Like Harvey and Irma, the Green Bay Packers are facing a storm that only comes along once or so in a generation. I’m talking about the endless injuries to the team’s tackles.
David Bakhtiari has been out and Bryan Bulaga just left the game on Sunday after trying to play despite an injury. Both players were listed as “limited participants” at Tuesday’s practice.
Jason Spriggs recently went on injured reserve. Next up, on Sunday, were Kyle Murphy and Justin McCray. But Murphy was just placed on injured reserve due to a foot injury suffered against the Bengals.
So, who’s left? McCray is available, but he’s really a guard, not a tackle, and he has not performed well in the two games he’s been pressed into service at a different position.
The Packers recently brought a tackle up front the practice squad, Adam Pankey (6’5”, 313), listed on the team roster as a guard/tackle – is one option.
The next obvious plan is to go out and scour the 32 NFL practice squads for a healthy tackle. There are probably about 30 such players out there.
Ted Thompson has already done this search – and he came up with Ulrick John (6’6”, 309) – who he just signed to the active roster. A tackle at Georgia State, John was selected in the seventh round of the 2014 draft by the Colts. He’s been on the practice squads of the Colts, Dolphins, and Cardinals, and he’s gone on injured reserve with serious injuries in both 2014 and 2016.
John has played in five NFL games and started three, so he would be considered relatively experienced compared to some others on this list. I doubt, however, that the Packers would send in a guy who has only had one or two practices with the team.
If Thompson had further thoughts of snapping up a practice squad player from another team, he would have done so by now.
Are there any other possibilities?
We’ll assume guard Lane Taylor (6’3”, 324) will stay put at his left guard position. He’s been virtually injury free since becoming a starter at the beginning of last year.
Lucas Patrick (6’3”, 315) is a “first-year” guard who spent all of 2016 on the Packers’ practice squad, but is now on the active roster. He could figure into the conversation, especially as a replacement guard if the Packers were to move a starting guard over to tackle.
There’s rookie guard Kofi Amichi (6’3”, 304); the sixth-round pick is considered to be a developmental project, so he’ll probably remain where he is, on the Packers’ practice squad.
Also, there’s guard Darrell Greene (6’3”, 321), a first-year man out of San Diego State. He went undrafted last year, spending the season on the Eagles’ practice squad. He was signed to the Packers’ practice squad on September 13. The Packers worked out Greene just prior to the start of the regular season, so they’ve had their eyes on him for a while.
If Bakhtiari can go on Thursday, and it’s rumored he was held out of the Bengals game to assure he could, that would greatly reduce Green Bay’s dilemma. It would also provide a high-quality tackle at the position. In this case, Justin McCray is the other likely starter at tackle – that’s if Green Bay saw enough things they liked from the Bengals’ film. If not, Ulrick John is relatively experienced (and I use the term very loosely), but brand new to the team. Still, he’s probably less of a risk than Pankey, who is inexperienced and new to the team.
If Bakhtiari can’t go, or if he or another guy playing tackle gets injured during the Bears’ game – a possibility that can’t be discounted – then Green Bay might have to get more creative. If a backup guard replaced a starting guard so the starter could move over to tackle, it could be Lucas, since he’s been with the organization for over a year now.
Here’s a final scenario: switching starting guard Jahri Evans over to tackle. Not only does Evans have a ton of league experience, he was also a starting tackle for three years in college. Of course that was 12 years ago, but it’s like riding a bike, right?
Bakhtiari is out this game.