It seems a rare occasion that the Green Bay Packers have to shuffle the deck on defense and actually come up with a good hand. However, that is exactly what happened on Monday night against the Philadelphia Eagles, despite the Packers being down their two preferred starters at inside linebacker.
Instead of the “Jake and Blake Show”, it was the “Joe and Morgan and sometimes Clay Experience” that did the job in the middle of the defense - and they did do the job well. Each of the three players who contributed at the position had at least four tackles, with Morgan Burnett leading the way with seven.
The fact that Damarious Randall returned from injury probably was the reason that the Packers had enough flexibility in the secondary to move a safety down to the linebacker spot, so his return should not be ignored. Thankfully, his groin injury has subsided to the point that he can play a full game without further exacerbating it, and hopefully he’ll be full-go again next Sunday against Houston.
Here are our impressions from this week’s snap counts.
OFFENSE (71 snaps)
LT David Bakhtiari 71, LG Lane Taylor 71, C Corey Linsley 71, RG Jason Spriggs 71, RT Bryan Bulaga 71, OT Kyle Murphy 1
The Packers kept Murphy active this week and were wise to start Spriggs over Don Barclay at right guard in place of Lang. Spriggs held up extremely well and Murphy got his first game action with a single snap as a sixth offensive lineman.
QB Aaron Rodgers 71, RB James Starks 54, FB Aaron Ripkowski 25, RB Ty Montgomery 16, FB Joe Kerridge 3, RB Christine Michael 2
For all the hype about Michael, he played just two snaps and touched the ball once - on a 4-yard carry. Starks got 22 touches (17 rushes, 5 receptions) but racked up just 68 total yards, an abysmal 3.1 yards per touch. Kerridge made his rookie debut as well, as he and Ripkowski lined up as dual fullbacks for a couple of snaps on the team’s final drive as they successfully killed most of the clock in the fourth quarter. Rip also recorded the team’s first rushing touchdown by a player not named Aaron Rodgers, scoring on a one-yard plunge in the second half.
The calls for Montgomery to be unleashed remain, as he had just two catches and one run out of the backfield in fairly limited duty.
WR Jordy Nelson 64, WR Davante Adams 64, WR Randall Cobb 56, TE Jared Cook 33, TE Richard Rodgers 26, WR Jeff Janis 6, WR Geronimo Allison 5
The Packers got solid production from Nelson in this came, as he caught 8 of his 12 targets for 91 yards. Adams was again the star of the game, catching both of Rodgers’ touchdowns (including that incredible throw for the second one) as well as making an awesome over-the-shoulder catch on a 50-yard bomb.
The tight ends were virtually non-factors in this game, combining for 3 targets, one reception, and seven yards.
DEFENSE (59 snaps)
S/ILB Morgan Burnett 59, S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix 58, CB Damarious Randall 57, CB LaDarius Gunter 55, CB Quinten Rollins 46, DB Micah Hyde 39
The Packers used their typical nickel formation for most of the game, dictating the use of five defensive backs. However, they actually fielded six typical secondary players on many of those snaps. The team had Morgan Burnett take some snaps at inside linebacker in training camp this year, and it paid off on Monday night as the strong safety played there for significant stretches of the game. When doing so, Micah Hyde shifted back to strong safety while Quinten Rollins manned the slot corner position.
Perhaps much of this was due to the Eagles having virtually no semblance of deep threat - the Packers played their safeties relatively close to the line of scrimmage to contain Philadelphia’s shorter routes.
ILB Joe Thomas 59, OLB Nick Perry 53, OLB/ILB Clay Matthews 44, OLB/DE Julius Peppers 43, OLB/DE Datone Jones 28, OLB Jayrone Elliott 10, ILB Carl Bradford 3
The reason that Burnett was forced inside was of course because of the injuries to Jake Ryan and Blake Martinez and in order to keep Carl Bradford off the field. Matthews also played some inside linebacker throughout the game, though he was somewhat limited due to a hard hit he took early that resulted in a shoulder injury. All told, the Packers’ coaching staff masked their lack of depth on the inside well.
Mike Daniels 38, Letroy Guion 32, Kenny Clark 13, Mike Pennel 11
There are no significant surprises here, except perhaps that Clark got so few snaps after splitting time more evenly with Guion in recent weeks.