Defense forced to make adjustments

With Joe Johnson out for the season and a handful of other players limping, the Green Bay Packers may enter Sunday's game at New England without as many as five starters on defense.<p>

Johnson suffered a ruptured left triceps in the second half of Green Bay's 34-21 victory over the Chicago Bears on Monday night. The Packers are expected to place Johnson on season-ending injured reserve today.

The Packers signed Johnson, 30, to a six-year, $33 million deal in the off-season. He got off to a slow start this season in the first three games, but began to get comfortable in the Packers' scheme and make some big plays against Carolina and Chicago.

"It's part of the game," Johnson said of the injury. "But it's a crummy part."

The Packers have been playing without defensive end Vonnie Holliday for the last two games. Holliday injured his pectoral muscle Sept. 22 at Detroit and probably will be out until late November.

It is uncertain if safety Darren Sharper (hamstring) and cornerback Mike McKenzie (groin) will play against the Patriots. McKenzie injured his groin in warmups and was unable to play against the Bears. Sharper, who was playing on a sore ankle, pulled his hamstring while making an interception in the third quarter and was unable to finish the game.

"Sharper's pretty sore," Packers defensive coordinator Ed Donatell said. "He could be questionable. With McKenzie, it's possible he could be out. We just don't know."

To make matters worse in the defensive secondary cornerbacks Tyrone Williams (hamstring) and Bhawoh Jue (hamstring) aggravated previous injuries.

So who do the Packers turn to?

Look for Green Bay to sign a free agent defensive end, possibly Marcus Jones or Ron Warner, formerly with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Jones agreed to an injury settlement with the Buccaneers Tuesday. Jones, a former first-round pick, was placed on injured reserve by the Bucs after injuring his knee in training camp. Warner also is a free agent.

The Packers also may pursue Jared Tomich, who had a solid training camp with the Packers before he was released in the final cutdown.

The Packers probably will play Billy Lyon at "elephant" end in place of Johnson and/or pass-rusher Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila will simply play much more.

Jamal Reynolds' will again get a chance to show that he can make some plays. Reynolds, last year's 10th overall pick of the NFL draft, has been a bust so far with the Packers. He likely will enter games as a pass-rushing end in place of Gbaja-Biamila.

The secondary could be extremely thin if Williams and Jue are unable to play. Monday, the Packers were preparing Terry Glenn on the sideline to play cornerback against the Bears because the unit was so depleted.

If Sharper is unable to play, look for Matt Bowen, who has been filling in for the injured Antuan Edwards, and rookie third-round pick Marques Anderson to start at safety. Tod McBride did an admirable job filling in for McKenzie, and would be the starter again at left cornerback if McKenzie cannot play Sunday. If Williams and Jue are unable to play, Darrien Gordon would get the nod at right cornerback, and the Packers probably would have to dip into the free agent market for backups.


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