Who the Packers put on the field against the Vikings should give us fans a fair idea of who’s up and who’s down in the minds of the coaching staff as we head toward the playoffs.
I almost fell out of my chair when early in this all-important game in Minnesota Tyler Ervin went in motion, got the ball, and swept around the left end for six yards (ruled as a pass). I didn’t get the memo that Ervin was being viewed as anything other than a return man.
It turns out that Ervin lined up seven times on offense against the Vikes. I’ve always wanted the Packers to have a scatback on the roster – to shake things up and provide additional options on occasion. I suspect we’ll see him pop up again as a running back or receiver in the playoffs.
Ervin could be a sleeper. Out of San Jose State, he was picked in 2016 in the fourth round by the Texans, but in four years he’s never latched onto a solid roster spot with them, the Ravens, or the Jaguars. He’s only been with the Packers since being claimed off waivers on December 2.
At the 2016 NFL Combine, Ervin, listed at 5’10” and 192 pounds, recorded a 4.41 dash time – very fast for a receiver, faster still for a running back.
It will be intriguing to see how the Packers employ him in coming games, but the mere fact LaFleur entrusted him with seven snaps in the critical Monday Night Game indicates he’s envisioned as being more than just a returner on his new team.
Za’Darius Smith and Friends
Mike Pettine has tried to give his star edge rusher bits of rest as the season has gone on. On Monday, he was on the sideline for seven defensive snaps. On the year he’s been on the field 83 percent of the time. Preston Smith missed but one defensive snap on the night. Kenny Clark was rested on four snaps. Blake Martinez, who played every defensive snap for the eleventh time this year, is the iron man of the front seven.
Dean Lowry got 57% of the defensive snaps, and responded nicely with five tackles. Kyler Fackrell has seen his snaps go up slightly as the season has progressed. He got 41% of the snaps on Monday – the same as Tyler Lancaster. All three of these guys have been making solid contributions of late.
Goodson, Sullivan, and Green
Due to the Vikes’ running back injury woes, run-stopper B. J. Goodson only played 12 defensive snaps. As usual, however, he was active, getting three tackles. As I explained back when, Green Bay was fortunate to acquire (on September 2) such an athletic and experienced linebacker.
Goodson has 35 tackles on the year and Sullivan has 26 – excellent and unexpected production for two role players. When the season began, it was defensive back Raven Green who was getting most of the snaps alongside Martinez – though he went down with an ankle injury in Week 2. I believe he’s now eligible to come off of injured reserve, so he could be an important postseason addition, though I haven’t been hearing much about this prospect.
Chandon Sullivan was given 26 defensive snaps on Monday, though his only stat was one pass defended. Over the last five games, however, he’s been out there just a bit over half the time.
I thought I detected our WR1 on the sidelines after most of his 13 catches. Sure enough, Adams missed 15 offensive snaps. I’m not sure why, though this was not the pattern early in the season and prior to his turf toe injury. By removing him, Green Bay is strongly indicating the next first down play will be a run.
The snap numbers are: Adams (62), Lazard (58), Allison (33), Kumerow (28), and Valdes-Scantling (11). Lazard has solidified his WR2 status. Kumerow was supposed to get more action, but he was only targeted once by Rodgers – this twosome hasn’t clicked with any frequency all year long. Geronimo on the year has played 59% of the time, though on Monday he was down to 43%.
Jimmy Graham (41), Marcedes Lewis (41), Robert Tonyan (23), Jace Sternberger (0). It doesn’t look like Sternberger figures to play a postseason role. Unfortunately, these four have been largely relegated to being blockers.
Danny Vitale had only 8 offensive snaps. His usage on the year is 17 percent, so his playing time has been on the decline.
Aaron Jones has a snap rate of 59% on the year, while running mate Jamaal Williams comes in at 38%. Due to Jamaal’s injury in the third quarter, Jones went up to 67.5% against the Vikes. You probably know how I feel about Jones being rested one-third of the time in such an important game. He’s valuable out there even if just used as a decoy. If Jamaal can’t go on Sunday, will it be Ervin or first-year man Dexter Williams in his place?