Blogging The Boys: The Packers offensive line has been hit hard by injury, and has gone through multiple lineups so far this season. Gives us a sense of how that has affected the team, and who you expect to play on Sunday.
Acme Packing Company: The Packers have not played a single game with all five preferred starters in 2017, but that statement doesn’t encompass the full breadth of their injury woes along the offensive line. All three of their backup tackles -- Jason Spriggs, Kyle Murphy, and Don Barclay -- currently reside on injured reserve. The situation grew so dire that the team had to play four guards for Week 4’s Thursday night tilt with the Chicago Bears.
As for Sunday, the Packers have given no indication as to which combination of linemen will start. The team listed David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga as limited participants in practice on Wednesday, and either or both could receive the dreaded “game-time decision” treatment. Justin McCray would step in at right tackle while Lane Taylor would kick out to left tackle with Lucas Patrick filling the vacated spot at left guard.
BTB: What’s the status of running back Ty Montgomery? If he can’t play or is limited, who are the backups and do you have confidence in them?
APC: Despite suffering multiple broken ribs last week, Ty Montgomery practiced Wednesday and will practice again Thursday with extra padding around his midsection. While I still expect the Packers will sit him come Sunday, it at least appears possible he suits up and starts.
However, the Packers can’t lean on Montgomery as heavily as usual given his injuries, meaning either Jamaal Williams or Aaron Jones will see more action. Williams, the team’s fourth-round pick this year, has struggled as a ball carrier though has value as a third-down back. Jones didn’t play any meaningful snaps until last week, but looked capable of handling an increased workload. Green Bay will probably give both an opportunity on Sunday.
BTB: Talk about the strengths and the weaknesses of the defense.
APC: After a season in which the Packers dominated against the run but exhibited no aptitude in pass coverage, they appear to have evened out on both fronts. The additions of cornerback Kevin King and safety-linebacker hybrid Josh Jones has given the defense tools to cover on the boundary and over the middle respectively, something the unit has lacked since Sam Shields went down over a year ago. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers’ new “nitro” package -- a nickel package featuring three safeties -- has become a staple in Green Bay, helping the pass defense improve from 23rd in DVOA a year ago to 15th entering Week 5.
However, the extra pass coverage has diluted the team’s run defense, as had the multi- game absence of star defensive tackle Mike Daniels. This presents obvious problems facing an opponent like Dallas and All-Pro running back Ezekiel Elliott. Still, the unit ranks 19th against the run and Daniels could return this week.
BTB: Aaron Rodgers is one of the best, has he played that way this season? Is there anything different about his game or is he just the same ol’ dude cutting up defenses?
APC: Even with myriad injuries across the offensive line and among the running backs and receivers, Aaron Rodgers remains as dangerous as any quarterback in the league. His mobility helps alleviate the deficiencies in pass protection and abuses defenses that play too much man coverage while he has the arm and accuracy to complete throws few other passers can.
Take this play from last week’s game. After faking the handoff, Rodgers has pressure coming at him from both sides with another defensive lineman slowly collapsing the pocket from the middle. Rodgers skips upward and past the pass-rushers and throws 48 yards down the field to hit his target between two defensive backs. No other quarterback playing today can make that play.
BTB: If you were the opposing coaching staff, what kind of game plan would you design to stop the Packers?
APC: Assuming the Packers play without Bakhtiari and/or Bulaga, I would blitz more off the edges. Rodgers will take advantage of the weakened coverages on occasion, but the makeshift line will give up more than he takes. I would also shift my coverages towards Jordy Nelson and make the Packers’ other receivers prove they can win one-on-one matchups. That becomes an even more attractive proposition if Davante Adams (concussion) doesn’t play on Sunday.
Thanks for the knowledge, Acme Packing Company.