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Packers Depth Gets an Early Test

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Packers Depth Gets an Early Test

Green Bay Packers offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga left Wednesday's practice with an ankle injury.  At the time, it was unknown how serious the injury was.  Regardless of whether Bulaga will be out for awhile or back in uniform tomorrow against the Denver Broncos, this scenario reminds us all how quickly things can change for the Packers.

With any NFL team, injuries to key players can be devastating.  All teams will suffer injuries.  Football is too physical and violent for a team to go an entire season unscathed.  What separates some teams from the others is their ability to mitigate those lost players.

In 2015, receiver, Jordy Nelson was lost prior to the regular season and the Packers weren't able to replace his production.  The team still had a successful season and nearly appeared in the NFC championship game.  And to be fair, replacing peak Nelson is a tall task.  But Nelson's absence greatly changed the offense and when more injuries hit the receivers late in the season, there weren't enough bodies to maintain the success they had throughout the year.

In the case of Bulaga's injury, we look at what is behind him on the depth chart.  The early reports via social media are talking about Kyle Murphy stepping in for Bulaga, not Jason Spriggs.  Spriggs was drafted in the second round last season as the heir apparent to Bulaga.  Spriggs appeared in some regular season action last year and seemed to hold his own.

Through two preseason games however, Spriggs has been the favorite tackling dummy of fans and media alike.  His performance has been unspectacular and he appears to have taken some steps backward in his level of play.  That's not the ideal solution to replacing a solid veteran we rarely have to worry about.

Speaking about Spriggs specifically, there is still plenty of time for him to turn things around and return to form and be what the Packers hope he will.  I, for one, still think there's a good chance that happens.  Patience isn't always very abundant among those outside the team, especially when the expectations start and end at "Super Bowl or bust".  But Spriggs is young and has already shown evidence that he's not always as bad as he has been.

Fortunately, the Packers have Murphy to try out at tackle.  Murphy has had his own struggles in his time on the field, but it's his second year in the offense and that time and comfort may count for a lot when we see him on the field.

If the Packers are going to go far this season, they'll need contributions from players at the bottom of the depth chart in some areas.  The law of averages simply has shown that to be true.  Just how deep the Packers currently are is unknown and we can't tell until they start playing games for real.

For those on that "Super Bowl or bust" bandwagon, you have to hope the answer to the Packers depth question is that they're deeper than we think.  Or that they're deep enough to roll on.  

There are two more preseason games to get through and at least one where key players will likely play.  If the Packers can emerge without further losses, they'll be among the lucky.  Chances are someone will get nicked up and hopefully the alternative is already on the roster and capable.

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Jason is a freelance writer on staff since 2012 and also co-hosts Cheesehead TV Live, Pulse of the Pack and Pack A Day podcasts.  You can follow him on Twitter here

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (39) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

GBPDAN1's picture

Until Spriggs gets it ( if that's possible?), he needs to stay off the field when Rodgers is on it! So where does that leave this team if Bak goes down? Who protects Rodgers blindside, Ted??

Ibleedgreenmore's picture

If Bak goes down so does Rodgers and that is not something the team can afford.

croatpackfan's picture

Same sentence was written here (well, on "allgbp.com") when Bulaga went down with torn ACL and David Bakhtiari started as rookie for him in 2013th season. That season Aaron was injured (remember?), but not because of David. Aaron was running on the right side of the OL and was hit by McClellin and Frey... Aaron was running down field and it was not sack, it was tackle....
So, Bakhtiari played well enough to keep Aaron clean. Yes, he had sam mistakes as rookie, but he hold his ground. So Lane Taylor was playing well, so Linsley Cory was, too.
So, there is more facts that tell us "next man up" will work than not. Why panicking?

Nick Perry's picture

I can only speak for myself but based on the early results in practice and games there's plenty of reasons to panic Croat. So Murphy played better in week two of the preseason but against WHO? Spriggs actually played worse and again, against WHO?

The players they've faced in weeks 1 and 2 of the preseason are a far cry from from guys like Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, or Vic Beasley, all players who I'd imagine Seattle and Atlanta will be lining to test the Packers new RT. The Packers are possibly going to be playing with a 34 year old RG taking his first snap with the Packers and Murphy who's had what, 4 regular season snaps in GB? What happens when Pete Carroll or Gus Bradley start running stunts or overloading the right side of the offense? Now if Lang was there I'd feel a S***load better. But Lang is gone and the Packers are going to try and protect Rodgers with 2 guys that just started taking snaps together 17 days before the opener.

