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Packers Linebackers Need To Step Up

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Packers Linebackers Need To Step Up

Nick Perry will be out of action Sunday because of recent surgery on multiple broken fingers. Clay Matthews missed Wednesday’s practice still battling a shoulder injury from the Philadelphia game. Blake Martinez is still expected out with the MCL sprain, and Jake Ryan is playing through a nagging ankle injury.

It is apparent the Green Bay Packers will need impactful performances from some unexpected players, primarily in their linebacking core, to finish victoriously against the Seattle Seahawks.

Losing Perry is a crippling loss to an already struggling defense. The fifth-year pro is leading the Packers with a team high 8 sacks, and has arguably been the defense’s second best player behind Mike Daniels. Clearly his best season as a pro, Perry’s been a monster at setting the edge and ruining the opposing team’s rushing attack. It will be imperative that Perry comes back if the Packers expect any type of defensive success the rest of the season.

“I feel terrible for Nick. He’s having a great season, clearly his best season,” head coach Mike McCarthy said.

Matthews’ availability for Sunday is up in the air, but it seems that 2016 could be a lost season for the veteran. Having the shoulder injury after being hobbled and slowed by a hamstring injury, it appears that Matthews’ game is not as impactful as it needs to be as an outside pass rusher in the 3-4. His injury will undoubtedly hurt worse with Perry missing on the other side, just as Perry’s game slipped when Mathews was out of the lineup for four weeks.

In Perry’s absence, it would be an ideal week for Julius Peppers to register a sack or force a turnover that gives the Packers great field position and provides a relatively easy score. The veteran linebacker is known for his big plays, and a strip sack or tipped interception could provide the defense a much-needed spark. It will be important that they put pressure on Russell Wilson, and Peppers will be a major key to that on Sunday. I think they might need Peppers’ to have his best game of the season to beat the heavily favored Seahawks.

In addition to Peppers, the defense could use some production from Datone Jones. Largely regarded as a first round bust, Jones has been hidden during the 2016 season as he hasn’t registered a sack and hasn’t produced much when called upon. It appears Jones can’t offer sustained success in the 3-4 as a defensive end or an outside linebacker, but it would perfect timing for him to put together a decent game. There should be plenty of sack opportunities as Wilson is the fifth-highest sacked quarterback in the NFL.  

Joe Thomas could also find himself in position to make a pivotal play in Sunday’s contest, and most likely be a play in coverage. Only used in passing situations, Thomas needs to seize any opportunity that comes his way in the form of an errant throw or a tipped ball that can be intercepted. Packer fans remember his interception in week one against Jacksonville, and a play from him would be a major boost.

The Seahawks have led the league in scoring defense the past four seasons, and 2016 is no different at 16.2 points per game. The Packers will most likely need a big play on defense or special teams to break through and get an easy score to beat the heavily favored visitors. There is usually an unsung hero involved in an upset win, and I expect the Packers will need one to stay within two games of Detroit and compete in the wild card race. 

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (50) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

mnklitzke's picture

Looking a you Jayrone Elloit! Time to grab hold of a spot and run with it!

RCPackerFan's picture

I agree. He has made a lot of big plays for us in the past but hasn't really gotten on the field much. There is a good chance he could see a lot of time Sunday.
Time to make the most of the opportunity.

Duke Divine's picture

Prepare yourself for the reincarnation of Walden vs Kappernick with Elliot vs Wilson...

sonomaca's picture

This is really prove-it time for Elliott. If he doesn't have an impact, I doubt he'll stick in 2017. Fackrell's health might limit his impact. Would love to have seen Gilbert brought up. Really flashed in preseason. Of course, he might prove to be really exciting, and we can't have that.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Elliott will be a RFA. Lowest tender (right of first refusal) probably will be about $1.7M. RFA tenders aren't guaranteed, so theoretically TT could apply the tender and then re-negotiate a lower salary in August. Haven't seen him do that, though. I don't know what is up with Elliott, but the result so far has been a disappointment that leaves me hankering for McCray.

Given that our OLBs are Perry, Peppers, Jones, Elliott, Fackrell and CM3, and we have only the last 3 under team control next season and given Elliott's ST play, Elliott probably has to be ghastly not to be on the team in 2017.

sonomaca's picture

Well, they should really give Elliott many snaps this week. I never really understood why a guy who performs so well on SP can't get it done in the regular lineup.

