Green Bay Packers
|LB Nick Barnett||Knee||OUT|
|CB Pat Lee||Knee||OUT|
|S Aaron Rouse||Ankle||Questionable|
|OT Mark Tauscher||Hamstring||Questionable|
|S Atari Bigby||Ankle||Probable|
|CB Jarrett Bush||Ankle||Probable|
|OT Chad Clifton||Knees||Probable|
|S Nick Collins||Knee||Probable|
|TE Tory Humphrey||Ankle||Probable|
|RB Brandon Jackson||Ankle||Probable|
|WR Greg Jennings||Rib||Probable|
|DT Johnny Jolly||Ankle||Probable|
|WR James Jones||Knee||Probable|
|DE Mike Montgomerty||Ankle||Probable|
|S Charlie Peprah||Calf||Probable|
|DE Jeremy Thompson||Groin||Probable|
|C Scott Wells||Shoulder||Probable|
|CB Charles Woodson||Toe||Probable|
|RB DeShawn Wynn||Calf||Probable|
|LB Adam Seward||Ankle||OUT|
|RB Jonathan Stewart||Heel||Probable|
Packers Offense vs. Panthers Defense
More than one third of the Packers' roster was on Wednesday's injury report. The training room has become a halftime restroom – the line is longer than ever. 19 players are officially injured on a team barely treading water at 5-6. The previous season-high for Green Bay was 14.
Headlining the casualties is offensive tackle Mark Tauscher.
The nine-year left tackle injured his hamstring early in Green Bay's loss to New Orleans Monday and was replaced by Tony Moll the rest of the game. Tauscher had a MRI done Tuesday, and all signs indicate that his injury is not season-ending. He participated in the Packers' jog-through Thursday, and an upbeat Mike McCarthy said afterward that Tauscher is "definitely making progress."
Hamstring injuries typically strike players that operate in the open field, which makes Tauscher somewhat of an anomaly. Still, it's a serious ailment for a tackle working on the edge. Lower-body strength is essential in fending off speed rushers.
Moll has been hot and cold through his three years with the Packers, filling in as the team's top backup across the line. In 2006, he started at right tackle for five games when a groin injury sidelined Tauscher. On Monday, he fared well against the Saints. While his lookout block on Bobby McCray got Grant tackled for a 5-yard loss – dooming a key second-quarter possession – Moll was solid in pass protection.
And anyways, it's Chad Clifton, not Moll or Tauscher, that will draw the daunting assignment Sunday. Clifton, who is battling bad knees himself, will be matched up on Julius Peppers (9.0 sacks). Moll or Tauscher will take on Charles Johnson (4.5 sacks).
Elsewhere on offense, James Jones' sophomore slump continues to spiral to new lows. That helmetless preseason touchdown against Cincinnati in August is nothing but a faint memory.
Since suffering a torn posterior cruciate ligament against Dallas on Sept. 21, Jones has been in and out of Green Bay's gameday lineup. While Aaron Rodgers has directed the NFL's 12th-ranked passing offense, it's still averaging 48 less yards per game than the Brett Favre-led 2007 offense.
Jones' absence is a big reason why. He's played in only five games, catching eight passes for 69 yards.
Without Jones at 100 percent, McCarthy hasn't been able to go five-wide (or even four-wide) as he did last season. Jones was inactive at New Orleans after reaggravating the injury against Chicago, elevating Jordy Nelson to the slot-receiver role again. Nelson's has had a respectable season (24 receptions, 268 yards, one touchdown) given the 90-degree learning curve rookie wide receivers encounter in the NFL. But on Rodgers' second interception at New Orleans, Nelson did not finish his route and Jason David stepped in for the pick. Jones rarely dogs his routes across the middle.
There is a silver lining, though. Jones has been a full participant at practice this week and should return against Carolina. Good news. The Panthers' defense has only allowed eight passing touchdowns all season, third-best in the league.
Saints Offense vs. Packers Defense
Drew Brees puppeteered the Packers' then-No. 3 ranked pass defense to the tune of 323 yards and four touchdowns. The Saints effectively turned the game into a shootout, and the Packers couldn't keep pace.
As bad as the beating was, the aftermath could be worse. The Packers' defensive backs exited the Superdome more wounded than ever. Heading into a must-win game against Carolina, all five of Green Bay's safeties are on the injury report. All five did practice Wednesday – an encouraging sign – but the unit remains a mystery come game time.
Look for Nick Collins to gut it out. He bruised his knee at New Orleans, but he should be the healthiest of the bunch.
After that, it's a crap's shoot. While the safeties did practice this week, don't necessarily cue "Bang the Drum."
Last season's surprise of the year, Atari Bigby, has been hobbled all season. The aggressive, hard-hitting strong safety missed four games with a throbbing pulled hamstring. Since his return, Bigby's been bogged down by an ankle injury. He has started Green Bay's last three games but is clearly a sad shell of his former self.
On New Orleans' fourth offensive play, Lance Moore snared a short pass from Brees in front of Bigby, juked him like a point guard in basketball and ran 70 yards untouched for a touchdown. The bum ankle has dumbed down Bigby's reaction time to a two-year low.
He admitted as such.
"I feel like the Atari Bigby I know, that I built myself up to be, would have made that play," said Bigby to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "I could always say if a guy was here or there, but I know the real me would have made that play and the real me is going to take the blame."
Injuries are ravaging the Packers' secondary down the totem pole.
Towering second-year safety Aaron Rouse left the Saints game in the fourth quarter with a bad ankle. Like Bigby, the 6-4 Rouse was tormented by Brees and Co. He was partly responsible for Brees' touchdown strikes to Billy Miller and Marques Colston. Toss in Charlie Peprah (calf) and Jarrett Bush (ankle), and the Packers have to be concerned heading into a date with the best big-play receiver in the NFL.
Whereas Lance Moore exploited the Packers' isolated one-on-one coverage with short routes dependent on needle-sharp cuts and timely throws, Carolina's Steve Smith eats up man coverage deep. Smith demands safeties to scurry over the top – usually snagging the ball before absorbing the collision from safeties late to help.
Therein lies this week's chief concern. Can Green Bay's banged-up safeties supply sufficient help to Charles Woodson and Al Harris? Other defenses haven't. In nine games, Smith has four 100-yard outputs. In those breakouts, he's averaging 21 yards per catch. No receiver is faster. No receiver can completely flip the momentum of a game like he does. It takes play-to-play accountability from safeties to keep Smith in check.
His uncanny rapport with Jake Delhomme has persisted despite the lack of a bona fide No. 2 receiver to draw attention. And now Carolina has the NFL's 6th-ranked rushing offense to consume linebackers.
One week after absorbing a cold-hearted haymaker to the jaw, it doesn't get any easier for the Packers' walking-wounded secondary.
Tyler Dunne writes his Injury Report Analysis feature every Friday exclusively for PackerReport.com. E-mail him at email@example.com.