Handsback's picture

This will test the Packer's depth, that's for sure. Frankly, as much as Bulaga makes this team run it's better to test their depth there than in the area of playmakers.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

Adams, Randall, Rollins, now Spriggs--this team has a shocking recent history of 2nd-year players putting up embarrassing film.

I don't get it. Sure, it's not everyone--Clark and Lowry look terrific--but it's stunning, nonetheless.

Thankfully, Adams bounced back, Rollins appears to be, Randall is improving...there's hope for Spriggs.

But something must be done about these Packer Sophomore meltdowns.

RCPackerFan's picture

To be fair with the players you mentioned. Adams, Randall and Rollins were pretty much all from injuries.
Spriggs? I just don't know.
I will say that like in the article that Al posted on the play by play, he was good - good enough on most of the plays. It was just 2-3? that were bad/ugly. If he can clean that up, he might be ok? (trying to be optimistic).

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

Sure, all were affected by injuries, save Spriggs. But it's still a really bad trend.

I don't recall seeing such a string of Sophomore meltdowns in, well, decades.

RobinsonDavis's picture

I don't want to speak for Al, RC, but thought Al's opinion was that Sprigg's performance was NOT "good enough," which I would concur with. Being responsible for 2 sacks in roughly one half of play is sub-par, regardless if he had 10 plays that were good or average. I too want Spriggs to excel and I remain hopeful. However, reality tells me we need to find help fairly quick.

Since '61's picture

MM should start one of the backup QBs which might reduce the pressure on Bulaga's replacement and allow him (Murphy or Spriggs) to get comfortable in the game. If they hold up during the first series then bring in Rodgers and see how it goes. If there is any problem than we hope that Rodgers sidesteps the pass rush and we take him out immediately and put one of the backup QBs in.
Maybe Bulaga returns for the Rams game and Rodgers can take a series or two in that game if he needs the reps (he doesn't). I really wouldn't care if MM didn't play any starters the rest of the way. He knows who is starters are by now anyway. Play the scrubs and let them fight it out to make the 53 or move up on the depth chart. MM probably knows nearly everyone who will be chucked as well. We're 17 days from Week 1, let the starters rest and heal up. Thanks, Since '61

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

Don't know if I'd go that far, but it's true this group isn't ready to face Denver's No-Fly Zone. Our QB's will get killed this Saturday.

We simply don't have the talent to face that group right now, and McCarthy must be careful deciding how much punishment he wants Rodgers to take.

Since '61's picture

ALP - Agree that we don't have the talent to face Denver's pass rush, but we could mitigate it with our ground game and quick passes by Rodgers to keep him clean. In either case I would not keep him in for very long. If it goes bad there will be 50 posts here by Sunday morning blaming MM for letting Rodgers play and another 50 jumping all over TT for not signing decent backups. I've said it before and I'll say it again, the game doesn't matter so use the scrubs as fodder for the Denver D. Most of us who are paying attention can already name 50 or so of the final 53. It's just a matter of keeping 7 or 8 WRs, or 4 versus 5 RBS or 6 or 7 CBs or DLs etc. Mitigate the risk of injuries as much as possible because when the games count we will need everyone healthy. Thanks, Since '61

Finwiz's picture

I get what your saying '61, but then we get into the regular season and suffer through 4 weeks of timing and conditioning issues because the starters aren't prepared. Do you want to test them against little sisters of the poor, or a team that's supposed to be at YOUR level? There's always going to be risk in football. Rodgers could get hurt in game one against Seattle because he sat out and didn't prepare against Denver. Take your pick, and pick your poison.

Since '61's picture

I'll take my chances during the regular season because I have to and that is what Rodgers gets paid for. Preseason hasn't been about conditioning for over 25 years. Back in the 50s, 60s and 70s it was about conditioning because the players went to work at regular jobs during the offseason to make enough money to survive throughout the year. But now the players stay in shape and work out year-round, or at least they should. They have 365 day access to the best equipment and trainers in the world. They have no need to get into playing shape during TC and preseason games. They do however need to work on their timing and their assignments etc., and preseason games help with that somewhat but most of the starters play less than 25 snaps per preseason game if you figure that they play 2 series per game. Most don't play in the final pre-season game at all so we're talking between 60 - 90 snaps in the pre-season at a maximum. In some cases that will be less than a games worth with rotations and situational football. Does it all matter that much? For the OL and DL I think it matters. For the receivers it matters somewhat. RBs? How many snaps will Monty have this preseason? 25- 30. The value in the preseason, if any, is to determine how well you can solidify your team with your draft picks, FAs, and UDFAs. That's when you can evaluate what you might be able to expect from them in their first season on your team. If you have a 2 - 14 rebuilding team with a new HC then yes you need to see plenty of preseason snaps and action. But a team like the Packers they know what to expect from their experienced players. Thanks, Since '61

