Among the four players listed as questionable on the Green Bay Packers' injury report, three of them three of them play significant roles on the defensive side of the line of scrimmage, two of them starters.
Defensive linemen Ryan Pickett and Mike Neal and outside linebacker Brad Jones all are classified as having a 50% chance of playing on Monday Night Football against the Chicago Bears.
In the Packers' 3-4 base defensive scheme, there's typically five players lined up directly on the line of scrimmage, three down defensive linemen and the two flanking outside linebackers. The fact that two of those five players (Pickett and Jones) are listed as questionable isn't exactly appealing to the Packers.
Based upon the comments of head coach Mike McCarthy, it would appears as if Pickett has a good chance of playing in Chicago while Neal does not.
"I think Ryan’s going to be OK. We’re just being smart with him," said McCarthy. "Mike just doesn’t look like he’s quite ready. Probably very similar to where we were last week."
Neal appears to have suffered as setback going from being a limited participant in practice on Thursday of this past week to no participation on Friday and Saturday.
Being listed as questionable, the coaching staff is giving Neal a chance to be available tomorrow, at least in theory. But reading into McCarthy's remarks, Neal will more than likely be a game-day inactive.
As for Pickett, indications from the head coach make it seem as if he'll be suited up for the NFC North showdown with the Bears. Although his injury woes raise concerns about the playing time of B.J. Raji and Cullen Jenkins.
If the Packers limit Pickett's snaps, it will likely increase the workload of Raji and Jenkins. Raji has been playing a large amount of snaps through two games and may continue to do so as long as Pickett and Neal are injured.
It will be interesting to see if either C.J. Wilson or Jarius Wynn will play a larger role in either the base defense or subpackages with both Pickett and Neal being limited by injuries.
At the outside linebacker position, Jones continues to have knee issues after sitting out three out of four preseason games this season as well.
"He’s struggling a little bit the last couple days," said McCarthy. "We’re going to have to give him a chance here throughout [Sunday] and Monday to see if he’ll be ready to go. He’s gotten better each day, but he’s struggling right now."
If Jones can't go, the Packers will in all likelihood turn to Brady Poppinga who also has starting experience. While solid against the run and experienced in pass coverage, Poppinga has never been much of a pass rusher.
To an extent, there's reason to be concerned with the health status of Poppinga too. While improving, Poppinga did not participate during practice on Thursday and was only a limited participant on Friday. He was full-go yesterday.
Given the improvement of the Bears' aerial attack through two games this season, generating a pass rush may be more important than it has at any time so far this young season. Quarterback Jay Culter led the NFL in passer rating coming in Week 3 and has cut down on his interceptions, further necessitating the need for the Packers to pressure on him.
Jones has yet to register a sack yet this season and Poppinga has never been much of a pass rusher in his professional career, which could leave the door open for fellow outside linebacker Frank Zombo to see his most significant regular season playing time to date.
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