The Green Bay Packers suffered some significant injuries in Sunday’s game against the Tennessee Titans. Three starters left the game and did not return, and two of those players were on the team’s offensive line - one of the few units that had not been hampered heavily by injuries up until Sunday’s game.
The two key injuries on the line were to left tackle David Bakhtiari and right guard T.J. Lang. At this point, Bakhtiari considers himself day-to-day, but Lang’s status is very much in doubt. In fact, after the game on Sunday, head coach Mike McCarthy said that Lang’s injury “didn’t look good.”
Joining those two on the shelf was inside linebacker Jake Ryan, who was hurt covering the Packers’ first punt of the game and did not end up playing a single down on defense. Ryan injured his ankle, and his availability for this week is in question as well.
If we assume for the moment that Bakhtiari’s rehab goes well and that Lang and Ryan will be unavailable this week, the question becomes how the Packers will deal with those absences.
Lang’s injury is a little easier to deal with, given the players currently on the 53-man roster. Don Barclay will likely step in as the starting right guard, as he did on Sunday. Rookie offensive lineman Kyle Murphy would probably be activated on gameday as a reserve guard/tackle, keeping the Packers with seven linemen active on Sundays. Then, once either Lang or JC Tretter return from injury, they would most likely be plugged in over Barclay - if it’s Tretter, he could step in at right guard while Corey Linsley remains at center.
Ryan’s likely absence is a bigger problem for the roster, however. With him unavailable, the Packers would have just two healthy inside linebackers: Blake Martinez and Joe Thomas. Kyler Fackrell has pitched in on the inside on occasion of late, but he should not be counted on at the position with any regularity. Instead, the Packers would likely have to promote Carl Bradford from the practice squad to help bolster that position unit (as well as Ryan’s role on special teams). Bradford would likely contribute some snaps in the nickel and base defenses if he were indeed brought up. The Packers have used Thomas as the primary dime linebacker, but Bradford seemed to be a more physical player in run support.
That promotion would require a corresponding roster move, of course, which would be exercised either by placing a player on injured reserve (possibly Ryan, if his injury is severe enough) or by an outright release.
Perhaps one candidate for release would be fullback Joe Kerridge, recently brought up from the practice squad himself. While Kerridge may be a nice player, carrying two fullbacks on the 53-man roster (along with Aaron Ripkowski) but playing neither of them on offense seems foolish. That would be especially true when another player can play the same role on special teams while actually contributing meaningful snaps on either offense or defense as well. If the team feels they need Kerridge’s special teams ability, however, another prime candidate for release would be defensive tackle Christian Ringo, who has been a healthy scratch for each of the past three games.
Additional roster trouble would arise if Bakhtiari were ended up being unable to play this week. In that scenario, the Packers would have just one healthy backup lineman (Murphy) as Jason Spriggs would have to take over at left tackle. Murphy would probably have to serve as the backup at both tackle spots, but the team would likely promote rookie guard Lucas Patrick from the practice squad to ensure that they had seven healthy linemen on gameday.