Packers LBs must slow down Jets' strong ground game

Posted Oct. 27, 2010 @ 2:26 p.m.
Posted By Dan Arkush

Each Wednesday throughout the season, we identify one Packers player, coach or area of the team that is most under the microscope. This week, with the Packers set to take on the highly regarded Jets on the road, the team's revamped LB corps is the choice.

Get your pencils and scorecards ready for the following changes that have been made to the turnstile that doubles as the Packers' LB corps.

Exit Nick Barnett, who lasted four games before being lost for the season with a wrist injury; Brady Poppinga, who Tuesday joined Barnett on injured reserve with a season-ending knee injury; and Maurice Simpkins, who primarily contributed to special teams.

Within the last two days, enter Diyral Briggs, who in effect replaces Poppinga; Matt Wilhelm, who in effect replaces Simpkins; and Erik Walden, who was added to the mix Wednesday morning after playing a couple of games earlier this season with the Dolphins.

As a result, what Green Bay will have in store for the Jets at linebacker this Sunday are the following four inside LBs (starters Desmond Bishop and A.J. Hawk, Brandon Chillar and Wilhelm), the following four outside LBs (starters Clay Matthews and Brad Jones, Frank Zombo and Briggs) and utility man Rob Francois, who can play all four LB positions.

It would not be a shock if every one of these Packers ’backers is pressed into service to at least some extent against the Jets' second-ranked ground game, featuring a rejuvenated LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene.

With Hawk and Bishop, in particular, forced to work overtime, a Packers run defense that was ranked No. 1 last season is currently ranked only 23rd after giving up a combined 346 yards rushing in the past two games, including a season-high 196 last Sunday night against Adrian Peterson and the Vikings.

For the Packers to have any shot in this game, their linebackers must do a much better job stopping the run and also probably have to come up with at least a couple big plays like the huge interceptions they got from both Hawk and Bshop in Week Seven.