'Next man up' showcases Ted Thompson’s eye for talent
Jay Hodgson, Packers contributor
Randall Cobb. Photo: Image by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Once again, it seems like the injury bug has hit the Green Bay Packers.
While already missing left tackle Bryan Bulaga, running backs DuJuan Harris and James Starks, linebackers Clay Matthews and Brad Jones, and defensive back Casey Hayward, the Packers just lost wide receivers James Jones and Randall Cobb and linebacker Nick Perry to injuries during their contest against the Ravens.
While we could lament on the appearance of some sort of injury curse, it won’t make any difference.
The games will go on. The Packers have to field a team on Sunday against the Cleveland Browns.
We’ve long heard the Packers’ mantra, “Next man up.”
Indeed, to field a team next weekend, they will have to rely on reserves coming off of the bench.
This is exactly where Ted Thompson excels. He has built some extraordinary depth.
This team will survive the adversity.
Who can forget the 2010 Super Bowl run? The Packers won the championship with sixteen players on injured reserved.
While some people are beginning to murmur that the current 2013 season is eerily similar to the 2010 season, I disagree.
In 2010, the Packers played their style of football all season.
New faces, but same plays. Same success. Aaron Rodgers made it rain through the sky.
In 2013, the Packers are transforming into a power football team. With Cobb and Jones out, and Jermichael Finley missing a portion of an earlier game, the Packers have adapted their style of play.
They are becoming a power football team.
They have a strong running game and a stout defense. Vince Lombardi would be proud.
They key to this transformation is the depth that Ted Thompson found.
Once Bryan Bulaga went down to injury, David Bahktiari filled in.
Thompson got him in the fourth round of the 2013 draft. That’s a value pick.
It could turn out to be a steal.
He is a mauler up front in the running game and has performed well with keeping Aaron Rodgers upright.
Last year, when Bulaga was again injured, undrafted tackle Don Barclay filled in admirably.
Now, Barclay is a starter on the line making huge holes for running backs. He’s an absolute bulldozer in the running game.
Rookie Eddie Lacy, who many experts pegged as a first-round pick, was taken by Thompson in the second round.
Another steal. Lacy, who was slated to play behind starter DuJuan Harris, was the closer while running out the clock on the Ravens.
In successive weeks, the Packers have now run for 139, 182, 180, and 140 yards per game, respectively. That’s power football.
Furthermore, by taking Lacy in the second round instead of the first, Thompson was able to select defensive end Datone Jones in the first.
His fumble recovery at the end of the first half lead to an ultra important three points against the Ravens.
With injuries to linebackers Clay Matthews, Brad Jones, and Nick Perry, sixth-round draftee Nate Palmer and undrafted free agent Andy Mulumba have picked up the slack.
Who can’t be noticing A.J. Hawk? He’s having some sort of renaissance or resurgence this year.
He’s playing the best football I’ve ever seen him play.
Against the Ravens, Hawk had three sacks, three quarterback hits, and five tackles for losses. He was a one-man wrecking crew against the defending champs.
In other words, he’s living up to the first-round pick Thompson made him years ago. Thompson took a chance on him and restructured his contract several times to keep him around. Packers Nation is glad he did now.
Johnny Jolly, who was out of football for three years, has come back with a fury.
Many teams may have easily written him off, but Ted Thompson gave him another shot.
Jolly’s bringing an infectious nastiness to the defensive line.
All in all, the defense is very stout. Teams simply cannot run on the Packers.
Currently, the Packers rank third in the NFL against the run.
Stop and think about this for for a minute.
The Packers are using low-round draft picks and undrafted free agents as injury replacements. New rookies are leading the way. Veterans have risen above and beyond to do anything it takes to win.
They’re winning in old-school fashion.
There’s a lot of truth to the old adage that a power running game and a nasty defense wins championships.
While I’m not ready to declare the Packers will win the Super Bowl this season, they certainly are playing the style of football that’s conducive to winning a lot of games.
The next time the Packers take the field, you’ll see more power football. Ted Thompson’s eye for talent allows them to do so.
Next man up.
(All statistics are courtesy of ESPN.com)