The NFL has just extended its schedule to 17 games which means that the likelihood of injuries playing a factor in the season has increased.
In 2020, the Packers dealt with several key injuries with Kenny Clark, Davante Adams, David Bakhtiari, Corey Linsley and Kevin King among the starters that missed substantial time because of injuries.
Despite losing these players, the Packers were able to finish the season with a 13-3-0 record and finished as the top seed in the NFC.
Here is a look at the five players the Packers can least afford to lose to injury in 2021. The rankings are based on a combination of the talent of the player, the importance of the position and the depth the team currently has behind the player in question. All of this is subject to change after the draft, possible trades and the signing of additional free agents.
- WR Davante Adams
The Packers have one of the best wide receivers in the NFL in Adams who set a Packers franchise record with 115 catches last season while catching 18 touchdown passes.
Adams has outstanding chemistry with Aaron Rodgers. He uses precise route running and excellent technique to get open.
Behind Adams, there is a big drop off in talent at wide receiver. The Packers have Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Allen Lazard and Devin Funchess but none of them are the Pro Bowl talents that Adams is, at least not at this point in their careers.
The Packers did win both games that Adams missed in 2020, but if Adams were to be injured for a long time, the Packers would most certainly feel his absence.
- OL Elgton Jenkins
Elgton Jenkins is entering his third season in the NFL. The former Mississippi State star earned Pro Bowl honors for the first time last season and if he continues to play the way he has, it will be the first of many such honors for Jenkins.
Early in the season, Jenkins will be the glue that holds the offensive line together. With left tackle David Bakhtiari likely to miss the start of the season due to a knee injury and Corey Linsley now a member of the Chargers, the Packers offensive line will have some adjustments to make before the start of 2021.
Jenkins’ versatility makes him vital to the chemistry of the offensive line. He played guard, tackle and center for the Packers last season and that allows the team to compensate for injuries in the short term since Jenkins can fill in anywhere along the line and play at a high level.
If Jenkins were to be lost, the level of play along the offensive line would be reduced substantially.
- DL Kenny Clark
The Packers lost Clark early last season and it’s not a coincidence that the defense played its best football after the former UCLA star returned to form a few weeks after he returned to the lineup.
Clark can occupy multiple blockers on most plays. He can play the run well and put pressure on opposing quarterbacks from the interior of the defensive line. The Packers don’t have any other proven players along their defensive line who can match Clark’s skill set and talent level.
If Clark stays healthy in 2021 and plays to his potential, the Green Bay defense will be better than it was a year ago.
- CB Jaire Alexander
Jaire Alexander is now one of the best cover corners in the NFL. He reached that pinnacle in his third NFL season. What’s scary is he still has the potential to take his game to another level.
Alexander allows the Packers defense the ability to shut down a receiver on nearly every play and neutralize that receiver’s ability to make big plays.
In addition, Alexander’s confidence and enthusiasm are contagious and help lift the defense.
Kevin King is back at the team’s second corner, but King is better in zone coverage and he’s not suited to be the team’s top cover corner.
Joe Barry’s defense relies on one corner to cover man-to-man while the rest of the defense is predominantly zone. If the Packers were to lose Alexander for an extended time, they would be hard-pressed to find another cornerback on the roster who could come close to being as good in man coverage as Ja’Money.
- QB Aaron Rodgers
There is no doubt that the league’s MVP is the Packers most irreplaceable player on the roster as the Packers head into 2021. Rodgers threw a career-high 48 touchdown passes in 2020 and completed 70.7 percent of his passes. His quarterback rating was an outstanding 121.5 in part because his average yards per attempt went up from 7.6 in 2019 to 9.6 last season.
Behind Rodgers right now, the Packers have former first round pick Jordan Love who has yet to take a snap in a preseason game let along a game that counts. While Love could have a bright future in this league and with this team, he is unproven at this time and would represent a substantial drop off at the quarterback position if he had to play for an extended part of the year.
The last time Rodgers missed substantial team due to injuries, the Packers finished 7-9 after a 4-1 start with Rodgers.
Right now, Rodgers is the engine that makes this offense go and while he certainly doesn’t do that alone, he was the league’s MVP for a reason.
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