Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, but better yet it's beginning to feel like December. As the weather turns cold the Packers will look to their running game to help control the game and overcome another outbreak of injuries.
It always feels like a blessing when the Packers get to face an opponent from a warmer climate and it’s late in the year. It’s even better when the cold weather actually comes and you see teams like the Miami Dolphins, Oakland Raiders, and yes…the Tennessee Titans try to adjust to the elements. Cause let’s face it, it’s no fun to see the Bears or Giants come in and play in these sort s of games …they would be playing in this sort of weather at home anyways. It’s not even the same against dome teams that live in cold weather areas. Sure these teams are probably use to the comfy dome, but the players still have some idea of what these freezing temperatures are like because they live in during the football season. But oh how sweet it is when a team from one of the Southern or Western divisions come into town in December and January. Sometimes you can just see the cold seep into their bones and sap the will to play the game. It’s beautiful to watch.
This week the Packers injury list has grown again. There is some question as to who is going to be available at running back and offensive lineman. These lingering injury questions and the reality of December football in Wisconsin affects our five Packers to watch.
RB DuJuan Harris – Harris has made an impact with his coaches, teammate, and Packer fans in general. He is quickly becoming a fan favorite and climbing up the depth chart as he becomes more familiar with the offense. But is he more Arian Foster or Samkon Gado? If Alex Green is out this week we should get a good hint.
C Evan Dietrich-Smith – Jeff Saturday might of won the fan vote for the Pro Bowl, but he just got benched. The Packers need to find a long term answer at center, and now it looks like they will take a good long look at EDS for that role. The best part about this news is that EDS may be one of the better run blockers for the Packers. This could be just what the doctor ordered for an end of the year push in the running game.
TE D.J. Williams – Tom Crabtree has been struggling with a hamstring injury and an illness most of the week. If Crabtree can’t go then the guy who should be able to step into his shoes the best would be Williams. Williams is a strong blocker and a good check down option in the passing game. He would also be the natural pairing in a two TE set, working well with Finley (as a blocking option to counter Finley’s pure receiving ability) and Ryan Taylor (to counter Taylor’s pure blocking ability).
DE Mike Daniels – With injuries to C.J. Wilson and Jerel Worthy, Daniels once again should get a higher number of reps. This could be a good proving game for Daniels. If he can hold up well in run down situations then that may translate to more snaps in the future.
LB A.J. Hawk – Earlier in the week I talked about the importance that Brad Jones brings to stopping Chris Johnson. Hawk also features heavily in this as well. Hawk should also have something to prove over the next few weeks as well. The offseason is coming up fast and many Packers know that the management will need to make some tough choices. Hawk is getting paid handsomely and not making many more plays than cheaper options like Brad Jones now or D.J. Smith earlier in the year. If Hawk can step up his game he should be able to hang on, but if he can’t then expect there to be lots of talk about how he may be let go in order to allow the Packers to sign other players.