Green Bay Packers Injury Report: Charles Woodson, Clay Matthews Badly Needed

Dave RadcliffeContributor IIIDecember 4, 2012

Nov 20, 2011; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers cornerback Charles Woodson (left) and linebacker Clay Matthews (52) celebrate a play during the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Lambeau Field.  The Packers defeated the Buccaneers 35-26.  Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

When it was all said and done, the Green Bay Packers had defeated the Minnesota Vikings 23-14 on a crisp Sunday afternoon in Lambeau Field.

Despite the 210 rushing yards that Adrian Peterson amassed, the incompetence at the quarterback position of Christian Ponder was enough to keep the Vikings out of the win column and launch the Packers back into the NFC North driver's seat.

Aaron Rodgers' golden right arm was about as accurate as could be, and it didn't hurt to finally have an effective running game, with James Starks and Alex Green combining for 124 yards and 4.59 yards-per-carry.

That balance on offense is something the Packers so desperately need, but so is the return of Charles Woodson and Clay Matthews among others from the inactive list.

While a win is a win, it certainly didn't come as easily as one would expect. If it hadn't been for an inexplicable blunder by Ponder early in the second half that resulted in a Morgan Burnett interception in the end zone, the Packers could have very well found themselves in an 11-point hole.

The amount of yardage Peterson gained is concerning for a number of reasons, the most pressing of those being how Minnesota doesn't possess an aerial attack. All Green Bay needed to do was zone in on the run, and yet Peterson still ran amok, torching the Packers' front seven while missed tackles plagued the entire defense.

One thing is for certain—Clay Matthews and Charles Woodson know how to tackle, and don't forget about the absence of C.J. Wilson (knee), who leads all defensive linemen in sacks despite missing parts of the last two games.

Something else Matthews and Woodson know how to do, even though it isn't well documented, is help stop the run, even if they aren't usually the ones in on the tackle. 

Of course, Woodson's return has been coveted because of his tenacious ball hawking skills. Matthews' ability to rush the passer is also a trait the defense has been without lately, but believe it or not, those aren't exactly the areas Green Bay needs the most help at the moment.

The Packers only managed to get to Ponder once all game—a knockdown courtesy of Mike Neal—but that was in large part due to the focus on stopping Peterson and the lack of dropbacks for Ponder.

In Green Bay's previous two games, the defense managed a combined six sacks of the quarterback.

Defending the pass has been a strength of this team since coming off the bye week. Matthew Stafford, Eli Manning and Ponder combined to complete a staggering 47.9 percent of their passes, and the secondary has picked off four passes during that time span.

Throwing Woodson back into that secondary mix certainly won't hurt, especially since defensive coordinator Dom Capers likes to use Chuck to blitz—especially with the uncertainty at the safety position opposite of Morgan Burnett.

Pair that with the prowess of Matthews coming off the edge, and more blockers will be forced to commit to these two playmakers, giving the defense a better opportunity to stop the run. And thanks to the encouraging performances of Casey Hayward and Davon House at cornerback, Green Bay can afford to use Woodson more around the line of scrimmage.

There's no question that there are other issues with this team, including on offense, where injuries continue to pile up—right tackle T.J. Lang (ankle) and receiver Jordy Nelson (hamstring) both left Sunday's contest and didn't return, although both injuries weren't deemed to be serious.

Head coach Mike McCarthy said he felt better about Lang's injury, and that Nelson would be "hard pressed to play" this week against the Detroit Lions (H/T Jason Wilde, Adam Schefter). Should Lang be healthy enough to give it a go, that could allow Green Bay to shift Lang back to his natural position of left guard.

The reason? Don Barclay succeeded in his "next man up" role, filling in nicely for Lang, and left guard Evan Dietrich-Smith continues to rack up the penalties and hinder the Packers' offense.

Barclay's emergence could actually improve the offensive line should the undrafted rookie effectively become the replacement for EDS, and with Greg Jennings back and healthy, coupled with the recent improved play of Jermichael Finley and the dazzling Randall Cobb, the Packers should be able to cover for Nelson.

So where do Matthews and Woodson currently stand with their injuries?

Matthews, who injured his hamstring in the game prior to Green Bay's bye week, has already missed more time than projected, but he worked out before Sunday's game and his status needs to be further evaluated moving forward.

The prospects of Woodson playing against the Lions next Sunday night appear much more optimistic (H/T Paul Imig):

Charles ... I would think maybe next week would be my guess there, McCarthy said. If you ask Charles, he's probably pushing to play this week. There's some more testing that you have to do to make sure he's cleared. He's not been cleared yet.

Woodson was expected to miss six weeks, which is exactly the amount of time he's been inactive after breaking his collarbone on Oct. 21. 

All in all, the news is relatively positive moving forward. Even though the Lions game is front and center, it's vital that Lang, Nelson, Wilson, Matthews and Woodson are able to give it a go in two weeks when the Packers play at Chicago in a pivotal game that could decide who wins the NFC North.