On Monday night, the United States Men's National Team got a win in the World Cup against Ghana, and was helped out by an unlikely goal from an unlikely source. Defender John Brooks, who had entered the game as a substitution, scored the go-ahead goal on a header off a corner kick in the 86th minute to give the US a 2-1 lead, which they maintained for the win.
In a way, Brooks reminds me of Matt Flynn a year ago. Coming in late in the season, he entered mid-game against the Vikings in place of an ineffective Scott Tolzien and led the Packers to a tie (and two later wins) to keep the team afloat and in position for a playoff spot as the team waited for key players to return. In that way, Flynn's performance a year ago shares some similarities with Brooks' game last night.
That got us thinking: who could be the Packers' 2014 version of John Brooks or Matt Flynn? A few of us put our heads together to come up with a few ideas.
Tex - Jamari Lattimore
The young inside linebacker showed some signs of potential to fill in for Brad Jones last season, and showed good ability to stop the run and shoot gaps in the pass-rush. With the team locking him up for this season on a Restricted Free Agent tender, they clearly feel that he has value on more than just special teams. Desmond Bishop had a similar career trajectory before becoming a full-time starter (though he was a 6th-round draft pick instead of an undrafted free agent), but the fact that it's happened before in Green Bay makes it easy to imagine another young linebacker stepping in successfully as an injury replacement.
Jason - James Starks
While the Packers plan to ride Eddie Lacy for the majority of runs, his injury history suggests that at some point Green Bay will need to turn to this backup. James Starks led the NFL in yards per rushing attempt in 2013, and for a few games can carry the load as the Packers' lead back.
Josh - Colt Lyerla
Imagine that the lack of depth at TE leaves an athlete like Lyerla a chance for immediate playing time. Andrew Quarless, Brandon Bostick, and Richard Rodgers all struggle early, and Lyerla has a break out game mid-season and ends up leading the team in touchdowns.
Josh - Adrian Hubbard
In this scenario, Nick Perry, Julius Peppers, and Carl Bradford all struggle with injuries and Hubbard records a multi-sack game in his first career start at OLB.
Aron - Casey Hayward
I'll go with Casey Hayward. Even though he's a backup right now, Hayward has shown the ability to make plays at the next level after a stellar rookie season. If he can regain that form this year, he certainly is a player the Packers defensive secondary will have stashed for critical moments and times on the field when they need it.
Brendan - Sam Barrington
There's already some buzz about the coaches being impressed with what they've seen from him. And with A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones as the only two guys really solidified ahead of him, he could see some action. Jones is already one injury away from having a hospital wing named after him and with Hawk set to turn 31 by the playoffs, an infusion of youth and speed might be necessary.
There you have it - a few players who currently sit buried on the depth chart but who have a possibility of being key pieces for the team this year. In the comments, let us know which of these players you think are most likely to play that role or let us know if we missed anyone in particular.