Following the Gren Bay Packers’ final practice before they travel to Jacksonville, the team released their last injury report of the week.
The biggest headliner on the questionable list is pass-rusher Za’Darius Smith, who missed all but one August practice due to a back injury. Linebacker coach Mike Smith told the media this week that, “It’s going to be one of those game day decision deals.” Smith’s one-word tweet from earlier this week, along with not being voted a team captain, has also drawn attention to his situation.
Wow— Za'Darius Smith (@zadariussmith) September 9, 2021
Hopefully, Smith can go on Sunday, but the Packers have protected their game day roster some in case he doesn’t. The team would start Preston Smith and Rashan Gary, but with five outside linebackers on the roster, they would still have Jonathan Garvin and Chauncey Rivers on game day. For reference, outside linebacker is a position where the team is more than “two-deep,” while you can’t say the same for the defensive line, safety, or cornerback positions, depending on if you want to call outside cornerbacks and slotbacks different positions.
Speaking of safety, the fact that Vernon Scott (hamstring) is not going to play for the team should keep the squad out of three-safety looks, which they allegedly ran in camp but did not show in the preseason. Why is that important? It was the Packers’ top defensive personnel last season when Adrian Amos was added to the box as a pseudo linebacker. With only three safeties on game day, as it stands now, it would be hard to imagine that the Packers would lean into a personnel package where they would have to scrap the entire plan if they sustained just one in-game injury at the position.
On the defensive line, Tyler Lancaster (back) is also listed as questionable. Lancaster’s role at this point with the team is as a depth player, with rookies TJ Slaton and Jack Heflin in the same boat. If the Packers need a sixth defensive lineman against New Orleans, they very well might have bigger problems than the health of Lancaster moving forward.
What does a questionable designation mean? The truth is it’s fairly open-ended. For example, in 2017 NFL teams played players who were designated as “questionable” between 96 percent and 29 percent of the time, as it varies greatly between teams.
On the Saints’ end of the injury report, cornerback Ken Crawley (hamstring) and wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith (hamstring) were recently placed on the injured reserve list, according to Nick Underhill of New Orleans’ CBS affiliate. Crawley was supposed to start opposite of Marshon Lattimore at cornerback until the recently traded for Bradley Roby comes off of league-level suspension in Week 2. With Michael Thomas and now Smith on injured reserve, the Saints only have one wide receiver projected in the top-105 of ESPN’s season-long receiver projections on their roster: Marquez Callaway, who had 21 receptions for 213 yards and no touchdowns as a rookie in 2020.
Terron Armstead, the Saints’ starting left tackle, missed practice on Friday for a back injury but is listed as someone who will play in Sunday’s game. His backup, James Hurst, was also added to the list on Friday as questionable for a knee injury.