The Green Bay Packers (3-2) haven’t had too much luck on their side in the training room this season. On Tuesday, the Packers placed dynamic offensive weapon Randall Cobb on the Injured-Reserve (IR) list with a designation to return to game-action in eight weeks (Cobb broke his fibula in a win over the Baltimore Ravens last weekend).
Earlier this week, Green Bay ruled outside linebackers Clay Matthews (hamstring) and Nick Perry (foot), inside linebacker Brad Jones (hamstring), running back James Starks (knee) and tight end Ryan Taylor (knee) out for Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns (3-3).
Every NFL team is required to deactivate seven of their 53 players for every game. In Green Bay, the Packers will be lucky to have 46 players see the field on Sunday.
On top of the injuries, the Packers will be tremendously inexperienced as well. Green Bay will likely activate 14 rookies against the Browns as the team could be without up to nine players.
In addition to the five players already ruled out, wide receiver James Jones (knee), outside linebacker Mike Neal (shoulder), cornerback Casey Hayward (hamstring) and special teams ace Jarrett Bush (hamstring) are all questionable to play against the Browns.
Packers head coach Mike McCarthy (pictured above) said on Friday that Jones, Neal, Hayward and Bush would all be “game-time decisions” on Sunday.
With or without Hayward and/or Bush, the Packers could manage and operate efficiently in the defensive secondary. At the wide receiver position and in the defensive secondary though? The Packers are already in a difficult state to try and manage and digest their way through.
Jones sprained his PCL in his knee against the Ravens and the Packers could really use his presence against Cleveland. Without Jones, the Packers would start Jordy Nelson and Jarrett Boykin at wide receiver, but the depth behind both players is questionable.
The Packers no.3 wide receiver would be rookie Myles White, who was promoted from the practice squad to the 53-man roster on Tuesday. Their fourth wide receiver? Rookie Chris Harper, who the Packers claimed off of the waiver wire on Friday.
Green Bay is already thin at outside linebacker without Perry and Matthews, but losing Neal would prove to be even worse. If Neal can’t play on Sunday, the Packers would start rookies Andy Mulumba and Nate Palmer at outside linebacker.
Mulumba and Palmer will merely play because of desperation at linebacker. Honestly, there could be a case made that there are amateurs at the lower levels who are better at pass rushing quarterbacks compared to both Packer rookies.
For a defense, which loves to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks, losing Neal could spell absolute doom for Green Bay. If Mulumba or Palmer were to go down with an injury as well, the Packers would be forced to move Jamari Lattimore to outside linebacker.
Lattimore, who is starting at inside linebacker in place of Brad Jones, would have to move to the outside and the Packers would have to fill Lattimore’s void with rookie Sam Barrington.
Coming into the 2013 season, Lattimore was slated behind Jones and Rob Francois on the depth chart at inside linebacker. Jones though was injured in the same game where Francois suffered a season-ending Achilles tear in a Week 4 win over the Detroit Lions.
The Packers could literally be down to their last line of defense on Sunday, and it’s only Week 7.
Green Bay is in a world of hurt only hours before kickoff. Unfortunately, the 2013 season has been a world of hurt already for the Packers.
Sean Tehan is an NFL Writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @SeanTehan, “Like” him on Facebook, or add him to your network on Google.