane Taylor, the Packers had their preferred starters at every other position healthy.
Taylor was probably on his way out of the starting lineup prior to his injury so you could even say the Packers were really only down one starter.
Then Thursday happened. The Packers lost three starters in the game and another key role player. Jamaal Williams was lost with a vicious hit on the first play of the game. Bryan Bulaga left just before halftime with a shoulder injury. Kevin King was lost with a groin injury in the fourth quarter, Davante Adams a toe.
Of those four players, only Bulaga returned to practice in some form this week.
The positive of the injury news is none of the injuries appear to be serious in nature and all should be back soon. But that does not provide comfort for fans going into this weekend.
It appears the Packers will be without a starting cornerback King, a regular role player in Williams, and their number one wideout Adams, in an important early-season clash of 3-1 teams.
The biggest is the injury to Adams.
Aaron Rodgers has been here before. Throughout the course of his career, he has dealt with Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, James Jones, and Randall Cobb all missing time with injuries. But this one is different. Each time one of those guys went down, the Packers usually had another receiver waiting in the wings ready to step up and be the number one.
No offense to the players currently on the roster, but that doesn’t appear to be the case heading into Sunday. Geronimo Allison, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Jake Kumerow are fine players; they made it onto the team for a reason. But, none of them have shown they are ready to be a number one receiver.
That can all change Sunday. With a strong performance against the Cowboys, any of the receivers mentioned, or those who haven’t, can stake their claim as the next big receiver for the Packers.
Yet in all likelihood, it is going to take a group effort aided by a good scheme to help replace the production of Adams.
Allison, MVS and Jimmy Graham are likely to be first in line when it comes to targets.
Allison and MVS each have different and distinct skills that can complement each other. Allison is a tall receiver with a wide wingspan that he can use to help move the chains and be the possession receiver.
MVS is a big-bodied speed receiver who can take the top off of defenses or take a short crossing route to the house. Graham can be the Cover 2 beater finding holes in the middle of the field.
What may be just as vital to the skills of these players is how Coach LaFleur “schemes” for the loss of Adams. LaFleur will have to find a way to maximize the players he has available and find holes in the defense. A good balance of run and pass can go a long way to keeping the defense off-balance and the offense flowing in a good rhythm. Short down-and-distances would be the perfect recipe for a Packers team down one of its star players.
I suspect LaFleur will use lots of motion to keep the defense guessing and find matchups that favor his player. Also, attacking the middle of the field just beyond the linebacker and in front of the safety is a spot that is usually open when playing a “Tampa 2” defense the Cowboys run.
With Adams out, this could be a defining win for the Packers. They would overcome the loss of their number one receiver on the road against a formidable foe.
Of course, Adams could surprise us all and play through his toe injury and have the type of game we are used to. But the safe bet is the Packers give their star one more week to heal up and the team comes together to cover his production and pull out the win in Dallas.