18

July

Bringing in the Cavalry: A Look at the Packers Injured Reserve

Ryan Grant Injury - Packers injured reserved

Ryan Grant's injury against the Philadelphia Eagles was one of the biggest blows to the offense last season.

With the NFL lockout well into its fourth month now, there has been ample talk of which teams will fare better with a limited offseason. One of those teams, of course, is the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers. But it’s not their championship status that has people convinced they’ll be ready. No, most people point to the (now cliché) fact that they have “16 players returning from injured reserve.”

While this is certainly the case, I started thinking about this claim a little more in depth. I wondered: Will all sixteen of those players really be making a difference?

Sure, guys like Jermichael Finley and Ryan Grant will have a HUGE impact upon their return. But what about a guy like Spencer Havner or even Brady Poppinga? What are they really going to be bringing back to the table?

Here’s a quick look at each player that ended up injured reserve last year and what their potential impact will be upon their return. They are ordered by the date of their injuries:

Josh Bell, CB

Type of Injury: Foot Sprain
When Injured:
Training Camp (August 10, 2010)
Impact for 2011:
None – The Packers offered Bell an injury settlement during camp, which he refused. After the Super Bowl ring controversy in June, it’s clear the team plans to go on without him next season.

#91 Justin Harrell, DE

Type of Injury: Knee (ACL)
When Injured:
Week 1 @ Philadelphia Eagles
Impact for 2011:
Questionable – Harrell could actually be a big influence on the 2011 season; however, one still has to be cautious with his downright unlucky injury history. If Harrell can manage to stay active for more than a game, then he might be able to do some damage along the line. We all know how big of an “if” that is, though.

#25 Ryan Grant, RB

Type of Injury: Ankle
When Injured:
Week 1 @ Philadelphia Eagles
Impact for 2011:
High – There’s no question that the Packers severely missed their primary running back for most of last season. Brandon Jackson just couldn’t get the job done, and James Starks, while showing a lot of promise, is still young and relatively inexperienced. Grant will provide some much-needed consistency to the ground game, even if he is splitting carries with Starks.

#56 Nick Barnett, ILB

Type of Injury: Wrist
When Injured:
Week 4 vs. Detroit Lions
Impact for 2011:
Questionable – Barnett’s future with the Packers is the big question for the year, isn’t it? While he has been a staple of the defense for practically his entire career, Barnett seems to have been adequately replaced by one Desmond Bishop. Even though injuries don’t lose you jobs, this one did give another player the chance to take it away. We’ll just have to play the waiting game on this one.

#42 Morgan Burnett, SS

Type of Injury: Knee (ACL)
When Injured:
Week 4 vs. Detroit Lions
Impact for 2011:
High – Despite Charlie Peprah’s performance at strong safety last year, the Packers are going to want Burnett back in the mix. He is a third round draft pick who, though still raw, has a lot of potential and is known for being a ball hawk. He might have some catching up to do, but Burnett showed last season that he works hard both on the field and in his studies.

#65 Mark Tauscher, OT

Type of Injury: Shoulder
When Injured:
Week 4 vs. Detroit Lions
Impact for 2011:
Questionable – Though Tauscher has yet to make a decision on his future, there is a general consensus among fans that he will probably be entering into retirement. Most people don’t want to see him leave the Packers, since he has been a Wisconsin boy all his life – growing up in Auburndale and playing college ball for the Badgers. His age and injury risk suggest he won’t be around much, if at all, next year, but many would be happy to see him return in some type of coaching role.

#88 Jermichael Finley, TE

Type of Injury: Knee (Lateral Meniscus)
When Injured:
Week 5 @ Washington Redskins
Impact for 2011:
High – Finley is the number one weapon that will be returning to the Packers offense next season. ‘Nuff said.

#29 Derrick Martin, FS

Type of Injury: Knee
When Injured:
Week 5 @ Washington Redskins
Impact for 2011:
None – Martin was released by the Packers on March 2, 2011.

#96 Mike Neal, DE

Type of Injury: Shoulder (Rotator Cuff)
When Injured:
Last played Week 5 @ Washington Redskins
Impact for 2011:
High – For only playing a handful of times last year, Mike Neal has some pretty lofty expectations set upon his shoulders. Cullen Jenkins is most likely going to be signed by another team, which leaves some big shoes to fill. Neal is the best candidate for the role, and it’s almost a given that he’ll be starting. He definitely has a way to go before reaching the elite status of Jenkins, but the potential is certainly there.

