Could Whitney Mercilus’ Surprise Return Be Key Packers X-Factor?

Whitney Mercilus, Packers
NFL Analysis Network

The Green Bay Packers earned the No. 1 seed in the NFC, so that means that they will have home-field advantage throughout the postseason. It also meant they were the only team in the conference to get a bye and it is something that seems like it is going to benefit them greatly. Green Bay held practice this week and they are getting a ton of reinforcements back that have been sidelined for extended periods of time because of injuries. One of them is Whitney Mercilus.

It was believed that Mercilus was lost for the season when he tore his left biceps in the game against the Seattle Seahawks on November 14th. It was only his fourth game with the Packers following his release from the Houston Texans.

He was designated to return this week, only 60 days after the injury occurred and could be in the lineup for their divisional-round matchup next week. It would be a major boost for the Packers’ defense to get him back in the fold, as teams can never have enough pass rushers.

While the injury is one that would normally knock a player out for the remainder of the season, especially when suffered so late into it, Mercilus was confident he would be back.

“He’s been saying since the night that he got hurt, he’s like, ‘I’m going to be back. I’m coming back. I promise you, I’m coming back,'” Packers defensive coordinator Joe Barry said Thursday. “He’s worked his tail off to get to where he’s at, [but] yes, I was completely surprised that it was as early as today. It was great to have him out there.”

The Packers and their fans only got a glimpse of what Mercilus could bring to the table. He could be a difference-maker for Green Bay, as he will bring an added boost to the pass rush that they were not expecting to have.

This wasn’t an opportunity that Mercilus was going to pass up. He came to the Packers with one goal in mind and that was to win a Super Bowl.

“Trying to get a championship,” he said upon his arrival in Green Bay. “So the best option, I thought, was coming here with the winning mentality.”

The team’s pass rush was better this season, but they will certainly benefit from having Mercilus back in the fold. He isn’t the only pass rusher that could be a return, as Za’Darius Smith could also be back.

Smith played 18 snaps in the season opener and has not taken the field since as he underwent surgery on his back. He will also help bolster the pass rush along with Mercilus.

In addition to those two players, the Packers could also have Jaire Alexander, Randall Cobb and Billy Turner back in the lineup as they all participated in at least a portion of practice this week. David Bakhtiari and Josh Meyers both returned last week to help the offensive line after extended absences.

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