Since '61's picture

First, I didn't realize that a 2.5 or 3 point line was considered heavily favored, but everyone has their own approach to defining things these days. As for the Packers LB corps it is a difficult situation, but it is what it is. We have won without Perry before and even when healthy he has disappeared is big games. Given the status of our LB corps I would expect Seattle to attack us with Rawls and a short passing game. We may be able to shore up the middle with Ryan and CM3 if he can go.
Thomas will be a liability against the running game if we need to use him. With Peppers and Eliot at OLB my concern will be with setting the edge. We will be vulnerable on both edges unless Eliot and Peppers can step up big time against the run. A Datone Jones siting would be nice but I'm not expecting it. Our best defense will be our offense. I realize that Seattle's defense has been stingy but so was the Eagle defense at home and we scored 27 points and chewed up the clock on them. We are going to need a similar offensive performance to beat Seattle. At least we are playing at home. We will need an almost perfect game o both sides of the ball and it looks like the offense will need to carry our defense once again. If we can play with a lead maybe we can get a turnover or two to help carry the day. We definitely cannot beat ourselves with turnovers or stupid penalties. Need to find a ground game by Sunday. Go Pack Go! Thanks, Since '61

tbohms's picture

"First, I didn't realize that a 2.5 or 3 point line was considered heavily favored, but everyone has their own approach to defining things these days."

You're right, I misspoke on that, I guess perception more than reality. I live in Oregon, so public perception here is that the game is already won for the Seahawks.

RCPackerFan's picture

At Packers.com yesterday in the insiders inbox, someone posted this.

'I live about 60 miles south of Seattle. On the local news after Sunday night’s win Russell Wilson told a reporter that it was the last hard game they would have until the playoffs. I think all of the Packers and the fans need to know that the Seahawks see this game as just a speed bump on their way to the playoffs. Go Pack Go!'

Did you hear anything about this?

Since '61's picture

It appears that the Seahawks fans have arrogantly forgotten that their team was once considered an automatic victory for about 40 years. Hopefully we can feed them some humble pie at Lambeau on Sunday. Thanks, Since '61

RCPackerFan's picture

To be fair. Most of their fans were either fans other other teams during that stretch or weren't fans of football...

cough cough Bandwagon cough cough

Since '61's picture

RC - very true. The bandwagon will lose its wheels in a few years. Thanks, Since '61

jlc1's picture

It may be that the Pack has won without Perry and even without Matthews in the past. But not against as complete a team as Seattle. I can't get out of my mind 3rd and long runs for first down last week. Seahawks should have little trouble establishing the run, even as bad as their O line is, and then taking the ball deep when the safeties come up to help with the run. As unlikeable as Pete Carroll is (alot!) his team slaps the Pack around again. Not close this time.

RobinsonDavis's picture

Like this analysis. Holding the edge is going to be key to the D's success, but so is the Packer offense. Peppers needs to be disruptive, but I think Seattle may test him and/or plan to double team and run away from his side. That places Datone & Elliott in a crucial, but advantageous position. Previously, Seattle had trouble with strong bull rushers. Daniels and Perry caused them issues early in games, so it will be imperative that the same is continued and maintained. Datone can bull rush. Go Pack!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

RocsCave's picture

You may be omitting the automatic 3 point home field advantage that teams are figured. So the 2.5/3 points the Packers are getting is after taking away the 3 pts for a home game. This is a Seattle 6 point favor when accounting as a bettor or odds maker. Imo, this line should be around Seattle -5 considering and may get as high by game time since I don't see much Packer action unless the line goes up. Hope I helped.

Donster's picture

I agree with Since '61 that the Packs best defense is its offense. The Pack must keep Wilson off the field as much as possible. As long as MM stays with short yardage passes, quit going deep on 1st down, and possibly getting a running game going just enough to keep AR alive, they have a bit of a chance in this game. But with no pass rush to speak of, the middle of the field constantly wide open, no speed in the secondary, Wilson will pick us apart, and when he is not throwing the ball, he will take complete advantage of any pressure the Pack may be able to put on him by running the ball for big yardage. Oh, and I am not even figuring in the Seasquawk's RB's.

sonomaca's picture

Need a spy, for sure. Might assign that role to Matthews since he can probably do more running than hitting with the shoulder.

EdsLaces's picture

Datone still plays for the Pack?? Also ..with all the injuries he's had Perry might be paying the Pack to play for them next year...