Finwiz's picture

It's MORE than about conditioning these days. This isn't the 50's dude - times have changed and SO has the NFL. It's a passing league, and you know what that means? TIMING! Did you read the article about how Martellius Bennett had no idea what Rodgers was doing on that quick snap, 12-man play last week? He asked for more game time with Rodgers because he needs to know the little adjustments that can't be mimicked in practice. You don't play the guys, you don't get the fluidity of the offensive flow, and lord knows we need all the offense we can get with our illustrious defense. See, replied in 1/3 less words and got the point across. Love your writing, but you need to learn to be more concise. Usually I get through 3-4 sentences before my eyes glaze over.

dobber's picture

Then we need to decide: we've bitched in the past because ARod and others didn't see enough snaps in the PS to be sharp and the Packers got off to slow starts. We've complained about good players taking their lumps in the preseason in meaningless games.

Bulaga's absence might mean they adjust some of what they do tomorrow night with #12, but I suspect it won't be a lot.

Mojo's picture

I think GB will do a couple of things to mitigate the risk of an ARod injury.

First they'll have an experienced pass-pro RB in the backfield nearly every play Rodgers is in. It might be Rip on his hip so to speak.

They'll probably greatly reduce the snaps they were anticipating him taking. If he was supposed to be in the entire first half, they might just go with the first quarter. Maybe give him one series next week too just to give him some additional reps.

They'll probably instruct him to go with the short- to medium passing game. I think they did that last week. No seven-step drops. Also, instruct him to go down if the rush looks like it's going to get him. If a blitzer comes free, throw it in the dirt. No need to scramble. No hero stuff. If he gets clocked then it's on him.

Expect them to pull him if it looks like a jail-break a couple of plays in a row. It might look funny however, if they pull him mid-series but you got to do what you got to do.

All-in-all I think they can protect ARod fairly well as long as he is good with the program. He, more than anyone else, can emplace the actions to insure his own safety.

If this were a regular season or playoff game I would be concerned about Von Miller, but like most vets with nothing to prove and hoping to avoid injury, I suspect we won't get his best for this game. Same can be said for a lot of the other vets. It might be the second and third stringers you need to worry about and ARod should be gone by then.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

"Rip on his hip."

I like that. Catchy.

croatpackfan's picture

My God. One injury and everybody panick... You are a fun group of people, fans...

I like Packers a lot. And I think they have a lot of good players on their roster. That is why it is always fun to watch their games. Also, if you want to pay a large amount of money to "your franchize" than you can not have excellent "franchize" player on every position, especially when you expect elite players to play for cents, not dollars.

Also, I would love to see Aaron win another 3 or 4 SB, but lets be realistic - chances for that is minimal. Not because Packers do not have good team, but because there is to many variables in path to SB. Or you can try to cheat as one famous franchize. But that is for everyone intimate decision, if you'll approve that way...

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

Honestly, I think you're overreacting to people voicing concerns about shaky offensive Tackle depth.

Let fans be fans.

croatpackfan's picture

You may be right...

The TKstinator's picture

Anyone want to finish the verse?

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

I thought TK, without a shadow of a doubt, would be the most appropriate poster to write the next line.

The TKstinator's picture

LOL

Spock's picture

TK, Ah, funny, and Billy Joel did just recently play a concert at Lambeau!

Since '61's picture

That 's a sound approach, see if Denver can stop our WRs in a meaningless game to prove that our offense is explosive. Aren't we already pretty confident that our offense is going to score a lot of points? Do we need to prove that in a preseason game? Suppose we score 2 TD's on our first 2 possessions? Does that prove the point or do we need to keep Rodgers in and exposed to score 4 or more TDs. What do we assume if we don't score at all? Or if we don't even make a first down? Who cares? What we do know is that if we expose Aaron Rodgers and our starting WR corps to unnecessary hits and we lose them for the season or a significant part of the season it's over before it starts. For what? To prove that we can move the ball in a meaningless preseason game. Let's cut off our nose to spite our face. Our QB and WRs stack up fine against any defense in the league, elite or not. The risk and concern is from our OL. So why exacerbate the risk in a pointless game when there will be enough risks during the season? We won't lose games because of the offense we need the defense to step up. I would prefer to learn if our defense can stop an elite offense, now that could actually help us prepare for the season. However, of course we have managed to schedule all of our preseason games against less than elite if not struggling powder puff offensive power houses. I wonder how that happened? Maybe so we could feel good about the defense in the preseason so we can watch them disappoint us again as they get annihilated in the playoffs again? Let's get excited about the defense. I for one am already plenty excited about watching Aaron Rodgers play another season at QB for the Packers. I don't need it ruined to prove nothing in a meaningless preseason game. Thanks, Since '61

