Midseason Report: Green Bay Packers
How many other NFL teams could survive for any length of time without three of their top four targets in the passing game and minus their best defensive player?
Probably not many.
But the Green Bay Packers managed -- even after injuries to receivers Randall Cobb (fractured fibula), James Jones (knee) and tight end Jermichael Finley (neck) on offense and to outside linebacker Clay Matthews (broken thumb) on defense.
That was until they lost quarterback Aaron Rodgers to a broken collarbone in Monday night’s game against the Chicago Bears.
When Rodgers went down, so did their four-game winning streak.
Before Rodgers’ injury, the Packers looked every bit like one of the top teams in the NFC thanks to stellar play, as usual, from the quarterback and a rejuvenated running game with rookie Eddie Lacy.
Now, even at 5-3 and in a three-way tie with the Bears and Detroit Lions atop the NFC, the Packers’ prospects for the second half are in jeopardy.
GRADING THE GREEN BAY PACKERS
|Quarterbacks||Aaron Rodgers did not miss a beat despite losing receiver Randall Cobb (fractured fibula) in Week 6 and tight end Jermichael Finley (neck) in Week 7 and also playing without receiver James Jones (knee) for two games. About the only thing you can ding Rodgers for is failing to deliver a comeback victory in Week 3 at Cincinnati. Backup Seneca Wallace wasn't able to deliver much in relief of Rodgers and will have to play much better.|
|Running Backs||Eddie Lacy might be the leading contender for offensive rookie of the year. The only question is whether he can handle the heavy workload the rest of the way. If not, James Starks and Johnathan Franklin -- both of whom have 100-yard games already -- might be able to carry the load. Lacy and Franklin each lost fumbles in losses at San Francisco and Cincinnati, respectively.|
|Wide Receivers||The talk of three 1,000-yard receivers was scuttled after Cobb and Jones were hurt. Jordy Nelson has been forced to carry the load and is off to a strong start, while Jarrett Boykin and Myles White have provided perhaps more of a lift than anyone could have imagined.|
|Tight Ends||Jermichael Finley was a tackle-breaking, yards-after-catch machine before his neck injury against the Cleveland Browns, and there's no one else who can do the things he did in the passing game. Andrew Quarless might be a better blocker, but he's not the downfield threat the Packers had with Finley.|
|Offensive Line||Rookie David Bakhtiari was an upgrade over Marshall Newhouse at left tackle, and the same is true for Evan Dietrich-Smith at center over Jeff Saturday. Flip-flopping guards T.J. Lang and Josh Sitton has been seamless. The only weak link is right tackle Don Barclay, who is actually fine in the running game but struggles in pass protection. This group should get as much of the credit for the improved running game as the backs.|
|Defensive Line||The base 3-4 front of Johnny Jolly, Ryan Pickett and B.J. Raji -- three 325-plus-pounders -- has been the starting point for a top-10 run defense. Second-year pro Mike Daniels' pass rush has been a welcome addition, especially considering first-round pick Datone Jones has not been able to make a major impact.|
|Linebackers||Since Clay Matthews (thumb) and Nick Perry (foot) went down, the outside linebackers haven't scared many quarterbacks, and Mike Neal is still learning this new position. However, inside linebacker A.J. Hawk might be having one of his finest seasons, and Jamari Lattimore performed better than expected while Brad Jones (hamstring) was out.|
|Secondary||Since the 49ers threw for 412 yards in the opener and the Redskins for 320 in Week 2, things have improved in part due to the return of safety Morgan Burnett, who missed the first three games because of a hamstring injury. Cornerback Sam Shields has overtaken Tramon Williams as the lockdown guy, but this group needs to create more turnovers.|
|Special Teams||Kicker Mason Crosby's slump from 2012 appears to be behind him, and rookie Micah Hyde resurrected the punt return game. The coverage units have been hurt by injuries, forcing some of the core special-teams players off those units and into larger roles on offense and defense.|
|Coaching||You can quibble with some of Mike McCarthy's in-game decisions, but he has proved to be one of the best in the business at adapting to injuries. The next-man-up mentality is discussed in every NFL locker room, but McCarthy has made sure it works in Green Bay. Doing that without Rodgers, however, is a challenge on an entirely different level.|
NFC North, Green Bay Packers, Jeff Saturday, JohnnY Jolly, Tramon Williams, Josh Sitton, B.J.Raji, Jermichael Finley, Jordy Nelson, Clay Matthews, Mason Crosby, James Jones, T.J. Lang, Ryan Pickett, Aaron Rodgers, A.J. Hawk, Brad Jones, Evan Dietrich-Smith, Marshall Newhouse, Morgan Burnett, Andrew Quarless, Mike Neal, Sam Shields, James Starks, Randall Cobb, Jamari Lattimore, Nick Perry, Micah Hyde, Mike Daniels, Don Barclay, Jarrett Boykin, Eddie Lacy, Datone Jones, David Bakhtiari, Johnathan Franklin, Myles White, 2013 NFL Midseason Report, 2013 NFL Midseason Report NFC, 2013 NFL Midseason Report NFC North