#51 Brady Poppinga, OLB

Type of Injury: Knee
When Injured:
Week 6 vs. Miami Dolphins
Impact for 2011:
Low – Poppinga has two years left on his contract with the Packers, and each year his base salary will be over $2 million. He’s never really been a playmaker on the defense, and at 31, he’s not getting any younger. The influx of young talent at the outside linebacker position could spell the end for Poppinga this year. Even if it doesn’t, he won’t be utilized as much more than a backup behind Clay Matthews.

#59 Brad Jones, OLB

Type of Injury: Shoulder
When Injured:
Week 7 vs. Minnesota Vikings
Impact for 2011:
Moderate – With Ricky Elmore as the only projected outside linebacker taken in the draft, the right-side complement to Clay Matthews is still up in the air. Fans are split between favoring Jones, Zombo, and Walden, and the coaches might be as well. Brad Jones appears to have the inside track with his experience and a more well-rounded skill set. It remains to be seen how much of an impact he will have, though.

#27 Anthony Smith, FS

Type of Injury: Ankle
When Injured:
Week 11 @ Minnesota Vikings
Impact for 2011:
Low – Smith’s history with the Packers has been a little intermittent. Labeled an “underachiever” by some, he was re-acquired from the Jacksonville Jaguars for a conditional 2011 draft pick the same week Jermichael Finley was placed on IR. Green Bay did not offer Smith a tender prior to the lockout, which is an indication of how much they value him. Even if he does return, he’ll have a tough time being much more than special teams player with Collins, Peprah, and Burnett at safety.

#54 Brandon Chillar, ILB

Type of Injury: Shoulder
When Injured:
Week 12 @ Atlanta Falcons
Impact for 2011:
Questionable – I’ll be honest, I have no clue how to rate Chillar’s return to the team. On the one hand, he has been utilized as the “pass defending” ILB in place of A.J. Hawk. On the other hand, he hasn’t really been all that productive lately (partially due to injury). He’s slated to earn $2 million this season, which eventually increases to $3 million in 2013. With Hawk and Bishop as the primary ILB’s, how much is Chillar worth?

#41 Spencer Havner, TE

Type of Injury: Hamstring
When Injured:
Week 12 @ Atlanta Falcons
Impact for 2011:
Low – There has to be some level of sympathy for Havner. After getting shuffled between the Packers and Detroit Lions last season, he winds up with a season-ending injury in his first game back with the green and gold. Now, with the draft finished, Havner will be competing with five other players at the tight end position: Finley, Quarless, Crabtree, Williams, and Taylor. The Packers did extend him a low tender before the lockout, so there is some interest in having him back. Just don’t be surprised if he doesn’t make the cut again this year.

#74 Marshall Newhouse, G/T

Type of Injury: Back
When Injured:
Practice, December 2010
Impact for 2011:
Low – According to some sources, 2010 fifth-round pick Marshall Newhouse is considered to be the fourth tackle behind Clifton, Bulaga, and Sherrod. Though they tried to convert him into a guard last season, he seems to lack the strength to play the position. This could pull him out of the running for the left guard position, and sitting at fourth tackle reduces his impact on the team significantly.

#34 Anthony Levine, FS

Type of Injury: Undisclosed
When Injured:
Practice, January 2011
Impact for 2011:
Low – There’s not a whole lot to know about Anthony Levine. Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2010, he spent the year on the Packers’ practice squad. His injury has been undisclosed, and he is currently signed to a reserve/future contract. Given his limited experience and the group of safeties ahead of him, Levine likely won’t be making much of a difference upon his return.

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Chad Toporski, a Wisconsin native and current Pittsburgh resident, is a writer for AllGreenBayPackers.com. You can follow Chad on twitter at @ChadToporski

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14 Responses to “Bringing in the Cavalry: A Look at the Packers Injured Reserve”

  1. Ed Schoenfeld says:

    Very nice summary. Thanks for putting it together, Chad.

    Personally, I’d rate the expected contributions from Brad Jones, Chillar and Anthony Smith a little higher. Jones has significantly better pass rushing skills over any OLB besides Matthews. While he still needs to show that consistently, he has the best chance of anyone to become that bookend opposite CM3. Chillar is probably the #3 ILB after Barnett – I can’t think they would let both experienced backups go at the same time. That said ILB would be a great position to pick up a mid-level FA. Anthony Smith may be just the #4 safety, but he *is* the #4 safety on the roster. I’d hate to see us have to rely on a kid like Levine or some converted CB (Bush or Underwood) in that spot.

    I do think we will (sadly) say goodbye Havner

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    • Chad Toporski Chad Toporski says:

      I can see where you are coming from with those three.

      I do think they’re going to want to look at some ILB free agents. Chillar has a good chance of being on the team this year, but I don’t see him being worth the $2.7 million in 2012.

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  2. Ed Schoenfeld says:

    That should read “say goodbye to Havner”, but only after camp.