dobber's picture

Given that most teams do minimal game planning for PS games, I don't put too much stock in a strong defensive or offensive performance, even against "elite" units. It's encouraging, yes, but it's still not September and the goals of the games aren't the same.

Since '61's picture

Dobber - totally agree. Thanks, Since '61

The TKstinator's picture

To Since 61:
Well yes, that's another way to look at it.
Thank you for the sanity.
EL TKstiñador (screen name for a more global market; expanding the brand)

dobber's picture

I like your perspective, Jonathan. An early challenge will be important for this team to figure out where it is, regardless of who is playing RT. You don't get to sidestep challenges during the regular season just because you've got players hurt. It was pointed out the "help" they can give that player if needed. They need to know who else can play there...they already know #75 is pretty good.

I think Spriggs is the first guy off the bench on game days on both sides at OT. A swing OT is pretty valuable. They need to see how he does there.

I don't worry tooo much about Bulaga's injury or him missing preseason snaps. He's played hobbled before, and I suspect that when Seattle comes to town, he's going to be on the field.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

This wias a nice back and forth. If you have Rip tied to AR's hip, that is okay since he is going to play some (last season he played 26.8% of offensive snaps). If he is going to be there every snap AR plays, then we aren't seeing our normal offense anyway. So I am fine with having Rip or other help early to see how Murphy/Spriggs hold up. One or two series with Rip or help should tell us something about how our offense works with that personnel and scheming. If Spriggs/Murphy looks okay, I'd be okay with trying a series or two without the help. But if Spriggs/Murphy don't look pretty good in pass pro with help behind them, then out AR comes, IMO.

Because in preseason, you can sidestep challenges.

RobinsonDavis's picture

Let'em play! Can't say it better than Jason did here, "If the Packers are going to go far this season, they'll need contributions from players at the bottom of the depth chart in some areas." If our back-ups don't measure up, I would hope Ted will be trolling other potential candidates.

A lot has been stated about the depth of our WR group this year. Anybody that believes there will be more than 8 kept, including the practice squad, needs a reality check. There are just too many other positional needs to plan for a long season. I count 16 teams with depth problems at WR, including everybody in our division. Why not make some decisions EARLY with respect to these players and see if we can move one or two to teams outside our division for some draft picks or other back-ups in trade?

The TKstinator's picture

1. Where do I get this "reality check" you speak of?
2. Where can I cash said check?

flackcatcher's picture

Reason for the change to one mass cut is the CBA and coaches complaints about the short training camp. The NFL and NFLPA did themselves a grave disservice when they wiped out the organized training for rookies and players with less than 2 years in the league. Coaches have been very vocal about the lack of evaluation they get to make on these younger players. Delaying to one cut is a band-aid slapped over a gaping self made wound.

RobinsonDavis's picture

Absolutely correct, and the reason for my point about moving one or two of these WRs now if you can obtain something in return. The fact that there is much conversation around these players with various opinions from so many, demonstrates that we are splitting hairs. Albeit, splitting hairs with players that will see action and may provide special team contributions much desired.

On another note, the NFLPA bargaining has done the young players no favors and is dominated by millionaires itself.

RobinsonDavis's picture

the dreaded duplicate post!

4thand1's picture

You play with what you have. No team has replacements for OT's. You adjust your scheme, and move on. The Pack should have serviceable back ups at QB if AR misses any time, but OT? We have two starters for now, and its up to the coaches to do their job and get the rest ready if needed. The best will make the final 53 and practice squad will be loaded with OL.

RobinsonDavis's picture

Agreed. So do you place much emphasis on snap counts when it comes to the O-line in particular, but also, WRs, RB's, and defensive back-ups, as to where coaches may have their preferences for filling the roster? If so, McCray, Gilbert, and Ringo stood out with increased snaps at their respective positions. But Yancey did NOT get the same snaps as many of the other WRs. Regardless, Packer brass had a long look at the aforementioned three.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

Edelman's out for the year in New England.

Cobb trade? Please? We'll gladly take anything...even a 7th rounder.

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