Green Bay Packers: 5 Players to Watch Against Jacksonville
The Packers are going in to Week 8 at 4-3. This is not where Mike McCarthy hoped to be at this point in the season.
However, Green Bay is going up against an injury-rattled opponent, who will be without Maurice Jones-Drew, according to ESPN. The loss of their best player will make it difficult to beat the red-hot Packers.
Here are five players to watch this week against Jacksonville.
Clay Matthews is currently second in the league in sacks, next to Houston's J.J. Watt. He has nine sacks on the season, already eclipsing last year's total of six.
With the absence of Nick Perry last week, Matthews was still able to get to the quarterback. If Perry doesn't play this week, Matthews will still be expected to get pressure in the pocket.
Jacksonville has allowed 18.0 sacks already this year, tied for the sixth in the NFL. Since Jones-Drew has already been listed as out, that will put Jacksonville in more pressure to call even more passing plays.
This is a big opportunity for Matthews to add to his sack total. After being hindered by injury last season, it appears that Matthews is healthy and ready to make another Pro Bowl appearance.
Casey Hayward was mentioned last week as one of the pleasant surprises for the Packers.
He has continued to surprise coaches.
Hayward made his first career NFL start last week, replacing the injured Sam Shields. He also grabbed his fourth interception this year, grabbing all four in just the past three weeks.
With the injury to Shields, Hayward has definitely stepped up. The Packers coaching staff has no problem putting him on elite receivers, as seen in the picture above.
The Jaguars are not strong in the passing game, and are not quite sure if Blaine Gabbert will start (via ESPN). Regardless of who starts, Hayward will be looking to grab yet another interception.
Alex Green did not have his best game against the Rams, averaging only 1.8 yards per carry. However, he can make a bigger impact on this week's game.
Green replaced Cedric Benson as the starting running back after Benson was placed on IR with a Lisfranc injury. Since the injury, Green has been asked to take the majority of the carries.
Things could quickly change this week for Green, who will be going against a defense that has allowed 147.3 rushing yards per game. Even if the run doesn't get going for the offense, Green has shown that he can still be an asset in the passing game, catching balls out of the backfield.
With the absence of Greg Jennings, the entire group of wide receivers has stepped up. The player who has capitalized most has been Randall Cobb.
Since the injury, Cobb has been getting considerably more snaps in the Packers' offense. In the past three weeks, Cobb has 19 catches for 273 yards and three touchdowns.
Not only has Cobb been playing well at receiver, the Packers have also been putting him in the backfield. The Packers have occasionally given him the ball out of the backfield, and he has taken advantage of the opportunities.
In only three rushes, he has gained 67 yards.
With the injury to Benson, the Packers are looking to get more creative in the running game. Cobb is a great option to give the ball with his incredible speed and quickness.
With a weak Jaguars pass defense, expect to see Cobb make at least one big play this week, if not a few.
Whoever Replaces Charles Woodson
With the loss of Charles Woodson, the Packers have a big position that needs to be filled for the next month or longer.
Green Bay has yet to announce a starter to replace the injured Woodson, but there are two likely options. The Packers will likely either start M.D. Jennings or Jerron McMillian.
Jennings has an extra year of experience on McMillian, but McMillian has played well when in the game. McMillian intercepted Jay Cutler in Week 2, which was his first career interception.
Regardless of who starts, the Packers shouldn't feel worried on defense. The Jaguars are not a good passing team, and as long as the can contain big plays, they should be fine.