There may be some doom and gloom clouds surrounding Green Bay after the Packers’ last-second loss to the Minnesota Vikings. Still, the greater context of the season is crucial when evaluating how to feel about the Pack. Somehow and someway, the Green Bay Packers are 8-3 and fighting for a top spot in the NFC.
They still have a comfortable lead in the NFC North. They still have a three-time MVP at quarterback in Aaron Rodgers, one of the best young coaches in the NFL in Matt LaFleur, and a defense that has flashed signs of being elite.
Despite the team dealing with a plethora of injuries, many of those to impact star players, the Packers are still in good positioning to make a playoff run.
Injuries are starting to pile up, though. These five, in particular, are most concerning.
5. Aaron Rodgers, Quarterback
The toe injury to Rodgers is a recent development, but it’s enough of one to earn some considerable air time from the future Hall of Fame quarterback.
At some point during his quarantine, due to a positive COVID-19 test, Rodgers hurt his toe. He won’t divulge how or why, but he was clear after Green Bay’s loss to Minnesota that it is bothering him.
“I’m just going to have to get to the bye and hope I can get some healing over the bye week,” Rodgers said, via ESPN. “Probably the same schedule next week. Was in a lot of pain. Went in at halftime early to get it checked out. It’s very, very painful. Got stepped on the first half, and that kind of activated all the symptoms I was having. It’s going to be another painful week and next week, and then hopefully start to feel a little better on the bye.”
Rodgers referred to his truncated practice schedule before the Vikings game, a routine that saw him only take the practice field once before the game in a limited capacity.
It sounds like Rodgers is hoping that the upcoming bye week will provide the healing time he needs, but toe injuries are known to be quite a pest in-season. The Packers also have a game against the 7-3 Los Angeles Rams coming up before Rodgers can get to the bye week.
With slow starts having plagued Green Bay’s offense over the past few weeks, Rodgers missing more time on the practice field can’t be a good thing.
4. David Bakhtiari, Left Tackle
David Bakhtiari is considered one of the top left tackles in the game, but he’s been missing from Green Bay’s lineup since last season.
Bakhtiari tore his ACL in practice just days before the Packers clinched the No. 1 seed in the 2020 NFC Playoffs. It was also weeks after Green Bay made him the highest-paid offensive linemen in history with a four-year, $103.5 million contract extension.
The Packers did activate their star left tackle from the physically unable to perform list earlier in the month. Still, he hasn’t seen game action since, and he’s missed a significant amount of practices despite being activated.
The good news is that the Packers are hopeful that Bakhtiari will make it back into the lineup sometime in December, though we’ll have to wait and see if that actually happens.
3. Za’Darius Smith, Linebacker
Pass-rush extraordinaire Za’Darius Smith has been out since Green Bay’s Week 1 loss to the New Orleans Saints. He’s been dealing with a back injury, and though he tried to give it a run to start the season, he’s been gone since.
Smith had been the heart and soul of Green Bay’s defense before his injury, but we haven’t really gotten a chance to see what new defensive coordinator Joe Barry can do with him. He’s coming off a 2020 season that saw him notch 12.5 sacks, 23 quarterback hits, and 12 tackles for loss. The season before that, Smith was a Pro Bowler due to his 13.5 sacks, 37 quarterback hits, and 17 tackles for loss.
He’s one of the best pass rushers in the game, and Green Bay has missed him in a big way this season. Though he was seen observing practice a few weeks ago, there have been no significant updates on his back since.
If the Packers can somehow get Smith back before the end of the season, an already very stout defense could get the boost it needs to get over the hump.
2. Jaire Alexander, Cornerback
Jaire Alexander was putting together a campaign that had him looking like the top cornerback in the NFL. He’s always been great, but he truly elevated his lockdown status at the beginning of the 2021 season.
It was almost poetic that he was injured making a massive tackle against the San Francisco 49ers. That’s just the way he plays, always giving 100%.
Alexander has been out since that Week 3 game. Though several players, including rookie Eric Stokes, have stepped up in his absence, there is no replacing a cornerback who has become known to shut down the opposition’s best wide receiver.
His absence was truly felt in the loss to the Vikings. Second-year wideout Justin Jefferson burned Green Bay for 169 yards and two touchdowns.
The latest update on Alexander came a few weeks ago when head coach Matt LaFleur related that the cornerback is progressing, but he’s still got a ways to go before returning.
1. Elgton Jenkins, Guard/Tackle
The Packers received the worst possible news regarding Jenkins, rubbing salt in the wound that was the 34-31 loss to the Vikings.
Jenkins went down while trying to reach and block a blitz from safety Harrison Smith, and he immediately clutched his knee and had to be carted back to the locker room.
Adam Schefter reported on Monday that Jenkins did tear his ACL and will be gone for the rest of the season. Much like with Bakhtiari’s ACL injury at the end of last season, one has to wonder how much of the 2022 season this will impact for Jenkins as well.
The impact of this loss can’t be understated for the Packers. A Pro Bowl guard last season, Jenkins has actually been playing left tackle as a placeholder for Bakhtiari. The scary thing is, it’s not like he was just willy-nilly placed out there either. Jenkins is so good that he can play both guard and tackle at a high level. Heck, he can also play center or anywhere on the right side of the line. Bakhtiari gets the hype, but Jenkins is easily the best overall lineman not just on the Packers’ roster but also in the NFL.
Losing him for the rest of this season will be hard to stomach, even if Bakhtiari can get back in time for the playoffs. Losing him for any amount of time in 2022 will be heartbreaking for the Packers as well.
“Man, he’s been so versatile for us,” Rodgers said Sunday, according to ESPN. “He can play every position on the line; I think he’s played at least four of them. So, definitely hate to see that happen.”