How injuries affect the Packers' offense

October, 14, 2013
10/14/13
7:50
PM ET
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy got a call Monday morning from a friend who seemed concerned about his team’s injury situation.

According to McCarthy, his friend said: "Hey, man, your team looks a lot like that 2010 team," referring to the Packers squad that overcame 15 players on injured reserve to win Super Bowl XLV.

McCarthy did not think it was that dire of a situation. After all, the Packers have only five players on injured reserve, only two of whom -- tackle Bryan Bulaga and running back DuJuan Harris -- were starters.

[+] EnlargeRandall Cobb
Patrick McDermott/Getty ImagesWith Randall Cobb out the Packers may have to turn away from their preferred three-receiver sets.
"I said, 'This team is nothing like the 2010 team,'" McCarthy said. "Then when I got to work and saw the injury report, I wanted to call him back. I didn’t think it was that bad."

It got worse Monday, when the Packers learned they will be without receiver Randall Cobb for 4-8 weeks with a fractured fibula in his right leg and outside linebacker Nick Perry because of an injured right foot. Both injuries occurred in Sunday’s 19-17 win over the Baltimore Ravens. The only potentially good news was that receiver James Jones might be able to play Sunday against the Cleveland Browns despite the left knee sprain he sustained against the Ravens.

Let’s look at how the injuries impact the Packers on offense, and later we’ll do the same on defense:

When the Packers lost Cobb and Jones in the first half against the Ravens, they were down to two receivers -- Jordy Nelson and Jarrett Boykin -- and it eliminated their preferred three-receiver set, which has become their base offense this season.

In the second half, McCarthy and offensive coordinator Tom Clements used predominantly a two-tight end, two-receiver, one-back set. The featured players were Nelson, tight end Jermichael Finley and running back Eddie Lacy.

Finley had all three of his catches for 75 yards in the second half and might have to take on an even greater role now.

"I don’t know that his role will change," offensive coordinator Tom Clements said. "He's always been a focal point of the offense. Depending if Randall or James or both aren’t in there then obviously he may get more opportunities, but we try to get him as many opportunities as we can based on how the defense is playing. Whoever's in there is going to have to come up and make plays. I'm certain he'll make his share."

Nelson had two of his four catches, including a 64-yard touchdown, in the second half. But trying to integrate Boykin into the offense was a struggle. He dropped two passes and caught only one pass in six targets.

The Packers may need to sign another receiver this week. They added one, rookie Reggie Dunn, to their practice squad. Indications were they had an interest in signing Tavarres King off the Denver Broncos practice squad but his agent, Brian Mackler, said Monday that was not the case.

The injuries put a strain on Rodgers, who had his lowest completion percentage (53.1 on 17-of-32 passing) of the season against the Ravens. After throwing seven touchdowns and one interception in his first two games combined, Rodgers has thrown only three touchdowns and three interceptions the past three games.

"He's playing some really adverse football," McCarthy said of Rodgers. "This is very healthy for our football team in the long run. I don't like it. I don't like that I have to stand here and talk about the health of our team every week, but let's not forget who that affects most on offense. He's been asked to do things on the run that he's adapted to. He's played through some frustrating moments.

“I like him when he's salty and conflicting and all that. It’s good to see that side of him. They’re all competitive, don’t get me wrong, but he has a tremendous competitive streak in him. That's why sometimes I think we can all get caught up in the numbers and go 'wow.' But I really like the way he's playing right now."

If the injuries prevent the Packers from using their preferred spread offense, at least they have a renewed running game to fall back on. They ranked sixth in the league in rushing yards per game (140.8) through Sunday’s games.

However, it might be tougher to run if teams don't have to respect Rodgers and the passing game as much.

Rob Demovsky

ESPN Green Bay Packers reporter

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