Packer’s fans can complain all they want about the porous offensive line or Green Bay’s notoriously susceptible defense, however, after today’s 23-10 loss in Minnesota, the sky has truly fallen. It appears that Rodgers’ season may very well be over due to a broken collarbone from a clean hit by Minnesota LB Anthony Barr. Brett Hundley didn’t exactly inspire confidence in the heart’s of Packer fans either, as he threw for three interceptions. While it may appear that Green Bay is in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time since 2008, there is hope for Packer Nation that starts with two second-year budding stars on the defense…
LB Blake Martinez: Martinez continues to show week in and week out that he is a perfect example of the “second year jump” that McCarthy preaches each year during the offseason. After an up and down rookie season, Martinez has taken a massive leap forward and is becoming the playmaker that was expected of the linebacker that wore his #50 before him. Martinez continued his dominant start to the season with 11 tackles, including two for a loss, and one pass defensed that was picked off by CB Damarious Randall. In order for the Packers to be in playoff contention for the 9th straight year, Martinez must continue to make plays as the offense will now be much more limited with Hundley at the helm.
DL Kenny Clark: Clark is quietly yet quickly becoming a key player for this defensive line, and when paired with fellow defensive lineman Mike Daniels is a real force to be reckoned with. Clark put up six tackles this week, with one for a loss, and consistently seemed to stop the Minnesota tailbacks dead in their tracks on the line of scrimmage if he could get his hands on them. Clark was also responsible for the forced fumble of Minnesota RB Jerrick McKinnon, a play that really shifted momentum into the Packers’ favor during the 2nd quarter and ultimately led to Brett Hundley’s first career touchdown pass. Clark, like Martinez will have to continue his good play to stiffen up the Packer’s defense in order to continue to make a postseason run.
P Justin Vogel: Overall, rookie punter Justin Vogel has actually had a very solid season as the Packer’s latest punter, but he needs to work on his consistency. This was his biggest issue in training camp, and while the Packer’s ultimately took the gamble on him by giving him the punting job, his 26-yard shank early in the 2nd quarter is something he will want to eliminate in order to stick around in the future. Even though this punt gave the Vikings great field position, two plays later Clark forced the fumble on McKinnon and Vogel’s shank did not result in the Vikings going up by more than their seven point lead. Vogel punted five more times on the day and was able to average 43.8 yards per punt even with the shank, showing that he has immense potential as a weapon if he is able to become a more consistent punter.
TE Martellus Bennett: One would imagine that when the Packers signed Bennett to a 3 year, $21 million deal this past March that he would be an asset rather than a liability. Six weeks in, the latter appears to be the case. While there is still time to right the ship, Bennett appears to have an incredible knack to drop easy receptions during the most inopportune times. This was the case yet again today as Rodgers hit Bennett wide open on second-and-nine and Bennett dropped it. Of course, this was the play that Rodger’s went down on and Bennett’s mistakes will be quickly forgotten by many. But Bennett will need to work on his hands and become a reliable target for Brett Hundley in order to justify his contract.
Injuries: Aside from the secondary, where the Packers came into the game missing three of their top four players, the Packers came into this game rather healthy. They did not exit U.S. Bank Stadium that way. In what will be old news by the time you read this, Aaron Rodgers season is virtually lost due to a broken collarbone, this time to his throwing shoulder. The last time Rodgers sustained this injury was during the 2013 season and the Packers were only able to 2-4-1 in his seven game absence. With this being his throwing shoulder, I would tend to think that Rodgers will be held out longer and may only have a chance to return if the Packers make a deep postseason run. In addition to #12, starting offensive lineman Bryan Bulaga, Lane Taylor, and David Bakhtiari all left the game and did not return, leaving the Packers in their worst situation yet in the trenches. Bulaga sustained a concussion and Bakhtiari re-aggravated his hamstring issue, which is absolutely worst case scenario for this offensive line. Just refer to now San Diego Chargers’ CB Casey Hayward’s 2013 season to see how a re-occuring hamstring issue can derail a season before it ever really gets going. On the other side of the ball, CB Quentin Rollins exited the game and did not return, leaving the Packers’ secondary paper thin. If Rollins, Davon House, and Kevin King are out for an extended period of time, look for the Packers to potentially promote practice squad rookie CB Donatello Brown, in addition to QB Joe Callahan, at some point this week to help shore up some of the talent lost in this divisional loss to the Vikings.
All stats courtesy of ESPN.com
Photo courtesy of Brad Rempel, USA TODAY Sports.