The Packers have some big-time issues

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) is stopped on the goal line by the Washington Redskins defense in the first quarter of their NFL football game in Landover, Maryland, October 10, 2010.   REUTERS/Larry Downing (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

If you wanted to trace back where the Packers started having issues, go ahead and start with the Monday night loss to the Bears three weeks ago.

That was the game where their troubles were put on full display. They had trouble running the ball, they were undisciplined and they lacked that killer instinct that most Super Bowl contenders have. At 3-2, Green Bay is still in great shape (it’s early yet), but this is a team that is hurting right now in more ways than one.

On the second play of Sunday’s 16-13 overtime loss to the Redskins, tight end Jermichael Finley (who is a huge part of the Packers’ pass-happy offense) suffered a knee injury and was carted off the field. Nobody knows at this point how long he’ll be out, but some are already speculating that he won’t play next week.

Making matters worse, Clay Matthews left Sunday’s game in the third quarter due to a hamstring injury, which affected the Packers’ pass rush for the rest of the game. Donovan McNabb had spent most of the first half running for his life but once Matthews came out, the Redskins were able to chip away at Green Bay’s 13-3 lead and eventually won the game in overtime. If you wanted to know what kind of an impact Matthews has for the Packers’ defense, just pop in the tape of today’s game and compare halves.

Finley and Matthews’ injuries come at a time when Morgan Burnett, Nick Barnett and Mark Tauscher are already out with various aliments. At this pace, Aaron Rodgers will be playing on both sides of the ball in a couple of weeks.

Speaking of which, Rodgers and the passing game continues to sing off key. Rodgers played well again today, but he was plagued by drops and was obviously affected by Finley’s injury. The fact that this team can’t run the ball (Brandon Jackson had 115 yards today, but 71 of which came on one play) doesn’t help Rodgers’ cause.

Things don’t get any easier for the Packers, either. They play a Miami team coming off a bye next Sunday and then host the Vikings before going on the road to face the Jets in Week 8. They host the Cowboys in Week 9 before having their bye in Week 10.

If this team can’t get healthy soon, we won’t be talking about Green Bay the potential Super Bowl team, we’ll be talking about Green Bay the what-could-have-been team.

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Barstool Debate: Should the Packers trade for Marshawn Lynch?

Buffalo Bills' running back Marshawn Lynch runs for a 12-yard gain against Washington Redskins' safety Kareem Moore during the first quarter at FedEx Field in Washington on August 13, 2010.  UPI/Kevin Dietsch Photo via Newscom

Adam Schefter is the latest pundit to chime in on the Marshawn Lynch-to-the-Packers rumors.

Green Bay has to do something at running back, and I think the organization recognizes it. It knows it can’t rely on Brandon Jackson as its workhorse from now through the playoffs, assuming it makes them. Green Bay will continue looking for a trade, and Lynch makes as much sense as anybody. But the problem is, teams have been trying to pry away Lynch since the off-season and so far, Buffalo hasn’t budged.

This has been something of a hot topic of late, so I thought I’d enlist the help of our NFL guru, Anthony Stalter, and try to come to some sort of conclusion about whether or not the Packers should trade for Lynch.

JP: Anthony, these rumors have been out there for a while, and given Buffalo’s situation (sucky) and the fact that they have three pretty good running backs, it makes a lot of sense that they would move him for a draft pick to help their rebuilding process. Lynch is 24 years old, has a career 4.0 ypc, decent hands out of the backfield and has had several run-ins (hit and run, misdemeanor gun charge) with the police. Given the fact that the Broncos gave up a 4th rounder for Laurence Maroney, what type of draft pick is Lynch worth in your opinion?

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Interpreting Mike McCarthy’s comments about Brandon Jackson’s workload

GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 19: Brandon Jackson  of the Green Bay Packers celebrates a touchdown run against the Buffalo Bills at Lambeau Field on September 19, 2010 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the Bills 34-7. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

In the world of fantasy football, there was a bit of an uproar over how the Packers plan to use Brandon Jackson going forward. Here’s Rotoworld’s blurb about the situation:

Packers coach Mike McCarthy and offensive coordinator Joe Philbin have indicated that they don’t see Brandon Jackson as a carry-the-load back going forward.
McCarthy still plans to have Jackson on the field for a starter’s snap-count, but his carries will be limited. Packers coaches don’t trust Jackson’s body to hold up to the toll of 18-20 touches per game, and he’s still too valuable as a situational passing-down back. Barring a trade, Jackson will continue to split touches with John Kuhn and Dimitri Nance. Those who went “all-in” on their waiver wire budget will be disappointed to learn that Jackson is not going to be a reliable RB2.

