The Green Bay Packers play host to the 3-3 Cleveland Browns on Sunday. The Packers enter the contest riddled with injuries team wide from the linebackers to the wide receiver position.
The loss of Clay Matthews week 5 to a broken thumb, and now his replacement Nick Perry to a fractured foot, has left the Packers linebacker group extremely thin. If that wasn’t bad enough, the Packers took two huge hits on offense when wide receivers, Randall Cobb and James Jones, both went down with leg injuries last week and will be out for todays matchup.
To learn a little more about what to expect from the Packers this week, we contacted Dan Dahlke, staff writer from the Packers’ fan site Lombardi Ave.
Here is what Dan had to say about this year’s Packers team. I hope you all enjoy his insight as much as I did.
Browns vs. Packers Q&A with Lombardi Ave’s own Dan Dahlke
1) What kind of impact do you believe the injuries on the defensive side of the ball, especially those to LB’s Matthews and Nick Perry will have, in terms of stopping the run and in coverage against Jordan Cameron?
The Packers have been pretty good against the run this year. That has in large part been due to the three big guys on the defensive line. Even without Perry and Matthews, the Packers defense swarms to the ball and can make plays against the run. The Packers are really thin at outside linebacker going into this game, and this will really be seen in the pass rush. Matthews and Perry are the team’s top two pass rushers, and the other OLB that can pressure the quarterback, Mike Neal, is questionable this week with a shoulder injury. The Packers could have a really hard time generating pressure, which could give Weeden time to throw.
The Packers could also be without starting inside linebacker Brad Jones, who is dealing with a hamstring injury. He is Green Bay’s top linebacker in coverage, so the other linebackers may have a hard time matching up against Cameron. The Packers will probably use a safety to guard the talented tight end.
2) With Randall Cobb out and James Jones seemingly out, how will it affect the efficiency in the passing game for Aaron Rodgers this Sunday?
Against Baltimore, the Packers offense definitely missed both Cobb and Jones. Down to just two healthy receivers, it was obvious the Packers offense wasn’t quite clicking on all cylinders. Rodgers had some trouble getting on the same page Sunday with the reserve receivers. Jordy Nelson and Jermichael Finley still made some big catches in the game though.
The Packers will have to rely on some unproven guys at receiver this week, like Jarrett Boykin and Myles White. The Green Bay offense may not put up the gaudy numbers we’ve seen in the past. They’ll rely more on their recently revived running game and probably try to get their big plays with the play action game. Rookie halfback Eddie Lacy will be a key player for the Packers this week.
3) How excited is everyone in Green Bay, knowing they finally have found their bell cow running back (Eddie Lacy) that they have so longed for?
So far, Lacy has been a steal as a second-round pick. The Packers haven’t had a running back that can really get production on the ground since 2009. It’s been a long time waiting for Packers fans. It’s been clear over the past few seasons the Packers have been a one-dimensional offense. Opposing teams haven’t had to account for the run, and consequently, have been able to favor the pass in defensive schemes.
Lacy has the ability to change all that, and that’s why the fan base is so excited about him. The past two games he’s rushed for 99 yards and 120 yards, and even though the Packers have been dealing with injuries at receiver, they were able to get some big pass completions off the play action. Lacy has also really helped the Packers sustain long drives near the end of games by getting those tough yards.
4) Last year seemed to be a tough year for the offensive line in terms of run blocking and finished towards the bottom of the league. This year the Packers are currently 4th overall rushing the football. What have they done differently up front this year that has turned that stat around?
First, the Packers made some adjustments on the offensive line heading into the season. Their starting guards, Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang, swapped positions. Lang moved to right guard, which better suits his more physical style of play, and Sitton moved over to the left. The Packers also have a different starting center than last year. Evan Dietrich-Smith is more physical in the running game than 38-year-old veteran Jeff Saturday.
The Packers also have different starters at both tackle positions. Both rookie David Bakhtiari and first-year starter Don Barclay play physical and are better run-blockers than last year’s tackles. Overall, the Packers are more physical on the offensive line. Having more depth and better talent in the backfield has also helped this dramatic change.
5) As all of your readers know, the Browns haven’t been able to find a franchise quarterback since they have come back into the league. Packers fans must feel blessed to have been able to have Brett Favre for all those years and then transition nicely to Aaron Rodgers where he has already equaled Favre’s championship total. Do the fans out there really understand how blessed they are to have been able to enjoy this run at the quarterback position?
We are very spoiled, in my opinion. I can’t speak for the entire fanbase, but sometimes I think we take for granted how lucky we’ve been to have two excellent franchise quarterbacks back-to-back. Fans under 30, like myself, don’t even remember what life was like as a Packers fan without a QB not named Favre or Rodgers. You look at the other teams around the league or even in our division, like the Vikings, who have a lot of talent but have been struggling for years to find “the guy” behind center.
Having said that, I do believe the majority of Packers fans really appreciate the excellent quarterback play we’ve seen over the past two decades. When Favre was getting close to retiring in Green Bay, most of us braced for years of fallout and the quarterback carousel that seems to plague teams following the departure of a Hall of Fame quarterback. It would be a bit of an understatement to say Rodgers has been a pleasant surprise. He’s gone from half the fan base resenting his presence on the team to the most praised athlete in the state of Wisconsin.
Rodgers still has plenty of good years ahead of him. I’m just going to try and enjoy them while they last. I don’t know if the Packers will strike gold a third time in a row.
I would love to thank Dan for taking the time to answer all of my questions. Please make sure to check back every week for the remainder of the season. We will attempt to check in with a staff writer from the Browns opposing team each week until the season is over and get their insight on that week’s matchup.