Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Ranking Injured Reserve List for 2010 Green Bay Packers

The 2010 Green Bay Packers suffered 16 season ending injuries on their way to Super Bowl XLV. With so many injuries, I thought it would be interesting to rank the 16 players on injured reserve as a little complimentary Super Bowl XLV coverage. Luckily the Packers suffered most of those injuries early in the season so their back-ups were able to get almost a full season under their belt. There are various accounts of how many games the 16 players on injured reserve missed but the prevailing numbers are that players missed 180 regular season games due to injury with 12 starters missing 86 regular season games. Here are my rankings for the players currently on injured reserve:

#16 - Justin Harrell (DE): Jamal Reynolds must love how much of a bust Harrell has become since it let's Reynolds off the hook. With Brian Brohm no longer on the roster, Harrell stands as general manager Ted Thompson's worst draft pick currently still associated with the Packers.

#15 - Josh Bell (CB): Gave up the touchdown to Mike Wallace as time expired to give the Steelers a 37-36 victory over the Packers the last time the two teams met in Pittsburgh in 2009. Bell didn't even make the opening day 53-man roster this year but the Packers saw enough in Bell to put him on injured reserve as opposed to reaching an injury settlement.

#14 - Anthony Levine (S): There are too many able bodied safeties (Bigby, Burnett, Bush, Collins, Martin, Peprah, and Smith) on the roster for Levine to have a realistic shot of wearing the Green and Gold on Sundays anytime soon.

#13 - Spencer Havner (TE): According to various sources, Havner thought he was the best tight end on the roster in training camp. Havner was obviously wrong because the Packer kept four other tight ends (Crabtree, Finley, Lee, and Quarless) ahead of him. If healthy, Havner has a chance to make the roster in 2011 because he is good on special teams and can fill in at linebacker in a pinch.

#12 - Anthony Smith (S): It still perplexes me why Smith was cut in favor of Aaron Rouse at the end of the 2009 training camp. The only way Smith returns to the Packers in 2011 is if Bigby, Martin, and Peprah are not on the roster.

#11 - Brady Poppinga (OLB): Much like safety, the Packers have a ton of young outside linebackers on the roster (Briggs, Francois, Jones, Walden, and Zombo) so Poppinga's time in Green Bay has most likely come to an end. Furthermore, Poppinga looks better suited to play outside linebacker in a 4-3 defense as opposed to a 3-4 defense. If Poppinga is healthy in 2011 he will be playing somewhere else in a 4-3 defense.

#10 - Marshall Newhouse (G/T): The Packers see Newhouse as a developmental prospect with a chance to be their left tackle of the future. With how well Chad Clifton played in 2010, the only way Newhouse sees the field in 2011 is if the Packers suffer a number of injuries along the offensive line. That means 2012 looks like the year for Newhouse to break into the starting lineup.

#9 - Derrick Martin (S): Much like Jarrett Bush, Martin is a special teams ace that is worth a roster spot for that reason alone despite being a liability on defense. Martin has a chance to make the roster in 2011 but it might come down to whether the Packers want to keep Bigby or Martin. If I were in charge, Martin would get the roster spot over Bigby.

#8 - Brandon Chillar (MLB): When the Packers signed Chillar to a four-year extension that runs through the 2013 season he looked like a perfect combo linebacker and special teams contributor with a secure roster spot. Chillar struggled at outside linebacker in training camp so he can only contribute at middle linebacker and on special teams. With the emergence of Desmond Bishop at middle linebacker, Chillar will have to show ability at outside linebacker in 2011 or possibly look for a new home in 2011.

#7 - Mark Tauscher (RT): The Packers asked Tauscher to rehab in Green Bay and help mentor rookie offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga. Tauscher complied but might have helped Bulaga too much because Bulaga owns the right tackle spot no matter how healthy Tauscher is at the start of 2011. With a hefty base salary in 2011, Tauscher might be informally asked to retire so the Packers are not forced to cut him.

#6 - Morgan Burnett (S): The emergence of Charlie Peprah at safety made up for the loss of promising rookie Morgan Burnett. In 2011 Burnett has to prove that he can stay healthy before the Packers hand him the starting safety spot next to Nick Collins.

#5 - Michael Neal (DE): Showed flashes of being a beast along the defensive line but injuries claimed most of Neal's rookie season. Nose tackle B.J. Raji struggled with injuries in his rookie season and flourished this year in his second season in the NFL. Hopefully Neal can follow a similar path and become a force along the defensive line in 2011.

#4 - Brad Jones (OLB): The emergence of Erik Walden and Frank Zombo shows that whoever lines up at the other outside linebacker spot opposite of Clay Matthews will most likely thrive. When healthy, Jones is a better option than Walden or Zombo but all three players struggled with injuries in 2010. Unless the Packers use an early draft choice on an outside linebacker in the 2011 NFL Draft, whoever is healthiest in 2011 deserves a chance to start opposite Matthews.

#3 - Nick Barnett (MLB): Suffering a season ending injury for the second time in three years has called into question how Barnett fits in long-term in Green Bay. Barnett is signed through the 2012 season with high base salaries of $6 million in 2011 and $6.5 million in 2012. According to various talent evaluators, Barnett does not have the right body type to contribute at outside linebacker. That may be true but the Packers play more exotic defensive packages than the standard 3-4 defense. As a result, Barnett deserves the chance to make the 2011 opening day roster.

#2 - Ryan Grant (RB): The Packers lost Grant for the season in Week 1 in Philadelphia. The Packers’ inability to generate a rushing game in 2010 after they lost Grant for the season shows how valuable Grant is to the Packers' rushing offense. The zone blocking scheme the Packers use favors a running back that makes one cut and hits the hole. Ironically it wasn't till the Packers re-visited Philadelphia in the playoffs that they put together another impressive game on the ground when rookie running back James Starks set a Packer rookie playoff rushing record. The running back depth chart going into 2011 should be: Ryan Grant, James Starks, 2011 draft pick, and John Kuhn. That would leave Brandon Jackson off the roster. I know Jackson has improved his blocking which makes him a good 3rd down back but Jackson showed this season that he is not a starting NFL running back.

#1 - Jermichael Finley (TE): Too tall to cover with a defensive back and too fast to cover with a linebacker, Finley is a physical freak that has a chance to be a real NFL superstar. The Packers geared their 2010 offense around Finley so when he was lost for the season it took the Packers a few weeks to get back in rhythm. It will be interesting to see how the Packers re-integrate Finley in their offensive scheme in 2011.

With how well the back-ups played in place of the aforementioned players, only a handful of the players currently on injured reserve will be on the 2011 Green Bay Packers opening day roster. Here are my current guesses for how likely it is that the 16 players above make the 2011 opening day roster:

No Chance: Bell, Harrell, Levine, and Poppinga

Slight Chance: Havner, Martin, Smith, and Tauscher

Great Chance: Barnett, Chillar, and Newhouse

Lock: Burnett, Finley, Grant, Jones, and Neal

Check back throughout the week for more Super Bowl XLV coverage.