Just as it was in the Packers’ run to the Super Bowl title in 2010, “Next Man Up” has been a prominent theme in this season. That term could bring with it a dose of irony on Sunday.
Jarrett Boykin was cut by the Jaguars following their rookie camp. Shortly after, the Packers signed Boykin for the start of their rookie camp, but no one gave it much thought because the Jaguars were a team desperate for wide receivers and the Packers arguably had the deepest corps of pass-catchers in the league.
No chance, right?
“I’m glad it happened,” Packers Offensive Coordinator Tom Clements said of Boykin having been released by the Jaguars. “The college scouts liked him. When he became available after Jacksonville, we wanted to go after him. After we got him, we liked everything about him.”
Boykin has yet to catch a pass this season, but he could see more action this Sunday than he has to date, based on the status of Jordy Nelson’s hamstring injury. Nelson hasn’t practiced since injuring his hamstring earlier this week; he’s listed as questionable for Sunday’s game, which would leave James Jones, Randall Cobb, Donald Driver and Boykin as the only fully healthy wide receivers for Sunday’s game.
“You’re going to face injuries. We’ve had a rash lately and we have depth. It’s an opportunity for somebody else. We have depth at the wide receiver position. Our approach is there’ll be no drop off. We think we can be productive with the people we have,” Clements said.
That’s a perfect description of what Winston Moss has accomplished with his inside linebackers. A group that lost Desmond Bishop for the season in the first preseason game, then lost his replacement, D.J. Smith, for the season in Houston two weeks ago, continues to pile up tackles and help a young defense move up the rankings.
What would Moss have said prior to the start of training camp if he knew then what he knows now?
“I would’ve said next man up and I felt confident going into the season that we have a lot of depth,” Moss said.
Brad Jones and Jamari Lattimore are the keys to that depth. Their transitions from outside to inside linebacker have been seamless.
The other big factor in what is considered to be improved play at inside linebacker is a resurgent performance by A.J. Hawk.
“Coming out, he was in that 250 (pounds) range. He came close to breaking that rookie tackle record and he was still in that 250 range. I wanted to find out on my own what was going on,” Moss said.
Hawk lost some weight and some hair and found a lot of tackles.
“The biggest thing I see out of him this year is he’s having a lot of fun. For him to be able to play loose, from the standpoint of just flowing with the game, that’s contributed to what I consider a fast start. His tackle stats are up. He’s been effective this year,” Moss said.
Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers looked past the Jaguars’ No. 32 ranking on offense and focused on his expectations for his defense.
“It’s about how we play,” Capers said. “We’ve had two, three very good games. Last week, we didn’t finish. With the number of new guys we have, we need to see them do it for four quarters.”
Capers was the Jaguars’ defensive coordinator in 1999 when the Jaguars challenged to set a fewest-points allowed record.
“After 12 games, we had given up 131 points. We led the league in sacks. We led the league in scoring defense,” he said.
The Jaguars offense Capers’ defense will face on Sunday is last in the league in points scored and six other statistical categories.
“We understand the situation we’re in,” Jaguars Head Coach Mike Mularkey said. “It’s a new staff, new system, new players. I’ve been in this position before, in Buffalo. When I started 0-4 there, I said there’s no 0-4 folder I can pull out of my drawer. We’ve been very sporadic. We’re not as far off as people outside this building view it.” Additional coverage - Oct. 26