GREEN BAY—Last week, the Packers offense had to adjust to life without Randall Cobb and James Jones, and it still put up 31 points.
This week, the adjustments continue without Jermichael Finley but, again, there will be no accepting a letdown. The beat must go on.
“We expect it to,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “We have high expectations for our guys to step in and play. There’s accountability that goes along with being in this locker room, being ready to play, knowing your assignments, and when you get out there, making the plays that are there and being mentally sharp.
“That starts with our mindset and our preparation this week in practice.”
That preparation includes finding a way, collectively, to make up for Finley’s absence. Head Coach Mike McCarthy even said “you don’t replace” a player with such a versatile role in the passing game, which means other tight ends Andrew Quarless, Brandon Bostick and Jake Stoneburner all have to pick up a piece of the slack.
Quarless is the most experienced of the bunch and was the player given the biggest chance when Finley was lost to a concussion on the first series at Cincinnati in Week 3, but things just didn’t click (here's a video recap).
Now further removed from the quad injury that slowed his recovery during training camp from his late 2011 knee surgery, Quarless is looking forward to another shot.
“The way he was playing, I was inspired,” Quarless said of Finley, whose on-field scare last Sunday admittedly shook Quarless up. “That’s one of the things I told him that night in the hospital.
“From breaking the tackles and just the effort, all I can do is try to match it, and I think it starts with intensity. The way he was playing was amazing to me.”
From the sounds of it, the way receiver Jarrett Boykin played in his first NFL start last Sunday didn’t amaze anyone in the Packers locker room. Boykin caught eight passes for 103 yards and his first pro touchdown, but he didn’t catch his teammates by surprise.
“I loved it,” said Jones, who has not been ruled out this week with his knee injury but hasn’t yet returned to practice.
“We knew that was going to happen. ‘Boyk’ is a great player. He showed it in training camp, he showed it last year. I told him before the game, no offense to the guys guarding him, but I said, ‘Dude, be ready, because you’re going to have a big day.’”
Rodgers added that he was proud of Boykin, and he showed how much he trusted him. He tried a difficult, back-shoulder throw to Boykin on the Packers’ first offensive play, and even though they didn’t connect, Rodgers went to Boykin three more times in his next six passes.
“I appreciate a lot him having that confidence in me,” Boykin said. “I’m just going to try to do whatever I can to make sure he still has that confidence in me going forward. As far as whether it’s doing some extra things or just talking to him, seeing where his head is at, picking his brain, that’s what I’ve got to do.”
In many ways, the Packers’ next-man-up mantra began early in training camp, when rookie left tackle David Bakhtiari stepped in for Bryan Bulaga and hasn’t backed down from, nor been overwhelmed by, any challenge.
This week, that challenge is Vikings defensive end Jared Allen, who leads Minnesota with four sacks, including an eye-catching one this past Monday night against the Giants. Allen pushed the opposing left tackle back toward Giants QB Eli Manning, reached around to grab hold of Manning by the jersey, and in essence sacked both players.
“That was really impressive,” said Rodgers, who reiterated the respect he has for Allen and the way he plays the game. “I liked his left-leg wrap there, it gave him some leverage. He’s a talented guy.
“The thing you don’t want to see up there is him doing his hog tie or whatever it is, his cow tie, and raising his arms, because then he’s made a play in the backfield.”
It’ll be Bakhtiari’s job to keep Allen tied up amidst the din of the noisy Metrodome, but Bakhtiari emphasized he has no reason to change his preparatory routine. He has already faced Cincinnati’s Michael Johnson and Baltimore’s Terrell Suggs on the road, and while he wasn’t perfect or dominant, he more than held his own, particularly against Suggs.
“Going through the guys I’ve faced these past five week, six weeks now, it’s just another test. I’m going to have to go out there and compete, and that’s what I intend to do," Bakhtiari said.
“Everyone’s got a blindside rusher that’s going to try to get after the quarterback. That’s what they get paid big bucks to do. No weeks off, and I’ll step up.” Additional coverage - Oct. 23