It Could Be Much Worse for Green Bay Packers

By Sean Tehan
Randall Cobb
Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Randall Cobb, Clay Matthews, Brad Jones, Eddie Lacy, James Starks, Jermichael Finley, Nick Perry, Casey Hayward, Morgan Burnett, James Jones, Bryan Bulaga and DuJuan Harris help make up a long list of key players who have been hit hard with injuries this season for the Green Bay Packers.

Cobb broke his fibula this past Sunday in a win over the Baltimore Ravens, and the Packers placed him on the IR list with a designation to return. Cobb isn’t eligible to play in a game until Week 15.

Matthews and Perry, the Packers’ top two rush-linebackers, could both be out for a couple of more weeks. Hayward has yet to play in a game this season, both James and Brad Jones are questionable for Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns, while Bulaga and Harris’ seasons ended in training camp.

Even with so many injuries and tough luck against Green Bay, fans must be optimistic and understand that it could still be much worse for the 3-2 Packers. There are a couple of teams who are struggling mightily in 2013 to make any kind of positive headlines this season.

The 0-6 New York Giants have a healthy Eli Manning, Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck among others. The 0-5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a healthy Doug Martin, Vincent Jackson and even Darrelle Revis. So how are two relatively-healthy teams a combined 0-11? Poor quarterback and offensive line play.

Tampa Bay has had issues at quarterback since training camp with the disgruntled Josh Freeman. Freeman completed only 45.7 percent of his passes, threw two touchdowns and three interceptions in three games, and he was benched in favor of rookie quarterback Mike Glennon.

The Bucs released Freeman per his request, and Glennon hasn’t been the answer to Tampa Bay’s quarterback problems. Their situation is similar to the 0-6 Jacksonville Jaguars, as quarterbacks Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne have completed 54.7 percent of their passes (30th in NFL), thrown three touchdowns (worst), 11 interceptions (t-2) while compiling a 57.5 passer rating (worst).

In New York, Manning has been as awful (17 turnovers) as the Giants’ offensive line. Behind this dreadful group, Giants running backs are averaging 67.8 rushing yards per game (30th) and Manning has been sacked 16 times (t-11).

It’s easy to decipher how an injury-riddled Packers team has three wins when comparing their situation to the teams listed above. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers has been efficient (10 TD, four INT), the offensive line is better and the defense has shown great strides.

The Packers upgraded at left tackle and center with rookie David Bakhtiari and veteran Evan Dietrich-Smith respectively. Bakhtiari, Dietrich-Smith and the Packers’ offensive line has allowed 14 sacks through five games, and have yet to allow Rodgers to be sacked five times in a game this year. Through the first five games last season, the Packers’ offensive line allowed 21 sacks, and Rodgers was sacked at least five times in three of those.

The upgrade up front has also correlated well with the Packers’ improved rushing attack, as Green Bay is averaging 140.8 rushing yards per game (fifth). In the previous three seasons, the Packers had only one player rush for 100 yards in a game. Through the first five games this year, three different running backs have rushed for at least 100 yards in a game.

Green Bay’s scoring has been down (20.5 points pergame in their last two games), so the defense deserves some credit as well. In their last two games, the Packers’ defense has registered 10 sacks on opposing quarterbacks and they have held opponents to 13 points per game.

The Packers’ defense has only allowed 78.2 rushing yards per game (third) and have recorded 17 sacks (t-9). Even without Matthews last Sunday, the Packers held the Ravens’ star running back Ray Rice to 34 rushing yards on 14 carries, and recorded five sacks on Super Bowl MVP quarterback Joe Flacco.

If the Packers’ offensive line and Rodgers can stay healthy and the defense continues to attack opposing offenses with success, the 2013 season is far from over. The Packers are healthy enough for now and are fortunate enough to possess a winning record.

Cobb may or may not return this season, but the Packers will eventually get Matthews, Perry and company back at some point this season. In the words of Packers head coach Mike McCarthy quoting the iconic British phrase: keep calm and carry on.

Sean Tehan is an NFL Writer for Follow him on Twitter @SeanTehan, “Like” him on Facebook, or add him to your network on Google.

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