Here’s what Mike McCarthy actually said, via 540 ESPN Milwaukee:

“Frankly, if you take (a look at) the snaps the way we’ve played here in the past, it has been by committee,” McCarthy explained. “Now, the run game was not because Ryan Grant had the bulk of it, (but) really our plan of how we utilize the running backs as far as how many plays they play in the game is very similar to our approach to the past.

“(Before his injury), Ryan Grant didn’t play on third down all the time. Brandon Jackson (did). I never had an intent – and will not going further – to see Brandon Jackson carry the ball 30 times in a game. It’s a long season. We’re not trying to play one running back 55, 60 plays in the game and have the other two or three sit on the sideline. We’ve never played that way.”

As a fantasy owner who dropped all of his bidding bucks on Jackson after Week 1, I don’t really care if he’s the primary ballcarrier, though it should be noted that he did have the most carries against the Bills in Week 2. I just want him to get the most snaps (at least 60%). He’s going to be on the field on third downs, so when the Packers go into catch-up mode or their two-minute offense, he’s going to see a lot of dump-offs in the passing game. This coupled with 10-15 carries in the running game will make him a solid RB2 in 12-team leagues. That’s the plan, anyway.

There’s nothing that McCarthy said that worries me about Jackson’s forthcoming production. He said he’s not going to carry the ball 30 times a game. We knew this. He’s going to get most of the work, but the other RBs are going to be involved, just like the Grant/Jackson combo that the Packers used over the past couple of seasons.

Packers dealt blow as Ryan Grant expected to miss entire season

GREEN BAY, WI - AUGUST 26: Ryan Grant  of the Green Bay Packers talks with teammate Donald Driver  on the sidelines during a preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lambeau Field on August 26, 2010 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the Colts 59-24. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

It appears as though the Packers have been bitten by the “Stalter Curse,” as FOX’s Jay Glazer is reporting that running back Ryan Grant is done for the season with severe ankle and leg injuries.

I picked the Packers to win the Super Bowl this year in my 2010 NFL Season Preview last week. My partner in crime John Paulsen knew bad news would eventually be coming to his Packers soon thereafter and here it is, right on time.

Grant is expected to be placed on IR, which would leave the Pack with Brandon Jackson as the starter and John Kuhn as the backup. Jackson rushed 18 times for 63 yards in relief of Grant in last weekend’s win over the Eagles. His 3.5 YPC average doesn’t look impressive on paper, but keep in mind that Green Bay was protecting a lead at that point and Philadelphia was loading the box in efforts to stop the run.

Expect the Packers to add a free agent at some point soon. Willie Parker is available after the Redskins released him last week, although he proved this offseason that he doesn’t have much left in the tank at 30. I would expect Green Bay to snatch a back off of some team’s practice squad before signing Parker, but you never know. Keep an eye on players like Ryan Torain, Chris Henry, Ian Johnson, Chauncey Washington and Brandon Minor.

What a blow for the Packers.

Obviously, if you were planning to go after Brandon Jackson before, you really need to go after him now. He’s fantasy RB2-caliber the rest of the way, especially in PPR leagues, since he’s so adept in the passing game. He’s not the inside runner that Grant is, so John Kuhn is likely to get the goal line work until the Packers find someone else to sign. In a blind bidding situation, don’t be afraid to put the whole lot down on Jackson. It’s not often that a pretty surefire Top 20 back is up for grabs at this point in the season.

Ryan Grant has a ‘pretty good sprain’ — pick up Brandon Jackson

Green Bay Packers runningback Brandon Jackson (32) is tackled after a gain by the Philadelphia Eagles Trevor Laws (93) and Trent Cole (58) during the first quarter of their NFL football game in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, September 12, 2010. REUTERS/Tim Shaffer (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s Greg A. Bedard describes the injury:

RB Ryan Grant was wearing a boot on his right foot and has a pretty good sprain. Could not have gone back in.

We won’t know the extent of the injury until later today or tomorrow, but we do know that Brandon Jackson looked pretty good as Grant’s replacement, rushing for 63 yards on 18 tough carries and catching two passes for 12 yards. The yards-per-carry (3.5) numbers aren’t the best, but they don’t tell the whole story. The Eagles defense came to play and the Packers leaned on the former second round pick in both the running game and the passing game to pick up key first downs.

If Grant is on the shelf for any length of time, Jackson will become a RB2-caliber fantasy back, especially in PPR leagues where his pass-catching ability will maximize his value.

Afternoon Update: Grant has already been ruled out for Week 2. Jackson will likely be the top WW pickup of the week.

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