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Defensive Line In State Of Flux

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Defensive Line In State Of Flux

While trying to make a decision on which defensive linemen to place on the 45-man active game-day roster for Sunday's regular season home opener against the Buffalo Bills, the Green Bay Packers have a lot of things to take under consideration. Namely, the health factor.

Defensive lineman, Justin Harrell is out for the season after being placed on season-ending Injured Reserve. So he's definitely out of the equation.

The Packers will have to contemplate about the status of rookie Mike Neal, but will likely only keep him active if he's fully healthy and able to contribute to the team with no limitations after suffering a strained abdominal muscle during practice last week.

"I’m hopeful," head coach Mike McCarthy said about Neal on Wednesday. "Had a very positive report on Mike yesterday, but we’ll see how he responds. There’s certain things they’re asking him to do in the rehab that he’s not able to do yet to get on the field. That’s obviously why he didn’t practice today, so we’re getting Jarius and C.J. ready."

Neal didn't play in Green Bay's Week 1 game at Philadelphia, which hurt the Packers depth along the defensive line. The Packers made the difficult decision to keep only four defensive linemen active for the Eagles game.

Once Harrell went down with an ACL tear against the Eagles, that left the team with only three available defensive linemen. The Packers used their nickel and dime personnel exclusively throughout the rest of the game, which only required only two defensive linemen to be on the field at any given time.

The decision to go with strictly subpackage personnel was made at the expense of using more defensive linemen, including in short-yardage situations. Although, the nickel personnel acquitted itself very well with an overall stellar performance and being able to stuff dangerous Eagles quarterback Michael Vick on fourth-and-1 without a lot of size in the trench in order to preserve the victory.

Performances such as Sunday's make it possible for the Packers to ponder keeping a smaller amount of defensive linemen active on game days so as to activate players at other positions on the roster.

Cullen Jenkins suffered a multiple fractures in his hand on Sunday, but returned to the game with a club cast and performed quite admirably given the circumstances.

While a nuisance, the club cast can be expected to stay on Jenkins' hand for at least the foreseeable future.

"I know for this week and the next few weeks, it's going to be on for sure," said Jenkins. "I'm just hoping that the pain just keep going down like it has so you can start using it more and more.

"The doc told me the last game, that's definitely going to be the toughest game that I'd play in as far as pain-wise. It's been feeling better every day, but it's still tough. Still some pain in there, and some things when I move it around. It's hard to say how it's going to feel on Sunday, what percentage it's going to be at."

In view of the uncertain health situation surrounding Mike Neal–and to a lesser extent Cullen Jenkins–the Packers have to be prepared to enter Sunday's game versus the Bills with reinforcements.

McCarthy indicated on Monday that he expects both Jarius Wynn and C.J. Wilson to be elevated to the 45-man roster for the Bills game.

"Well, they’re going to be up, so we’re looking for those guys to contribute," said McCarthy. "That’s why they’re on our 53. We have history with Jarius, and C.J. is definitely improving. I definitely feel he has a lot of good football in front of him. Those guys are getting ready to go for this week."

Wynn re-joined the team just this week after having been released when the Packers had to make the original cutdown to 53 men before Week 1 of the season. He was on his way back to Green Bay on Monday, in effect to take Harrell's spot on the roster.

Meanwhile, Wilson is just a raw rookie that may not be ready for the big time yet. He shows promise as a pass rusher but didn't have the success in the month of August that many hoped he would.

Whoever plays on Sunday, they're going to be asked to stop a Bills offense in front of an electric crowd at Lambeau Field ready to see a team with Super Bowl aspirations.

"For us, especially on the D-line, the no. 1 focus is always going to be the run," said Jenkins. "We've got to get C.J. [Spiller] stopped, but after that we're going to have to try to get some pressure on the quarterback, try to help out the guys in the secondary."

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (23) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Tarynfor12's picture

Uh-Oh,is it possible that we may end up only being one run from Spiller away of losing to Buffalo?Hmm,I said that before in another article.
Perhaps the good news with this is,last years Tampa comes to us real early and we go undefeated from then on.

PackersRS's picture

No, it's not possible. Only if Aaron Rodgers throws more than 3 picks. He has only thrown 3 picks once, and never thrown more.

Only if our Rbs and receivers fumble like hell.

If not, we win.

Tarynfor12's picture

For something to be NOT POSSIBLE,you cannot interject any"IF'S" in the theory.

PackersRS's picture

Well, the Lions can win the SB this year... Life on earth can end today.

