Teams playing professional football in the present day have to treat injuries like they are inevitable. In the case of the Green Bay Packers, they have faced more injury issues over the past few years than most other NFL teams, and have thus had to rely on their depth and younger players more often and for longer periods than other franchises.
Well, over the weekend, CBS Sports' Pat Kirwan decided to identify which specific areas teams need to have in order to consider that they have good depth, coming up with thirteen specific players or areas that need to be able to be addressed. We looked at each of these items to see how the Packers' current roster will manage each one and ended up with a report card at the end.
Here's Kirwan discussing the first position of concern:
The first is the backup quarterback. A capable backup QB that can go at least 2-2 in a four-game stretch qualifies as a good backup.
Well, we have Matt Flynn, who in essence went 2-2-1 in five games. That works for me. The Packers are off to a good start.
Let's look through Kirwan's twelve other areas to see how many of the 13 critical depth pieces we can identify as being present (or at least addressed adequately) on the Packers' 90-man roster.
1. Does your team have a real swing offensive tackle, a guy that can play left or right tackle and has experience?
This is a bit of a weird one. Derek Sherrod could be that guy, but he doesn't have experience. I'd actually include Bryan Bulaga here - it seems logical that if something were to happen to David Bakhtiari, the first move might be to shift Bulaga back to the left side and put Sherrod or Don Barclay at right tackle. Still, I'm hesitant to really say yes to this question.
2. Does your team have a solid inside offensive lineman that can play guard or center?
I'll answer this by saying I'm confident that the interior of the line will be relatively stable. JC Tretter is still a bit of an unknown, but the starting guards (Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang) are as solid as they come. Lang would likely move over to center in the event of an injury, which would put Don Barclay in at guard, where he has played well. I'm sure there are plenty of capable bodies at guard and center that the Packers should have success at those positions even in case of an injury. Check.
3. Is there a quality second running back that can deliver a 100-yard rushing day if he had to start?
James Starks is exactly that player - in fact, he did just that in relief of Eddie Lacy a year ago against Washington when Lacy suffered a concussion. That was the Packers' first 100-yard rushing game in a few years at the time. You could even make a case for DuJuan Harris to be a third possibility here as well. Check.
4. Is there a good second tight end on the roster?
If Andrew Quarless were the second tight end, I'd say definitely. However, we still don't really know what to expect from Brandon Bostick yet, and we definitely don't know what the Packers will get out of Colt Lyerla at this point. I can't with confidence say yes to this.
5. Can the third wide receiver step up and start in the two-WR packages if a starter went down?
Personally, Jarrett Boykin is more or less a starter as a third wideout anyway, but based on how he played over the second half of the season, I have no questions in my mind about his ability to step up in the absence of either Randall Cobb or Jordy Nelson. Check.
6. Does your team have a designated pass-rush specialist who could play the early downs if need be?
I think at this point, Nick Perry fits that description, as would rookie Carl Bradford. Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers appear set to get the bulk of the playing time, but Perry and Bradford should see the field quite a bit on third downs and Perry has proven to be acceptable setting the edge against the run as well. Check.
7. Is there a third defensive tackle that not only plays in a rotation but could play the whole game if need be?
This is a little bit of a tough one to answer, given the Packers' propensity to use a 3-4 defense. However, we'll look at the nose tackle and 3-technique spots primarily here, while assuming that some combination of Datone Jones, Mike Neal, and Julius Peppers will man the 5-tech end position.
We start with Mike Daniels and B.J. Raji as the starters. The next players down on the depth chart are probably Josh Boyd and Jerel Worthy. At this point, I'm not convinced that Boyd is ready to play a full game as a starter, but he could prove me wrong in training camp. Rookie Khyri Thornton isn't there yet, and free agent signing Letroy Guion wasn't overly impressive with Minnesota a year ago.
For now, I'm going with "meh", which in this case means no.
8. Is there a quality nickel corner on the roster, since most teams are at least 50 percent sub defenses?
Ask most Packers fans and they'll tell you that Casey Hayward is as good a slot corner as you'll find in the NFL in this day and age - at least, when he's healthy. Check.
9. Is there a fourth corner for dime packages?
Most definitely. In dime packages, my brain imagines one of two possibilities. The first (and probably most likely) setup would be with Sam Shields and Tramon Williams remaining on the outside with Casey Hayward and Micah Hyde in the slot. In that case, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix would take over at safety for Hyde.
The second scenario would put Shields and Davon House on the outside, with Hayward in one slot and Tramon Williams in the other slot. The Packers could use this setup if they feel more comfortable with House on the outside than Clinton-Dix at safety or if there are injury concerns to Hyde or Ha Ha.
Either way, we're good here.
10. Is there a third safety for big nickel defenses?
Micah Hyde is basically a safety/slot corner hybrid, so yes. Another possible option would be Sean Richardson, especially if the Packers go up against a big, physical tight end. Check.
11. Is there a return specialist that can either handle both punt and kick returns or contribute as a real position player?
This is a yet-to-be-determined answer. My gut says Jared Abbrederis is that player and that he'd be able to help out on offense in a pinch as a 4th or 5th wideout. It seems highly unlikely that Hyde will be asked to continue returning kicks, so Abby's progression as a returner will be important to watch. However, the fact that he's a rookie will make it difficult to give this one a firm yes, so we'll call it questionable for now.
12. Does your team have a special-teams linebacker that leads the specials and can play inside linebacker in a pinch?
If that isn't the textbook definition of a Jamari Lattimore, I don't know what is. I'd throw Sam Barrington into the mix a bit as well, but Lattimore is the obvious answer here. Check.
All in all, we have thirteen areas of concern listed here (the twelve that are numbered, plus backup QB). By my highly unofficial count, we have confident "Yes" answers for nine, if we include Flynn. The other four are all some level of "kind of/maybe". All in all, I'll take a score of about 70% on this type of test. That seems pretty darn good.
Would you disagree with any of these assessments? Let us know in the comments.