Cullen Jenkins Likely To Miss Thursday’s Game
The 2010 season begins with high expectations for a Green Bay Packers defense that finished last season ranked No. 2 overall in yards allowed. However, in two exhibition games this season, the Packers defense has looked less than stellar. Many attribute the slow start to the “vanilla” scheme employed by defensive coordinator Dom Capers. Specifically, Capers has been reluctant to blitz or give opposing teams any indication of what the Packers defense may look like once the regular season begins.
Regardless of the bland scheming, I don’t think all of the starters have even had a chance to practice together, let alone play in a game. They haven’t played together because of the injuries that are beginning to mount for a defense that lacks quality depth at many positions.
The list of injuries continues to grow, led by the team’s best pass rusher, outside linebacker Clay Matthews, who has been hampered by a hamstring injury. His counterpart, outside linebacker Brad Jones, has missed significant practice time due to back and shoulder injuries, and middle linebackers Nick Barnett and A.J. Hawk have been sidelined at times for knee and ankle issues, respectively. In a 3-4 defense that relies on its linebacker corps to not only pressure the quarterback, but also to drop back into coverage, injuries are beginning to take a toll on the defense as a whole.
Aside from Justin Harrell’s back occassionally tightening up, the defensive line has stayed relatively injury free. Until this week. Defensive end Cullen Jenkins, the only starting defensive lineman from last season who will return to play the same position, injured his calf in practice on Monday. Head coach Mike McCarthy characterized Jenkins injury as a “calf strain” and said the veteran undrafted free agent out of Central Michigan will be a “long shot to play” in Thursday’s game.
Cheesehead TV’s Brian Carriveau noted that rookie second-round draft choice Mike Neal has taken Jenkins’ place in the lineup and will likely make the start on Thursday against the Indianapolis Colts. Mike McCarthy told reporters on Tuesday that the starters will play at least the first half.
In terms of the exhibition season, the third game means the most. The starters will play for at least a half and the Packers defensive unit will be tested by a talented Colts offense. I’m not saying a half of football in the preseason will determine the outcome of an entire season, but it should give the Packers defense a pretty good idea of where they really rank among the league’s defenses.