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Ailing Front Line Of Defense

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Ailing Front Line Of Defense

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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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (14) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Corwin's picture

I've never seen a practice, so pardon the dumb question...what are the players that aren't getting the "reps" doing when the players that are getting them are on the field? I'm thinking of players like Wilson, Newhouse, McDonald, Spitz, Swain, etc. Are they just watching the practice going on, or doing drills?

Brian Carriveau's picture

Typically, those players are on the scout team, running Chicago Bears plays for example.

davyjones's picture

I'm thinking we could see a lot of 2 down linemen tomorrow with Capers coming up with some interesting stuff behind them...a lot of movement near the line from Matthews & Woodson, more Blitzes from Barnett or perhaps Collins...should be cool to see what Dr Dom comes up with given his constraints.

bigfog's picture

For crying out loud. Really? Neal out again!?! C'mon man!

Dale Zawada's picture

Whoever starts opposite CM3 (jones or pop) is going to have a big day I think.

Oppy's picture

Just for ish and giggles, my prediction is the Packers end up with 3 sacks on the day, one from Matthews coming off the edge, two from Raji.

With the Bears ailing at OT, Matthews will be pressuring Cutler all day, and Cutler won't be too confident in his Tackles to keep the pressure off of his flanks. He'll be stepping up into the pocket, the middle of which is held up by the old reliable Olin Kreutz.

Problem is, Olin isn't big enough and his veteran legs and feet not quick enough to handle Raji. I think Raji will be getting gifts from Matthews and Jenkins/Jones tomorrow night.

Oppy's picture

Regardless of Pickett's status on MNF, I wouldn't be surprised to see Capers limit the amount of base D and 'traditional' 4-down Nickle, in favor of using more Psycho on running downs and 2-4-5 sets in passing situations in order to lessen the load on the D-linemen.

Even if Pickett can go, he probably won't be 100% and hamstrings, as we Packers fans are by now well aware, can be troublesome recurring injuries that are often time consuming to recover from. With Neal still not 100% with his rib cartilage injury, Harrell out for the season, relatively raw Wynn and Wilson the only back-ups (Not to mention, wynn and wilson are much smaller body types than Raji/Pickett/Jenkins), and Jenkins still in a club, I fully expect the sight of less than 3 d-linemen on the field at a time to become more prevalent than in the past, allowing us to spare wear and tear on the position and rotate players more frequently.

Wayne's picture

I was thinking the same thing. Chicago is expected to spread the field with 3 WR sets to try to force CM3 to play in coverage instead of rushing the passer. The nickle and psycho will free Clay up to take advantage of Shaffer who will be playing RT (or pretending to).

DAWG's picture

Injuries-Injuries-Injuries, As we all know, you can't win a championship w/ Injuries!
WHY is it we have so many INJURIES the last few yrs? A'lot of hamme's and one guy who say'z he's in great shape, wants $$, and show's up injured, needs surgery! WHO"S on top of this shit! Isn't this a Multi-million dollar program?-just sayin!

DAWG's picture

DON"T get me wrong, I think TT is one of the best GM's in the league-But keep him honest!WORK HIM!

WisconInExile's picture

Seems like we're on par with most other teams. More than one NFL commentator has observed that playoff success is as much about getting lucky with injuries than any other component. Just imagine what last year might have been like if Al Harris stayed healthy the whole season.

McCarthy and his staff seem to err on the side of caution early in the season. An injury like Neal's in the first 4 games probably won't keep him off the field during the last 4 games.

nypacker's picture

I'm not chalking up the Bears game as a win just yet. Everyone's talking pressure and heavy blitzing but I say that can actually hurt our chances of winning. Jay Cutler has been taking few chances and getting the ball out a lot quicker. The thing that we need to see is definitely solid coverage by the back 4.

DAWG's picture

Shields is the key! And of course the pass rush!

Tommyboy's picture

I think Zombo will get a bigger role this game. I am sort of assuming he's a liability in pass coverage, but I'm not sure he can be too much worse than Brady. I'm guessing Poppinga's advantage is that he'll be more assignment-sure. Nevertheless, I hope to see Zombo step-up...could get interesting if he has a big game...

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