If you haven’t heard that the Green Bay Packers have a shitload of injuries, well… then get the hell out of here.
The Packers will be down four week one starters against the Redskins this week — five, if you count linebacker Brandon Chillar and six, if you count cornerback Sam Shields.
Those players are running back Ryan Grant, safety Morgan Burnett, linebacker Nick Barnett, and tackle Mark Tauscher. Chillar started in week one at linebacker, but has since turned many of his snaps over to A.J. Hawk. Shields also started in week one because the Packers opened in their nickel defense.
So, a lot of people in Packerland are freaked out and rightfully so. However, the Packers can still win without all of these guys if they play smart. Of course, that’s a big if with Mike McCarthy at the helm.
Anyway, here’s a look at the players who will be stepping into the starting lineup this weekend and how worried you should be about their performance.
1. Charlie Peprah, safety — worried
Peprah will be making only his second NFL start, taking over for Burnett, who is out for the season. Peprah hasn’t made a tackle this season and has been out with an injury the last two weeks. In his five-year career, Peprah has only 27 tackles. He has no interceptions. The reason to be worried about Peprah is twofold. First, he’s an unknown. As his stats suggest, he hasn’t seen a lot of meaningful NFL game action. Second, there’s his injury. Although he practiced everyday this week, McCarthy still suggested he might not be ready to go Sunday, in which case Derrick Martin would be in line to start. To Peprah’s credit, he at least seems prepared and the coaching staff has noted how well he’s played in practice and training camp, this season, saying he’s well ahead of where he was during his first stint with the Packers.
2. Desmond Bishop, linebacker — somewhat worried
Bishop will finally get the chance he’s been clamoring two years for when he steps in for Barnett, this week. Bishop only has four tackles on the season, but up until this point, he’s been buried on the depth chart behind Barnett, Chillar and Hawk. By all accounts, Bishop has the talent to be a starter. He’s been a terror in the preseason. The problem is, he hasn’t gotten a lot of opportunities and the smart thinking is that’s not only because of the Packers’ depth at linebacker, but because Bishop may not have a full grasp on the mental part of the game. While he can blow up a play with his athleticism, he can also end up completely out of position and give up a big play, which we’ve seen in limited regular season action. It will be interesting to see what Bishop does with his opportunity on Sunday, but something tells me he’ll manage to hold his own.
3. Bryan Bulaga, tackle — not worried at all
Okay, the kid will be making his first NFL start and will be playing a position unfamiliar to him. I get that. Bulaga, who is a left tackle, will line up at right tackle for Tauscher. I’ll tell you what. This kid is road grader. He can play tackle and I don’t care what side you put him on. In fact, he’s better than Tauscher, right now. Bulaga may experience a couple early hiccups, but no one can play tackle worse than Tauscher has been playing it this season. Bulaga will hold his own on Sunday and my guess is the Packers run game will be better off with him in the game.
Despite all the injuries, there’s reason for optimism in Green Bay.
The Packers’ new starters are young guys, not washed up veterans. Certainly, no one expects them to play at a high level from the start, but you know and I know the Packers only build through the draft. If the coaching staff didn’t have confidence these guys could step on the field and help the team win, they wouldn’t be in Green Bay.
In addition, Burnett, Barnett and Tauscher weren’t primary playmakers. Charles Woodson and Clay Matthews fulfill those roles on defense and Aaron Rodgers fulfills it on offense.
Until those guys go down, there’s still reason for hope.
And who knows, one of these kids might just turn out to be a solid contributor.