The Packers boasted one of the league's top run defenses in the beginning of the 2016 NFL season, when they held their first four opponents to 50 or fewer yards gained on the ground. And now, as they prepare to face the Dallas Cowboys and Ezekiel Elliott, the unit will need to once again return to dominant form if Green Bay is to have any hope of defeating the Cowboys to move onto the NFC Championship Game.
On Sunday night against the Detroit Lions, however, the unit suffered a series of additional blows. Quinten Rollins left the game strapped to a board to go to the hospital after a scary-looking hit to his head/neck; per Mike McCarthy, he avoided serious injury but there's no word on whether he'll be able to go on Sunday against the Giants. Both Damarious Randall and Makinton Dorleant left the game with knee injuries, Randall is considered day-to-day, while Dorleant said initial tests showed no major structural damage.
It's been a rough road for the Packers secondary, which has been hampered by injuries all season. The team has needed leaders and playmakers to step up from within its ranks in its postseason push, and a key weapon who could be instrumental in the playoffs became clear in Week 17: defensive back Micah Hyde.
The Packers have been searching for their No. 1 running back all season after starter Eddie Lacy went on injured reserve, even going so far as to sign not one but two free agents in their pursuit of a balanced offense.
But the player who will prove to be the Packers' lead rusher has been on the roster since training camp. He was just playing a different position.
The 6-6 Green Bay Packers have gotten themselves into a situation in which every game has become a must-win. Two games back from the Detroit Lions and tied, record-wise, with the Minnesota Vikings but not currently holding the tiebreaker against them, Green Bay now has to beat the Seahawks, Bears, Vikings, and Lions to stay in the hunt for the playoffs.
Needless to say, it's imperative that every player turns it up to 11 over this final stretch and taps into his deepest reserve of aggression. The Packers have to want this more than anyone else. And, as far as the secondary goes, that's exactly what cornerback LaDarius Gunter has been doing.
I've been on the record for a long time as saying that despite the Packers' recent struggles under head coach Mike McCarthy, it would be reactionary and foolish to sever ties with him at this point in his tenure.
After all, we're talking about a coach that has led his team to the playoffs eight times in 10 seasons, including a Super Bowl win and two additional trips to the conference championship game.
This is the same coach who arrived in Green Bay a season after Aaron Rodgers was drafted and dramatically adjusted his mechanics in his offseason quarterback school. A passer who used to hold the ball up by his ear and struggled to throw deep at Cal has now thrown some of the prettiest deep balls the league has seen, largely thanks to McCarthy's tutelage.
So maybe Mike McCarthy should be the team's quarterbacks coach.
The Green Bay Packers failed in multiple phases of the game against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 9, including on special teams and on the final defensive series.
But the most worrisome aspect of the Packers' play on Sunday was their complete and utter failure to both convert on third down on offense and to defend third down on defense.
The Packers defense is taking on the No. 1 wide receiver in football in Week 8 in Altanta's Julio Jones, and their best option for coverage on him looks like an undrafted free agent who is third on the depth chart: LaDarius Gunter.
It had to happen eventually. The Green Bay Packers' No. 1 run defense will finally take on the league's No. 1 rushing offense when the Packers host the Dallas Cowboys at Lambeau on Sunday.
By 6:30 p.m. Lambeau time that night, one of those teams may not be ranked first in its respective category any longer.
One of the most promising trends to emerge from the young 2016 season has been how stout the Packers have been against the run.
No one would have predicted it a few months ago, but through the first quarter of the season, it hasn't been the St. Louis Rams or the New York Jets but the Green Bay Packers who have boasted the NFL's strongest defensive front.
But do you realize just how good the Packers have been in run defense so far this season—or how consistent?
The Green Bay Packers did a bold thing when they kept seven wide receivers (and only three inside linebackers) on the 53-man roster at the end of final cuts. After struggling on offense last season and dealing with injuries to multiple pass-catchers, the Packers clearly wanted to keep their homegrown talent on their roster and off other teams', as many players likely would not have gotten through waivers to be placed on the practice squad.
However, for a team that has seven wide receivers at its disposal—all of whom are active on game day, given their roles on special teams—the Packers sure aren't using them much on the field.
Whether it was Aaron Rodgers calling the Packers' offensive performance in Week 1 "embarrassing" or Packers fans wringing their hands over the team just barely escaping Jacksonville with a win, there was a lot of negativity surrounding this week's performance. The question is, why? The Packers are 1-0 after playing a talented young team and are already showing improvement in areas that plagued them in 2015.
The Packers announced their final roster cuts on Saturday, trimming their roster down to 53 players and their practice squad down to 10.
Enough ink has been spilled on the Packers' decision to cut starting guard Josh Sitton with one year remaining on his contract, but what the Sitton situation does remind us is that, on the offensive line and elsewhere, depth already looks like it could become an issue on the Packers' roster.
Putting aside for a moment the fact that a punter controversy is by all means the silliest position competition that could go down during training camp, the Packers sure do seem to have one on their hands.
This is the second offseason in a row that the Packers have been forced to bring in competition to push Tim Masthay for his job.
And while In 2015, Cody Mandell wasn't able to succeed Masthay, mainly for his poor holding for kicker Mason Crosby, Wisconsin native and rookie Peter Mortell is posing a much more serious threat to Masthay's future in Green Bay.
Aside from having one of the greatest names an NFL receiver has ever sported, Packers wideout Geronimo Allison is finding himself close to accomplishing what once seemed impossible: landing a spot with the Packers after training camp among a talented and crowded position group.
"I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle – victorious."