Injuries cast grim shadow for defense « Ol' Bag of Donuts

Injuries cast grim shadow for defense

At some point, a unit can only withstand so many injuries.

The Green Bay Packers are not at that point just yet with their defense, but they can likely see it off in the distance.

Wednesday, we learned that inside linebacker Nick Barnett’s wrist injury is much worse than initially thought. Greg Bedard of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported the initial diagnosis for the injury, on Barnett’s right wrist, is that it will require season-ending surgery. ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweeted that Barnett’s season is indeed going to be over.

Others, like ESPN Milwaukee’s Jason Wilde and, of course, the team itself are saying Barnett will get a second opinion. It sounds like that’s going to happen Friday, so there is still hope Barnett can return. While he didn’t comment on it Wednesday, Barnett said after Sunday’s game that he would be able to tape up the injury and play, as the wrist was not broken.

Either way, you have to think Barnett’s out for the foreseeable future with this injury and, season-ender or not, things are looking grim for Green Bay’s defense. With Morgan Burnett out for the year, Brandon Chillar possibly out for the year (or at least a good long while) and the Barnett situation, the Packers are already down three starters. That’s not even mentioning Nick Collins’ knee injury, which he said may sideline him this week.

Did I mention there’s still 12 games to go in the regular season? ‘Cause that’s kind of important. 

On the brightside, two of the three injuries have hit the Packers in the area they were deepest on defense. Better to have this happen at linebacker than defensive line, for example. For now, it’ll be A.J. Hawk and Desmond Bishop manning the inside spots for Green Bay. In a way, it’s funny that it’s come to this, as Hawk and Bishop are both players with much to prove, players who are definitely in “make or break” situations with this team.

We all know about Hawk’s contract situation for the future, so let’s skip over that. For Hawk to be effective as a starter, he simply must be solid. At this point, asking for anything more seems rather silly. Is he capable of hitting that level? Maybe. He’s decent enough against the run, for the most part. But, being an every-down player now, Hawk is going to have to find a way to take better angles on plays, one of his biggest flaws. He’s also a massive liability in coverage and brings little as a pass-rusher.

As we learned in 2008 when Barnett tore his ACL, Bishop – who’s spent no shortage of time shooting his mouth off about his abilities – is capable of making some seriously big-time plays. On the other hand, he’s capable of whiffing on some fairly basic plays. Quite honestly, it’s hard to say much more than that. Bishop’s boom or bust playing style was seen while playing in the old 4-3 scheme, after all. He’s seen almost no time inside in the 3-4 scheme, so he is a great unknown, as of now.

What is known is that these are two players who clearly feel they should be on the field as much as possible, despite consistently underwhelming results (Hawk) and a complete inability to crack the field (Bishop). Unless we get better-than-hoped-for news regarding Barnett, that’s going to happen.

Here’s your chance, fellas. It’s likely your last.

-Chris Lempesis

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