The Packers injury problems are seemingly endless. Although Green Bay boasts an 8-3 record with a three-game division lead at this point, they have done so without many key players. On Sunday against Minnesota, those problems only got worse as they lost standout OL Elgton Jenkins to a season-ending ACL tear.
However, there is possible hope on the horizon. A few key players with uncertain timelines, still, could return at some point down the home stretch of the season. Running back Aaron Jones is still questionable for this week’s Sunday night game vs. the Rams. There is hope he could be available for this game. With the bye week coming up, the Packers may give him that extra week of rest to get him as healthy as possible. LT David Bakhtari, CB Jaire Alexander, and EDGE Za’Darius Smith are players we could see back at some point this season. Let’s take a look at which injured player do the Packers need back most?
With Elgton Jenkins lost for the season, the return of Bakhtiari is that much more important. We still haven’t seen the All-Pro this season. It seemed that a few weeks ago when he returned to practice, that the Packers were getting him back sooner rather than later. That timeline is now being pushed back, but there is now hope Green Bay can get him back in December. ACL injuries and recoveries and different for everyone and the recovery timeline just depends on the athlete and their progress.
On Tuesday of this week, he underwent an arthroscopic knee surgery. According to NFL media, Bakhtiari is “feeling much better”. The Packers will rely on reserve tackle Yosh Nijman for at least one more game. After Sunday’s game vs. the Rams and the bye week following, there are rumblings that Bakhtiari could make his season debut on December 12 against the Bears. The Packers offensive line has not been elite, but has held up well given all the injuries piling up this year. Getting D-Bak back will give that unit a major boost down the stretch of the season, as he protects Aaron Rodgers’ blind side.
The Packers secondary has held up remarkably well during the long period of Alexander’s absence to this point. However, after getting torched by Justin Jefferson of the Vikings on Sunday, his absence was felt greatly and is very evident at this point. Kevin King got exposed by Adam Thielen and rookie Eric Stokes, despite having a great rookie year, still lacks the ball skills required to make plays on passes.
Jaire Alexander is a lockdown corner when he plays, but we haven’t seen him since his AC joint injury back in Week 4. Green Bay has liked the progress Jaire has made, but the possible return is not imminent. On Thursday, November 11, coach Matt LaFleur said, “It’s going good, but it’s still a long way out.” Alexander and the Green Bay staff passed on the surgical option in hopes that the healing process will go well with time, and he will be healthy enough to return for the last stretch of the season.
Jaire is the injured player that I believe is the most important and the Packers need him back the most. Green Bay will face many number one superstar wide receivers in the near future and in the playoffs, and they will need Jaire to take those responsibilities. This will solidify King on the bench, and allow the rookie Eric Stokes to lock up the opponent’s number two receiver. Jaire Alexander returning improves the Packers’ Super Bowl chances by a lot.
We have not seen Z all season. When he is on the field, he is an absolute difference maker. Since signing with the Packers in the 2019 offseason, he has been nothing but productive. Smith racked up 26 combined sacks in 2019 and 2020. Za’Darius was dealing with a back injury during preseason. He tried to make it work Week 1 against New Orleans and that is the only game he has played this season.
On October 1st, he underwent a back surgery that was then reported he would be out “an extended period of time”. He has hinted at a possible return via a tweet from his Twitter account on October 29th. That day, he also replied to an account on Twitter, claiming he feels like a “new man”. Z seems to be getting closer to a return, but that timeline is still very uncertain. Putting him opposite Rashan Gary and/or Preston Smith will boost the pass rush immensely. Smith will most likely not be an every-down player when and if he returns. But one thing is certain, when he is on the field, he is an absolute game wrecker at times, and his presence is always felt. The Packers would love to get him back even if just for the playoffs.
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