Training camp is in full swing. Young guys are flashing and veterans are coaching. One of the most depressing parts about the game of football is injuries. There has been no shortage of injuries in first few days of camp. Some teams have been able to avoid that injury bug. The Green Bay Packers are not one of those teams.
On the fourth day of training camp, the team lost two possible starters from their defense. Fourth-year linebacker Jake Ryan was looking to solidify his role on this team. Ryan was under pressure due to his above average at best play since coming into the league. The former Michigan Wolverine was not known for making the flashiest of plays, but was definitely an important member of the defensive unit.
The second was third-year safety Kentrell Brice. Brice was an undrafted free agent out of Louisiana Tech. Brice has struggled with injuries in his young career. His play during training camps and preseason have had coaches raving about his ability as a playmaker. However, due to the injuries, these aspirations have failed to manifest themselves into anything substantial.
Both players suffered apparent leg injuries. Ryan’s injury appeared to be knee-related and later reports have hinted that Brice’s was ankle related. Ryan’s injury appears to be the more serious of the two. Brice returned to the sidelines of the practice field for the following practice to observe. However, for both players, we are all waiting for further testing and confirmations.
Following the injuries, there was immediate speculation as to how the Packers would address the injuries. Would the Packers let their young players step up into more significant roles? Would the team go out and sign a veteran to fill the void left at the positions? According to ESPN’s Jason Wilde, Brian Gutekunst has offered his insight into the situation.
#AsExpected, Oren Burks gets Jake Ryan’s reps at inside linebacker and Josh Jones on the field at safety where Kentrell Brice had been. #Packers GM Brian Gutekunst said this morning they were going to be patient with young guys and not go after vets at those spots.
— Jason Wilde (@jasonjwilde) July 31, 2018
For the time being, the Packers are going to let their young guys show the coaching staff what they’ve got. There will remain the possibility that the team could add one of the many quality veteran free agents remaining at both positions. The safety group is a bit deeper than the linebacker group with the likes of Eric Reid and Kenny Vaccaro remaining unsigned.
If Ryan’s injury is season-ending, as it is thought to be, it could lead to opportunities for several players. Players like Greer Martini and Marcus Porter would benefit from the potential extra roster spot. It is likely that neither would see significant reps on the defensive side of the ball, but would be significant contributors on special teams. 2018 third round pick Oren Burks will look to capitalize on the extra reps he will get from Ryan’s absence. Burks has had high expectations from both evaluators and the fans since being drafted back in April. Josh Jones, who has been experimented with as a situational linebacker, could also see some reps at the position.
Jones is also going to see more time because he will get Brice’s reps in the defense. The biggest benefactor (someone has to be) of both of these injuries is Josh Jones. Jones, who was already slated to have a significant role on this team in 2018, will become one of the team’s most significant members of the defense.
Ultimately, new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine will have to get creative with the personnel that he has. This shouldn’t be a problem considering that is what he does best. Pettine has made a reputation of taking a hodge-podge group of guys and putting together successful defensive campaigns. I believe that is one of the primary reasons for his hiring in Green Bay and I have full confidence in his ability to put together a cohesive unit of young defenders.
Green Bay is no stranger to significant injuries. In fact, it has become almost laughable to fans. Nearly expected even. But, this is the NFL. Injuries will happen. Teams that make deep playoff runs are usually the ones who are able to stay the healthiest. The key to success is by operating under the “next man up” mentality. Players have to step up. Coaches need to adapt. Those are ultimately the keys to succeeding in the NFL.