Having a “bye week” this early in the NFL season is new to the league and hence also new to the scribes who write football columns. What follows are some Packer Partisan observations as the calendar turns to October.
Ted Thompson’s recipe for building the Packers’ roster is based on the “draft and develop” concept. To make that work, it is imperative to draft good football players, particularly with the top picks, to ensure high quality output for years to come. Thus it is somewhat disturbing to note the lack of productivity achieved from the club’s number one draft selections over the past four years. 2010 first-round draft pick Bryan Bulaga was placed on Injured Reserve for the better part of last year and is currently on IR again with a knee problem. The Packers’ first-round pick in 2011, Derek Sherrod, has had even worse health issues. Sherrod broke his leg in 2011 and hasn’t seen the playing field since. Last year’s number one pick, Nick Perry, didn’t show much in the first few games last year and then he went on IR with wrist and other injuries. Not much production from him thus far this year either. This year’s first-round pick, Datone Jones, has supposedly been slowed down by a sprained ankle, but in the preseason and three games to date Jones hasn’t distinguished himself. Bad breaks or bad picks, I am not sure. What is certain is that Thompson and Cheeseheads are expecting a lot more than they are getting from these guys.
On a more positive note, all of a sudden the Packers seem to have found three running backs that may put respect back into the Packers’ ground offense. Back-to-back 100+ rushing-yard days for James Starks and Johnathan Franklin the last two games was a refreshing uplift. Probably the most talented of the three, Eddie Lacy, suffered a concussion against the Cincinnati Bengals. The hard-charging Lacy has shown impressive potential and will likely get his chance to contribute when play resumes next week. I like these three backs.
A glaring problem the Packers have had to deal with this year is the absence of Morgan Burnett and Casey Hayward in the defensive backfield. Neither of them has played a single snap this year. Replacements M. D. Jennings and Jerron McMillian do not appear to be big-time players. Thompson deserves some criticism for this situation as he should have drafted to upgrade the safety talent level this past spring. Fifth-round draft pick Micah Hyde has played mostly at cornerback thus far this year, but his best position might be safety and we may see him move there upon the return of Hayward. Undrafted rookie safety Chris Banjo has shown playmaking ability and needs more opportunities to contribute.
A mystery that we shall have to wait to see unfold is what the Packers plan to do for the balance of the year with the kick and punt returner positions. Jeremy Ross was horrible and cut last week. Randall Cobb excels at these functions but the Packers understandably would prefer not risking him to injury on special teams.
Next week the division-leading Detroit Lions visit Lambeau, a venue where the Lions have not fared well in a long, long time. This is a big game for the Pack. A win means evening out their record at 2 – 2; a loss would put the Pack in a very bad place. The Packers need to get their swagger back and have a great opportunity to do so next Sunday.