Duke Divine's picture

Datone cares more about his Cali dispensaries turning a profit with production rather than production on the football field.

zoellner25's picture

Gonna see Morgan Burnett helping out there too

Lphill's picture

Well the weather is going to be low 20 's and flurries, I think this helps the Packers plus maybe Michaels will have something to prove, Also Richard Sherman is banged up I think the Packers have a chance .

Bert's picture

Would be great to see Elliott or Fackrell step up and take the job.

Razer's picture

This is Datone Jones call to step up. He has done less than Jayrone Elliott to distinguish himself so he needs to show that he is a worthy 1st round pick. Also looking for big games from Morgan Burnett and Joe Thomas at the LOS and in linebacker coverage.

If there ever was a game where coaching needed to be superior, this is the game. The Seattle offense will not give us any freebies, we will have to earn our victories. Let's hope that Dom Capers pulls a gem out of his ass and the second string steps up.

RCPackerFan's picture

I'm really thinking they may need to keep a spy on Wilson.

If Mathews is limited, perhaps he is the spy. Or Thomas or Burnett possibly are the spies.

One thing they can't do, is they can't allow Wilson to run like they allowed Wentz and Brock to run. Wilson is more dangerous then they are.

Capers has to have a good game.

Duke Divine's picture

Prepare yourself for the reincarnation of Walden vs Kappernick with Elliot vs Wilson...

sonomaca's picture

I had same thought on Matthews. Wilson will burn you in chunks of 20 or 30 if you let him get free. I think Matthews is fast enough to limit Wilson to runs of 5 or 10.

RCPackerFan's picture

Yeah I agree. Or in the spy role he is fast enough to come up and stop him for a sack or no gain.

sonomaca's picture

Yeah, wouldn't want to see Matthews battling linemen. He's got a big target on that shoulder. Better to have him trying to contain Wilson.

RCPackerFan's picture

Fackrell didn't practice again today. Leaving a lot of doubt of whether or not he will be able to play Sunday.

Really going to need Elliott in this game.

ray nichkee's picture

#douchebagpackfan

ray nichkee's picture

#douchebagpackfan

Tundraboy's picture

Lots of wishful thinking. Here's wishing for a surprise performance across the board.

Bearmeat's picture

Agreed Tundra.

I haven't seen anything that suggests the Packers are back among the league's elite - which is what Seattle is. I have a distinct feeling that Sunday, a Lions win and a Packers beat-down all but ends our season.

I expect the defense to give up 40 and the offense to struggle to get to 20.

Samson's picture

Unfortunately, you may be right. -- The Pack have won their last two against a couple of mediocre teams (Eagles & Texans) who are both lucky to be around .500 for the season. -- The Seahawks (even on a bad day) are still one of the elites in the NFL.

RCPackerFan's picture

Not sure I can say that Seattle is elite. They just lost to Tampa scoring 5 points in that game 2 weeks ago.
Wilson has 12 TD passes all season. They have a really good defense, and we will see what they are like after losing Thomas. Their offense is very suspect though.

Bearmeat's picture

RC,

I love your positivity. I really do. And the Packers are beat up beyond belief this year. But I'm watching the Raiders and Chiefs right now - and let me tell you: BOTH of these defenses are fast, ball hawking and assignment sure.

Green Bay under Capers has been none of the above for the vast majority of the past 7 years.

The offense is no longer even explosive - so it's not like we can win games 38-35 anymore either.

This team is in desperate need of an almost complete rebuild. The truth is staring us in the face.

Tundraboy's picture

Agree Bearmeat. Watching KC Raiders game and it's painful to watch. We are not in their league defensively. Glad to see Reggie doing well for Raiders. Between him, Dorsey and Schneider I wish Ted was the one who left. Granted they had a lot of prime picks but they also built with FA's adding veterans to the mix.

Nick Perry's picture

TB....I TOTALLY agree with your comment, especially about who stayed and who left, but if you look at Seattle's best picks and where they were drafted, most weren't "High Draft picks". Hell 2 of the 3 earliest picks Seattle has had since 2010 left in FA. This team has been completely built from 2010 and on, Schneiders first year as GM. Look at the Drafts from 2010, 11, & 2012 alone. Whether the player is still playing for Seattle or made huge money somewhere else, they were GREAT while in Seattle.

