Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Injury Carousel Continues

Photo by Evan Siegle, Press-Gazette Media
Linebacker Nick Perry, shown in the photo, was one of the Packer players who sustained significant injuries in Sunday's game against the Ravens, which the Packers hung on to win, 19-17.  The photo shows him forcing the fumble on the second-to-last play of the first half, which resulted in Mason Crosby getting another shot at a field goal, having missed one (his first miss of the season!) a couple of plays earlier.  This time, Crosby made the field goal, in essence providing the margin of victory in the game.  Perry's strip sack was a big-time play.

But apparently on the same play, Perry broke his foot and is expected to miss multiple weeks, meaning both starting outside linebackers, Perry and Matthews, will be out for now.  If Brad Jones is still out this week, then 3 of the 4 starting linebackers will be out.  Time for McCarthy's mantra: next man up!  Speaking of which, what got into A.J. Hawk?  The normally steady but unspectacular Hawk led the team in tackles and assists Sunday (10), in sacks (3) and in tackles for loss (5, including the 3 sacks).  Hawk was not the only defensive player to step up his game on Sunday.  Lots of players contributed, and when you hold Ray Rice to 34 yards rushing, and have a sensational goal-line stand from the 4 yard line, the defense is playing a great game.

If anything, though, the injuries to James Jones and Randall Cobb were more troubling, given that the Packers' passing offense has sputtered, on and off, all season long.  Both were knocked out of the game, with Cobb's injury looking particularly painful.  When you have to cart the player back to the sidelines to watch the rest of the game, it is not a good sign.  After Cobb left the game, the Packers were left with exactly two active and healthy wide receivers on the roster, Jordy Nelson and Jarrett Boykin.  And for awhile, it looked like Boykin had hands of stone, as he dropped several passes before finally holding onto one for an important gain of 43 yards.

Jones' injury turns out to be the less serious of the two, just as we all expected while watching the game, and he might even play this week against the Browns.  But Cobb broke his fibula, and while differing reports were swirling all day Monday, the current consensus estimate is that he might miss 6-8 weeks.

Was the tackle on Cobb a cheap shot?  After Ravens' safety Matt Elam tackled Randall Cobb at his knees, Rodgers let Elam know he wasn't happy about the tackle.  Another defensive player argued back about the limited areas defensive players are now allowed to tackle a ball carrier, which Rodgers admitted was a fair point.  Adam Czech, of Jersey Al's Packers web site, makes a pretty convincing case that there was nothing dirty about the hit.  For myself, I am glad that Rodgers made an issue about it, both during the game and in his press conference after the game, even if we assume that the hit was not illegal.  As I understand Rodgers' point, he isn't exactly arguing that the hit was illegal, or even that it was (necessarily) a dirty hit.  He is arguing that it was completely unnecessary to hit Cobb at the knees, in effect appealing to Elam's better instincts and, more broadly, to try to encourage the players and the league to take a closer look at unnecessarily dangerous hits.  In the same way that a legitimate tackle becomes an illegal hit when the defender picks up the offensive player and slams him into the ground, there ought to be some discretion to treat a tackle like this one as an illegal hit by needlessly exposing the player to injury.

This coming Sunday, the Cleveland Browns come to Green Bay.  With the rash of injuries afflicting the Packers, every game is a potential loss.  When the 3-3 Browns were on their three-game winning streak, they looked dangerous.  But in hindsight, they have only beaten one good team, the Bengals, and they did it at home.  Their other two wins were against the flailing Vikings and the under-performing Bills.  The Packers ought to have enough, with a week to plan around the injuries, to beat the Browns.

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