On Monday afternoon, APC’s Jason B. Hirschhorn discussed the impending return of defensive end Mike Pennel and cornerback Demetri Goodson to the Green Bay Packers following the completion of their suspensions for violations of the NFL’s PED policy. Jason addressed some players who might be waived to make room for these two defensive players, who need to be moved back to the active roster or released.
However, the time frame for those moves to take place has shifted, and the Packers have a little extra time to decide on what to do with Pennel and Goodson if they choose to take it.
According to ESPN’s Rob Demovsky, the Packers were given an interesting exemption for these two players. Specifically, this exemption would allow Green Bay to wait to make their roster decisions about them until after this week’s game against the Dallas Cowboys, so long as they do remove them from the suspended list by the end of the league day on Monday.
Are the Packers likely to exercise these exemptions, though? The question boils down to two parts. First, would the player be active on Sunday if they were on the active roster, and second would they contribute more than the person that they are replacing?
In the case of Mike Pennel, the Packers will almost certainly return him to active duty in time for Sunday. Green Bay dressed four defensive linemen last Sunday against the New York Giants - Mike Daniels, Letroy Guion, Kenny Clark, and Dean Lowry - leaving Christian Ringo and Brian Price inactive. They also played five defensive backs on every play of the game, meaning that they did not line up with a three-man line once.
Against the Dallas Cowboys, who have the NFL’s rushing yardage leader in Ezekiel Elliott, the Packers are much more likely to use their base 3-4 defense heavily in an effort to stop Dallas’ running game. Pennel is the team’s best option at the 5-technique defensive end position, making it all but a guarantee that he will come off suspension and be active on Sunday. If the team suits up five or six linemen on gameday, which seems likely, Pennel would certainly be a better option than Ringo or Price.
Goodson’s situation is more uncertain, however. The third-year cornerback has developed into a reliable gunner and special teams contributor. However, he has done little at his defensive position to give the Packers or fans reason to think that he can be a significant contributor at corner. If the Packers get Damarious Randall and/or Sam Shields back from injury this week, that would allay some of their depth concerns at least for Sunday afternoon, allowing Ted Thompson to push the decision back a week.
Furthermore, the Packers held rookie cornerback Josh Hawkins off the field entirely on defense on Sunday against the Giants, keeping him relegated exclusively to special teams on a day in which the team suited up just three true cornerbacks (Hawkins included). Frankly, if the team does not feel the need to put Hawkins on the field on defense in a game when their depth at cornerback is massively depleted, Goodson would be unlikely to see the field if an injured player also returns and the Packers use fewer nickel and dime sets.
The only significant benefit Goodson might provide this week would be if the team feels he is a major upgrade over their current special teamers. One issue that may force the team’s hand is Chris Banjo’s hamstring injury; if he can’t play on Sunday, Goodson’s presence may indeed be helpful. However, our bet is that the Packers wait until after Sunday’s game with Dallas to decide on Goodson, on the off chance that another injury pops up that would require his presence on the roster moving forward.