It sounds cliche to say, but the Green Bay Packers’ bye week is coming at a perfect time. The Packers will have week five of the NFL season off and will use that extra week to pick up the pieces to a very shaky start to the season. While bye weeks never really come at a bad time for any team, the Packers need it now more than ever.
For starters, the injury bug has hit the Packers in two of their most shallow positions on the field, offensive line and safety, and is becoming not only a weak spot on the field, but rather a liability. Entering the season, the Packers put rookie tackle Jamon Meredith on the practice squad, but he was picked up by the Bills in late September after Buffalo had injuries of their own on the offensive line when Brad Butler went down for the season.
The injury left the Packers with three roster players that were capable of playing left tackle in Chad Cliton, Daryn Colledge, and rookie T.J. Lang. When Clifton suffered a high ankle sprain in week two against the Bengals, Colledge had to move to left tackle from left guard, shifting the entire line around. Colledge then suffered a knee sprain against the Vikings, leaving the rookie Lang to play out of position, going up against All-Pro Jared Allen nonetheless.
With the bye week coming, Clifton expects to be healthy enough to suit up against the Lions in week six and Colledge will get extra rest on his knee. Had the bye not come this week, there’s a chance the Packer faithful would have been subjected to T.J. Lang round two, something no one wants to see.
The Packers’ offensive line is hardly tops in the league this season, but getting Clifton back and moving Colledge back to his natural left guard position will do wonders for the line. It will move Jason Spitz back to center and presumably bump Scott Wells out. The bye week also gives the Packers the opportunity to evaluate former tackle Mark Tauscher. Currently a free agent after ACL surgery last season, the Packers have worked him out and will now get an extra week to evaluate him and see if he can help the line out more than the inconsistent Allen Barbre.
With the bye week coming, safety Atari Bigby is expected to use that week to get ready for his return in week six. After a knee injury forced him out of the Packers’ home opener against the Bears, he is hoping to get back on the field after the bye week. His return can not come soon enough as recently-acquired Derrick Martin and Jarrett Bush have, to put it nicely, done a less-than-stellar job manning his position the last three weeks.
The Packers have had to use five-linebacker sets, called the “Big Okie”, where Brandon Chillar plays in the box as a safety. With the return of Bigby, there should be an improvement in the pass defense, where the Packers currently rank 20th in the league.
Other players who have battled injury such as B.J. Raji will also get a full week of rest away from football activities to get their bodies back in healthy shape.
More so than the injuries that will be helped out by the bye week, the week off will help the Packers regroup after four weeks of football that saw them all over the place on many accounts. The offense has had many opportunities to succeed this season, and while pass protection can account for some of those issues, chemistry and timing has been off as a whole. Greg Jennings has failed to break out of his “ugly” slump, posting just five catches and no touchdowns the last three weeks.
Hopefully Dom Capers will go back to the drawing board and film room and realize that a weak pass rush has gotten the Packers defense nowhere. Something needs to change defensively so that the big plays are extinguished and the Packers can get a better pass rush on the quarterback to force errors, much like they did against the Bears in week one.
There is reason to believe the Packers will right the ship with a very favorable schedule coming up. There is a chance the Packers could win their next four games or, at the very worst, three of four. Dates with Detroit, Cleveland, and Tampa Bay are in the near future and it looks like now is the time for the Packers to bust out.
As a whole, the Packers are in good position to re-group, players and coaches alike, and get back to their winning ways with an offense that is clicking and a pressure-filled defense. They will be as healthy as they have been since week one heading into their matchup with Detroit, and hopefully a big win against the Lions will light a match underneath the Packers that propels them into November and December with some confidence.