With two practice squad elevations made, the Green Bay Packers had to make seven players inactive for their matchup with Detroit in order to be at the maximum amount of 48 players available on game days. Here is what you need to know.
Let’s start with the good news and who is playing. As was reported earlier in the day, Aaron Jones and Christian Watson will be available. Jones will provide the run game with a needed boost but we should see him used in the passing game fairly regularly as well. The Lions have struggled to defend running backs in the pass game.
In Watson’s absence, defenses have played a lot of cover-1 against Green Bay, daring them to push the ball downfield, which Jordan Love has been happy to do. Perhaps his presence will force the Lions out of that look, opening up opportunities underneath and hopefully in the run game. Along with his speed, Matt LaFleur has praised Watson for his ability to take on a variety of roles and make plays at all parts of the field.
Zach Tom was listed as questionable after suffering a knee injury late in Sunday’s game against New Orleans, but will be at right tackle verse the Lions. The Green Bay offensive line, specifically the offensive tackles, have a very difficult matchup with Aidan Hutchinson, who has been one of the most productive edge rushers in football this season, and as Matt LaFleur said, is a ‘game wrecker.’
Also playing is Carrington Valentine, who left the Saints’ game with a biceps injury. With Jaire Alexander out, Valentine will get the start opposite of Rasul Douglas. At receiver, the Lions have Amon-Ra St. Brown, who will see his share of snaps in the slot, likely lining up across from Keisean Nixon. However, the Lions do move St. Brown around, so he will see snaps on the boundary as well.
Without Alexander available, the Packers don’t have a great matchup for St. Brown at cornerback. The Lions typically target St. Brown closer to the line of scrimmage where he can get the ball in space, and quickly, to get him the ball on the move to pick up yards after the catch.
Also in the passing game for Detroit are Josh Reynolds and Kalif Raymond, who Jared Goff tends to target downfield more. Both have been up and down this season. Rookie do-it-all tight end Sam LaPorta has already emerged as a go-to target for Goff. LaPorta can impact the game as a blocker and pass catcher, and will line up across the formation. That type of ability at tight end can create matchup problems for a defense.
Four other inactives were already known, with De’Vondre Campbell, Zayne Anderson, and Elgton Jenkins all ruled out on Wednesday. Along the offensive line, we will likely see Rasheed Walker and Royce Newman lined up on the left side. In addition to Hutchinson rushing from the traditional edge rusher alignment, he has seen more snaps lined up inside this season, which could place him across from Newman.
At linebacker, I would expect Isaiah McDuffie to see the bulk of the snaps next to Quay Walker. The Lions are going to want to run the ball, so these two will have to play key roles in limiting their production. However, with that said, one of the challenges that comes with playing a team like Detroit where the pass game builds off the run is that the linebackers have to be ready for play-action and can’t over commit one way or another.
Also inactive is Brenton Cox, Anthony Johnson, and Malik Heath. Both Cox and Johnson are at the back end of their position groups and as an undrafted rookie and late round pick, they will likely be inactive more often than not this season. As far as Heath goes, with Watson back, and how often the Packers’ tight ends and running backs are used in the passing game, there isn’t a big need for a sixth reciever. Toure and his experience is still ahead of Heath as we’ve seen with playing time the first three games this season.