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  3. [...] coming off injured reserve are scrutinized by Chad Toporski of [...]

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  4. Ron LC says:

    Thanks for the good analysis Chad. I think Dom should move Barnett outside, He won’t like it but he is mcuh better suited for the outside. His straight ahead ability is low for a MLB. His speed and lateral movement is very good. It’s time to see if he is a real team player. He is not a true MLB in the 3-4. No way!

    It’s a nice problem for the Packers to have that many guys coming back from the IR. That could allow some trading options put the Pack up with NE in the draft.

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    • Chad Toporski Chad Toporski says:

      Thanks, Ron. I’m not sure if moving Barnett outside would work, but I’ll admit that I’m not really knowledgeable in what the differing physical demands are for each position.

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    • Lucas says:

      Nick doesn’t have the flexiblity to get around the corner, the toughness, nor the ability to shed blocks to play OLB. He is strictly an ILB in the 34 and 43, or possibly an OLB in the 43. He really doesn’t have the skill set to be successful. Nick is simply too stiff. Oh, I know the response. “Give me Barnett at OLB over any of the guys we have now.” Nope. The other guys are better on the outside.

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  5. Chris K says:

    Good article!

    I’m counting 4 starters: 2 on offense(Grant/Jermichael) & 2 on defense(Burnett/Neal) that will be starting *THIS YEAR*.
    Also counting 3 backups on Defense(B.Jones/Chillar/J.Harrell-assuming he makes it out of training camp healthy) & 1 backup on Offense(M.Newhouse).
    Most importantly, other than Newhouse(b/c I believe T. Lang will start), I could see them ALL contributing this year and that sure is ALOT of help-reinforcements!!! I definetely think this will keep this team invigorated with a couple fresh faces looking to contribute in a bigger way, in fact, I think this could be one of the big storylines this year the way this group produces…

    A couple things, I am one of those that believes Zombo will start at OLB opposite Clay. Dom Capers didn’t have to go out of his way to speak about him this offseason yet he did and I see him taking off next year(I dont think 7-10 sacks in unfair to ask of him in that place next year!). If you take a look at his production when he was in last year and he’s a guy who when battling through injurie/s can still produce- my vote’s for Zombo!

    I think the real interesting thing is WHO is gonna be that darkhorse candidate this year that shocks & makes this squad… Will it be one OR MORE of the late round draft picks: TE-R.Taylor(7th), DE-L.Guy(7th), OLB-R.Elmore(6th), G-C.Shlauderaff(6th) or ILB-DJ.Smith(7th)? Or maybe a first year guy such as T-C.Campbell, CB-J.Gordy(my vote), or WR-C.West?!

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    • Chad Toporski Chad Toporski says:

      Thanks, Chris, and I agree with most of your thoughts on who will be starting. Although, I still feel that while Zombo is ahead of Walden, Jones still gets the edge as ROLB.

      Interesting question about the “dark horses.” I’ll have to give that a little more thought.

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      • John Rehor John Rehor says:

        The position battle I am most interested in this year is OLB opposite Matthews. I really like Walden-that Chicago game last year he showed a nasty streak, which was something I never really got from Zombo. And that is not a knock on Zombo-to go from UFA to starter is a great story.Add Jones to the mix, and I will relish the battle that is about to commence.

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  6. PackEyedOptimist says:

    My personal take on the OLBs, is based on how CM3 has missed games both years with his hamstrings: I’d prefer to have an experienced, solid, mjulti-skilled backup for him. That is Jones. Then you start Zombo on the right, and whoever shakes out (Walden or Elmore probably)is his backup.
    Dark Horses: I think Schlauderaff has a decent chance to make this team. I don’t see Gordy making iy, because I think House will be a good addition.

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  7. PackEyedOptimist says:

    My biggest concern going into this year, is the DL. We lose Jenkins, Harrell and Neal are injury-scary, Pickett is aging, and Wilson and Wynn have questions in my mind. BJ is the only “sure” thing, and he plays a position where an injury can easily take you out for the year. I hope TT picks up some free agents at DL.

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  8. Tarynfor12 Tarynfor 12 says:

    Why is B.Jones considered to be the OLB along with CM3.Barnett cannot stay healthy as an ILB and we are ready to move on from him,yet Jones at OLB has done… if not less than Barnett… and he is almost being named the starter.
    IMO,Zombo shows and has shown a great learning mentally and physically to take that role in the Capers constant change up scheme.
    Brad Jones is the Finley on defense,prove you can give a solid year.

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  9. Jim says:

    Cool article, enjoyed it. I agree that Jones has the best shot at the “starter” position but depending on the situation I bet at least 2 of the 3 will see a good amount of playing time. Really hope Finley lives up to the hype/doesn’t get injured.

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