The Green Bay Packers sit at 7-1 after half of their season has gone by, and they are right in the thick of the hunt for a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs. Their odds of achieving that goal may have just increased, thanks to reinforcements heading their way in the coming days.
For the last month, the Packers have found their offensive identity despite missing their best wide receiver. Davante Adams has been out for the past four games with turf toe, but the Packers have gone undefeated in that stretch and have seen Aaron Jones and Aaron Rodgers kick the unit into high gear. On Friday before the team flew to Los Angeles for their week 9 game against the Chargers, head coach Matt LaFleur revealed that Adams would receive the questionable tag on the injury report, suggesting that he is a good bet to play on Sunday.
As APC’s Peter Bukowski noted on Twitter, most players whom the Packers have labeled as questionable this season have played on Sunday, though often on a limited basis. Therefore, the same can be expected for Adams barring any unexpected setbacks. If Adams does play, he would likely see a fairly heavy dose of Casey Hayward, a former Packers teammate and the Chargers’ top cornerback.
But Adams is not the only contributor who seems headed back onto the field. Two other Packers players have practiced over the past few weeks on the comeback trail from reserve injury lists. Tight end Jace Sternberger is one, and his return to the 53-man roster from injured reserve seems all but assured before kickoff on Sunday.
A third-round rookie out of Texas A&M, Sternberger played just one game in the preseason due to a concussion he suffered in a joint practice with the Houston Texans. The 6-foot-4, 251-pounder caught one pass — a two-yard touchdown — in the preseason finale before injuring his knee later in the game and going on injured reserve just after final cuts. Week 9 is the first time he will be eligible to return to the roster, but with the Packers holding a roster spot open after releasing tight Evan Baylis on Tuesday and Robert Tonyan still working his way back from an injury of his own, that spot is all but a lock to go to Sternberger.
Joining the rookie on the comeback trail is safety Ibraheim Campbell, who re-signed with the Packers during training camp and began 2019 on the Physically Unable to Perform list. Campbell impressed in a brief stint with the Packers last season, recording 18 total tackles and a forced fumble in just three games after being picked up on waivers from the New York Jets. However, he tore his ACL in the week 13 loss to the Arizona Cardinals, and has been working his way back since.
As a dense body at 5-foot-11 and 210 pounds, Campbell is an ideal fit for the hybrid safety/linebacker spot that defensive coordinator Mike Pettine likes to use. In fact, had he been healthy all offseason he may have been the first choice up at that spot instead of Raven Greene, who is currently on IR. Look for him to contribute early and often as a nickel or dime linebacker once he is reactivated.
LaFleur mentioned both of these players on Friday in addition to discussing Adams, noting that they made it through the last three weeks of practice with no issues and appear healthy enough to play. Both must be added to the roster no later than next week, and with one roster spot available, at least one will get the call-up by Sunday. However, with the Packers in need of depth at both players’ positions, do not be surprised if the team frees up a spot on the roster to add them both to the 53 on Saturday.