The Green Bay Packers’ run defense has been a surprise strength of the team so far in 2016. Against the Jacksonville Jaguars in week one, the defense allowed just 48 yards on the ground, then gave up a stunningly low 30 rushing yards to Adrian Peterson and the Vikings in Sunday night’s loss.
However, the game was not the only loss for the Packers, as defensive linemen Letroy Guion suffered an injury in the first half and did not return. On early Monday morning, ESPN learned from Guion that his injury is a sprained MCL, and that he is likely to miss a few weeks of game action with that knee issue.
This injury deals a massive blow to an already-thin Packers defensive line that was hoping to basically tread water while Mike Pennel serves his four-game suspension. Pennel is eligible to return following the Packers’ week five game against the New York Giants, and the line will likely have to work through both his absence for those games and now Guion’s as well.
Although the Guion injury likely hurts the line the most in the base defense, the upcoming matchups will likely feature far more nickel and dime than base due to the matchups. Both the Lions and Giants offenses heavily feature their passing games meaning the Packers are likely to line up even more in nickel and dime packages than usual. In those situations, the team can rely on a rotation of linemen (Mike Daniels and Kenny Clark) and outside linebackers (Datone Jones, Julius Peppers) as their interior rushers.
However, filling out the base defense will continue to be a challenge. On Sunday night, the Packers used a heavy dose of Daniels, Guion, and Jones as their base line. Without Guion, rookie first-round pick Kenny Clark will need to step up at nose tackle. Clark played well in the second half against Minnesota, recording two tackles and a batted pass, but he will be put to the test next week at Lambeau Field.
Finally, the question arises about what to do for depth on the line. Behind Daniels and Clark, the Packers have just rookie Dean Lowry and second-year pro Christian Ringo. With the team currently holding a roster spot open, it should come as little surprise if they move defensive tackle Brian Price from the practice squad to the active roster to supplement the depth on the line.