Packers Possibly Without Kenny Clark v. Run Heavy Ravens

The Packers' Kenny Clark (97) sacks Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford.Xxx Apc Packvsrams 1128211496djp Jpg Usa Wi
The Packers' Kenny Clark (97) sacks Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford.Xxx Apc Packvsrams 1128211496djp Jpg Usa Wi /

The Green Bay Packers could be without Kenny Clark on Sunday against Baltimore. Matt LaFleur informed reporters on Thursday that Clark was placed on the reserve/COVID list.

If Clark is vaccinated, he could potentially return for Sunday’s matchup if he has back-to-back negative tests 24 hours apart. If he is unvaccinated, he will be away from the team for a minimum of 10 days.

Clark has been putting together perhaps his best season to date, dominating opposing offensive lines for much of the season. Among all interior defensive linemen, Clark is tied for third in total pressures, according to PFF ($$), and he ranks 18th in total run stops—or rushing plays that result in a “loss” for the offense.

Clark has been a key cog behind Green Bay’s success on defense. Although not dominant, the Green Bay run defense is yet to allow a 100-yard rusher this season and is doing so while playing with lightboxes. Not to mention that the best way to alter a play from the get-go is to apply a strong push up the middle—which Clark often does.

It goes without saying, but there is no replacing Clark. Instead, it’s going to take a group effort to try to mitigate his loss as much as possible. Fortunately, Green Bay has seen elevated play from Dean Lowry and Kingsley Keke, but being productive with Clark lined up next to you compared to doing it without him are two completely different things.

LaFleur also added that rookie TJ Slaton will have to play a significant role on Sunday. We’ve seen flashes from Slaton here and there this season, but it’s been over a very small sample size. He only has one game this season with over 17 snaps — 45 against Kansas City — and in eight games, he was on the field for nine snaps or fewer.

I also wouldn’t be surprised to see more of Rashan Gary lining up inside on passing downs to add a more dominant pass-rush presence.

To make matters more challenging, the Green Bay Packers will be up against a Baltimore Ravens team that relies very heavily on the run game. Through 13 games this season, the Ravens are averaging 31.3 rushing attempts per game, which is the third-most in football.

Their 4.6 yards per rush is the sixth-highest average, and their rushing offense ranks seventh by Football Outsider’s DVOA metric. While Devonta Freeman is averaging 4.3 yards per rush, with season-ending injuries to JK Dobbins and Gus Edwards, a majority of the Ravens’ rushing yards have come from quarterback Lamar Jackson, who has 767 rushing yards this season.

Although at this time we still do not know Jackson’s status for Sunday’s game as he nurses an ankle injury, as LaFleur told reporters, whether it’s Jackson or backup Tyler Huntley under center, Baltimore’s game plan will remain relatively the same—meaning, you can expect a heavy dose of the run game.

With Baltimore relying so heavily on the ground game, they lead the NFL in time of possession. If the Ravens are able to find success on the ground, it will lead to fewer possessions for Aaron Rodgers and the offense, and that of course, is something Green Bay will want to avoid.

On the flip side, if the Packers’ offense is able to get off to a fast start and force Baltimore to play from behind, it could take away some of their ability to lean so heavily on the ground game.

The Green Bay Packers have been incredibly resilient this season, overcoming injuries and other stints on the COVID list, but it looks like they’ll have another test on Sunday as they could be without one of their most important players.