Tarynfor12's picture

Alot of people confuse not possible with unlikely which is what you did when uttered "not possible" concerning the Buffalo game.
When you spoke of the "if's" you than revised it to be "unlikely"

Tarynfor12's picture

The Lions winning the SB this year is unlikely,the world coming to an end today or tommorow is possible.

PackersRS's picture

Enough with this stupid discussion of semantics.

Do you think we will lose to the Bills, in any fashion? If you don't, stop.

Tarynfor12's picture

Lose the game NO...having defensive weaknesses exploited for other more viable teams,YES.
Which even by winning we can lose.So I hope we win by 30-35 and keep the defense(our) off the field as much as possibly allowed.

PackersRS's picture

Agreed. But by the time we play a real team (MN), we'll have Bigby, Harris, Underwood and Neal back.

Tarynfor12's picture

I won't dismiss Wash or Mia this early.

packeraaron's picture

Totally agree.

lebowski's picture

Injuries on this team are just ridiculous. Harris. Bigby. Blackmon. Starks. Matthews' hamstring. Woodson's toe. Clifton's knees. Harrell. Jenkins. Grant. Collins' ribs. Underwood. I mean, how the hell do you possibly live up to expectations when your guys drop like flies every year?!!?

lebowski's picture

Mike Neal too. And the over/under on Brad Jones' next injury is two games.

Tarynfor12's picture

Look on the bright side,the "SuperBowl or Die" originater isn't hurt YET!

lebowski's picture

Oh yeah, I forgot HE was limited all camp too after surgery. Yikes.

sammer's picture

Umm. It's the NFL - show me a team that doesn't have injury problems. Matthews, Woodson, Clifton, Collins, and Jenkins are all going to play at near 100%. We'll be fine.

That being said - am I the only one who's terrified that Julius Peppers is going to get a couple of clear shots at Rodgers in a couple of weeks?

dilligaff's picture

I am not confident in Clifton nor Tauscher after their performance against the Eagles.

Their age and knees are a concern. IMO Bulaga and Lang maybe better at this point.

One thing for sure, A-rod is going to have stop looking for the big long play all the time, he must get rid of the ball quickly if he wants to live.

Take what the defense gives you and don't force it.

lebowski's picture

Jenkins has multiple fractures in his hand and is playing with a cast. Might be a problem trying to grab and tackle, don't ya think? They've played one game and already Clifton sits out most of practice because his knees are sore and swelling. Might be tough on the footwork, no? Woodson's game is at a high level because he's so damn savvy, but at some point a toe that's killing you is going to limit your ability to cover speedy receivers. 100% my ass.

Rich's picture

woodson has always had a toe injury and plays on it he had a toe injury last year during his DPOY campaign. Matthews always has a hamstring problem but as we all know he doesnt need practice to get 3 sacks. Jenkins played beast with a club fist, raji anchors nicely. Collins is fine nothing to worry about in the D or even the O we're all fine

lars's picture

When you deliberately draft oft-injured collegians like Harrell and Starks, it's unreasonable to think they won't be regulars on IR. Got that yet, Ted? Clifton's old/injured, Harris too, otherwise the Packers aren't anymore injury prone than most teams.

WoodyG's picture

Major college programs now play 12 or 13 games a year .... If you have a player who's good enough to see action all of his four years, he will have played around 50 games ....... That's equivalent to 3+ NFL seasons .... I would contend that most drafted college players have delt with injuries while in college.

WoodyG's picture

Players are biting the dust all over the NFL, it seems ...... What's with all the ACL tears & so early in the season? ..... Are there any numbers anywhere to compare injuries from one year to the next? ..... The whole 'injury status' is so vauge & misleading ....

MarkinMadison's picture

I've never been a Wynn fan. IMO, he needs to be a DE in a 4-3, not a 3-4. Not sure how he will be used, or just in case of an emergency. Wilson is not ready. Neal will not play in the game this Sunday. Count on it, because one thing the Packers usually do right is let their players have enough time to heal. So look for an extra helping of nickel again. Hawk can fume again if he likes, but they don't have enough big boys. As for Jenkins, yeah, he can't pull a guy down by his jersey with the club on, but that's now how its done 99% of the time anyway. Fortunately, the Bills' O-line and O are so inept it won't matter. I'm hoping for Neal against Chicago, and reading between the lines all signs seem to point that way. Jenkins, Raji and Pickett, with Neal spelling Jenkins and Pickett, will be a dominate D-Line. I'm loving it.

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