GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers will be without starting cornerbacks Jaire Alexander and Kevin King for Sunday’s game at the Chicago Bears.
Now, how will the Bears respond?
With rookie quarterback Justin Fields starting the last three weeks, the Bears ran the ball 56.0 percent of the time, the second-highest rate in the NFL over that span. Fields threw 57 passes, 32nd over that stretch, and the Bears averaged a league-low 98.3 passing yards per game. That is 70 less than No. 31 Houston.
However, Chicago’s stable of running backs is the equivalent of Green Bay’s cornerback corps. David Montgomery is on injured reserve, Tarik Cohen is on the physically unable to perform list and Damien Williams is on the COVID list, so Chicago is down to rookie Khalil Herbert and practice-squad promotion Ryan Nall.
So, will the Bears unleash Fields against Green Bay’s injury-plagued secondary? Or will the Bears ride the legs of their backfield leftovers?
“I would expect that no matters who’s in there, they’re going to try running the ball,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said. “Most teams will, especially when you have a young quarterback. But, then again, it’s a division game, so you’ve always got to be ready for unscouted looks or maybe a little wrinkle here or there. Maybe that’s amping up some zone read [for Fields]. But I think that’s one of the guessing games you go into each game with on both sides of the ball.”
After Friday’s practice, LaFleur ruled out King with the shoulder injury sustained last week. Combined with Alexander missing his second game while on injured reserve with his own shoulder injury, the Packers have Chandon Sullivan, Isaac Yiadom, Rasul Douglas and Shemar Jean-Charles on the roster, plus Quinton Dunbar on the practice squad, to join first-round pick Eric Stokes in the lineup.
Stokes is the one sure-fire starter. After that? Sullivan is the team’s slot, Yiadom was acquired during training camp, Douglas was added off Arizona’s practice squad last week, Jean-Charles is a rookie who literally fell on his butt during his one snap last week and Dunbar hasn’t played in a game in almost 12 months.
By career starts, Dunbar has 31 in six seasons, Douglas has 29 in five seasons, Yiadom has 19 in four seasons, Sullivan has 13 in four seasons, Stokes has three and Jean-Charles has zero. So, it’s not exactly an inexperienced group. It’s just not a group with a lot of Packers experience.
“It’s definitely a challenge,” LaFleur said. “Certainly, your playbook gets pared down quite a bit. I think the most important thing is obviously owning your responsibility.”
While Fields is an unproven passer, Allen Robinson and Darnell Mooney are a legit tandem at receiver. As the 11th pick in the draft, the Bears obviously believe in Fields. This seemingly would be the time to cut him loose against a defense down an All-Pro cornerback, a veteran starting cornerback and a Pro Bowl pass rusher (Za'Darius Smith).
Meanwhile, the other question is on the offensive line against a ferocious Chicago defensive front. LaFleur said standout offensive lineman Elgton Jenkins will be a game-time decision. If available after missing the last three games with an injured ankle, he could start at left tackle, where he started the first two games, or left guard, where he earned Pro Bowl honors last year.
“We worked a lot of different combinations,” LaFleur said.
Receiver Malik Taylor, one of their better players on special teams, did not practice on Friday and was added to the COVID-19 list.
For Chicago, Robinson, outside linebacker Khalil Mack and defensive tackle Akiem Hicks are among 10 players who are questionable. Mack didn’t practice all week while Hicks and Robinson made their practice debuts as limited participants. Chances are all three players will be available for this divisional showdown.
Packers Injury Report
Out: CB Kevin King (shoulder.
Doubtful: OT Dennis Kelly (back).
Questionable: OL Elgton Jenkins (ankle), WR Malik Taylor (illness).
Bears Injury Report
Out: TE J.P. Holtz (quad), ILB Caleb Johnson (knee).
Questionable: CB Artie Burns (foot), DB Xavier Crawford (back), KR/WR Jakeem Grant (groin), DT Akiem Hicks (groin), ILB Joel Iyiegbuniwe (hamstring), S Eddie Jackson (knee), OLB Khalil Mack (foot), RB Ryan Nall (ankle), WR Allen Robinson (ankle), DB Duke Shelley (ankle).