Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Out For The Year: Replacing Brandon Saine and D.J. Smith

While the Green Bay Packers looked very impressive in their win on Sunday over the previously undefeated Texans, the victory came with a cost: backup RB Brandon Saine and starting LB D.J. Smith were lost for the season due to knee injuries. Word on CB Sam Shields and LB Nick Perry is pending until later this week.

If Saine played at all on offense, I must have blinked and missed it, but he was a key player on special teams.   Mike McCarthy was complimenting rookie LB Terrell Manning as a special teams player on Monday, so Manning might be playing a larger role in the future. Though Saine didn't play on offense, his loss, in addition to the temporary absence of RB Cedric Benson and the ongoing limited playing time for RB James Starks (turf toe), has made depth a problem at running back. So the waiver claim of RB Johnny White seemed necessary.

White was a 5th round pick in 2011 and probably deep behind Bills' RB Fred Jackson and RB C.J. Spiller on the depth chart, which could have made him expendable in Buffalo. He hasn't done much as a pro, but he was a jack-of-all-trades in college at North Carolina, playing cornerback and wide receiver in addition to running back, so he could fit the role as backup, scout team player, special teams performer quite nicely. The Packers usually have three running backs active each week, so White might get thrown into the mix at special teams right away until Benson returns.

There's been no roster move to replace Smith yet, but as soon as the Packers want to add someone to the 53-man roster, Smith's certain to go onto I.R. They don't need to make a move immediately because Manning was not active against the Texans, so he'll take a backup role and probably play on special teams against the Rams.

Veteran LB Brad Jones spent the offseason preparing to play inside linebacker, which seemed unnecessary a few months ago and now looks like a wise move. Smith got off to a slow start with a poor game against the 49ers, but he'd been looking a lot better over the past few weeks. If Jones was a better player then he would have already been ahead of Smith, but I'm not expecting much of a drop off. I'm also expecting to see a lot more of LB A.J. Hawk; Smith had been playing ahead of Hawk on some of the Packers nickel and dime packages this season.

If Jones struggles, then I'm sure they wouldn't hesitate to give either LB Robert Francois, LB Jamari Lattimore, or Manning a chance (though McCarthy admitted Manning's "farther ahead on special teams than he is on defense.") Losing two inside linebackers (LB Desmond Bishop during the preseason) is a bad thing, but the Packers have a lot of depth to make up for it.


Stroh said...

Don't see any reason to be worried. Saine was completely replaceable on ST by any number of players that weren't game day active. He didn't get any carries and from what I could tell rarely if ever even got snaps on offense. Picking up the RB White will more than provide the support as a RB on scout teams and soon enough on ST too. Pretty much all Saine did anyway was scout looks and ST, so no concerns at RB whatsoever.

Smith while a starter was playing adequately at best. He made very few plays on D. Got a sack that I remember, was a liability in coverage as I expected and was OK vs the run not much more. More than happy to see Jones and especially Lattimore take over his role and see if they can perform better, can't be worse in coverage. I think in the short term they'll use Jones, but given that Lattimore has alot of upside, I think he'll be given every opportunity to earn the starting job at WILB. I think Lattimore just needs to show that he will be assignment sure and he should be able to play better than Smith in relatively short order. Smith had an advantage in scheme awareness since he played ILB last year, while Lattimore played OLB. Lattimore IMO, will be the better ILB next year anyway. Smith is nothing but a backup player from what I've seen, but I think Lattimore has starting ability. Hopefully, it means that Manning will start getting some looks at ILB too, tho IIRC he was more Hawks backup than Bishop/Smiths.

Brandon said...

Lattimore's obviously got some talent or he wouldn't have lasted through two training camps, but I'm not sure what they've got in him. None of them look great to me, but they all seem capable of holding the fort.