2010
1st) Russell Okung
2st) Earl Thomas
3rd) Golden Tate
4th) Walter Thurmond
5th Can Chancellor
2011
1st) James Carpenter
4th K.J. Wright
5th) Richard Sherman
6th) Byron Maxwell
7th Malcolm Smith
2012
1st) Bruce Irwin
2nd) Bobby Wagner
3rd) Russell Wilson
6th) Jeremy Lane
&th) JR Swezzy...He was actually a DT when drafted

Okung was 6th overall, Earl Thomas 14th, and Irwin was 15th overall. After that the earliest any of the players I mentioned was drafted 47th overall ( Wagner) or later. Now look at the Packers drafts from those same years, there is no comparison.

Razer's picture

Bearmeat - I am hoping that you are not right but your words ring true on so many fronts. Maybe it is TT's picks or MM's coaching or the collection of good but average football players that make up this team but we are nowhere near elite. This is surprising on offense because we got 'the man'. Not so surprising on defense because, other than 2010, we have never been good on defense.

Every one of us is hoping that we pull a rabbit out of the hat this weekend, knowing that Seattle is a stronger team. We may live to fight another day but there isn't enough horsepower on this team to dominate teams. Every year we seem to slip a notch. Rebuild is coming but maybe we need a new contractor.

RCPackerFan's picture

Bearmeat.

I agree with a lot of your points.

I don't necessarily agree with the complete rebuild though. They don't need to start from scratch. They have a nucleus to start from.

I think changing D coordinators could be a good thing. But as far as massive changes I think that would be the biggest one I would make. Bringing in a couple of veteran players wouldn't be a bad idea. Maybe being aggressive in the draft would be good as well.

Looking at the roster next year they have to add someone to almost every position. They need to add another RB, WR, TE, OL, DL, OLB, ILB, CB. Some positions they don't need starters, they just need role players and depth. But they need more players at those positions.

Nick Perry's picture

"Looking at the roster next year they have to add someone to almost every position. They need to add another RB, WR, TE, OL, DL, OLB, ILB, CB. Some positions they don't need starters, they just need role players and depth. But they need more players at those positions."

Like Bearmeat RC I appreciate your positive and optimistic attitude. But with the draft misses by Thompson, refusal to be part of Trades and Free Agency, this team could really struggle the next year or two. I really hope that's not the case. I hope ALL these draft choices the last 2 or 3 years pan out next year. If so the Defense will be stronger and with a decent TE and RB the offense might still be good enough.

Looking at your positions of need, I'd say CB, WR, TE, RB, and OLB are huge to pretty damn big areas of need. That's a lot to try and get through a draft. Depending what happens with Lang and Tretter, OL could be just as big.

Handsback's picture

As fans we hear the phase "next man up" and see these guys and say yeah that is what should happen. The problem in Green Bay is will that next man that's next to the next guy who's next to the last guy stand up play like an all-pro? We know that answer, but we don't always want to hear or see it.

It was like watching Gunter, and his band of last resort CBs playing against Atlanta, Colts, and the Titans. Sometimes it gets ugly. Now it's our ILB/OLBs that has taken the hits.
If they win, it will be a great team effort to pull it off.

TommyG's picture

"Need to step up". This is a phrase the suggests that these individuals have been holding themselves back from their true potential. This is not the case for our best up LB corps. The truth is that while they are no doubt good guys, they are also not capable of greatness. They are the definition of JAG. While there is a desperate need for better production from the LBs, there is no stepping up from the current group. They are playing to their full ability. They are what they are.

Razer's picture

I agree. Over the last two years, when guys were healthy, we still saw what we see today. As much as I will cheer for Ryan, Martinez, Elliott, Thomas and the like they are nothing more than Hawk, Bishop, Walden, Chillar, Barrington and the long list of guys who will never make a difference.

We have Matthews when he is healthy, Peppers once in while and Perry for half a season since getting drafted. There is no step up for this talent.

Lphill's picture

NFL.com actually has the Packers winning 23 to 20.

croatpackfan's picture

I think Packers may promote Reggie Gilbert from PS to fill LB numbers... Also, they might use Bradford as OLB. Who knows, he might show something there...

EDIT: That Bradford thing, it sounds desperate, isn't it?

Razer's picture

Bradford as OLB - you Croatians are funny.

sonomaca's picture

It's Friday, and no Gilbert. Who would they cut to bring him up?

I think the reason we don't see him is that they are liking Burnett in the LB-hybrid role. Been a stud there.

RCPackerFan's picture

I am guessing they will make the move tomorrow. Saturday seems to be the day they have made those types of moves lately.

zerotolerance's picture

With Pennel going back to the suspended list, Packers can sign a player without releasing anyone.

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