GREEN BAY — The Green Bay Packers almost certainly will be without their starting offensive tackles again Thursday night, as both left tackle David Bakhtiari and right tackle Bryan Bulaga were listed as doubtful on the team’s injury report Wednesday afternoon.
Although coach Mike McCarthy stopped short of ruling Bakhtiari (hamstring) and Bulaga (ankle) out for the game against the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field, it’s pretty clear that the Packers will have to cobble together an unconventional offensive line in front of quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Bulaga missed the first two games after injuring his right ankle during an Aug. 23 training camp practice. He made his first start of the season against Cincinnati on Sunday, but departed after 47 snaps after he aggravated the injury. Bakhtiari has missed the past two games after doing the splits at the end of the opener against Seattle and injuring his hamstring in the process.
Compounding the Packers’ problems is that second-year tackle Kyle Murphy, who started the opener at right tackle and the past two games at left tackle, was put on injured reserve Tuesday with a foot injury he sustained against the Bengals. They signed tackle Ulrick John off the Arizona Cardinals’ practice squad to take Murphy’s roster spot, but he’s new to the system and figures to be an emergency backup against the Bears.
With Murphy, Jason Spriggs (hamstring) and Don Barclay (ankle) all on IR, the Packers presumably will start Justin McCray at right tackle. McCray started there against Atlanta on Sept. 17 and took over for Bulaga when he left Sunday’s game.
Left tackle is murkier. The Packers could play John or practice squad call-up Adam Pankey, but Pankey is an undrafted rookie who wasn’t good enough to make the 53-man roster coming out of camp and John, who started three games at right tackle for the Cardinals a year ago, would be playing with next-to-no knowledge of the system.
Perhaps the Packers’ best option would be to move left guard Lane Taylor to left tackle the way they did with Josh Sitton late in the 2015 season when Bakhtiari was out with an ankle injury. Although Sitton struggled against the Minnesota Vikings in the regular-season finale that year — JC Tretter played left tackle in the NFC wild card playoff round the following week and fared far better in the Packers’ win at Washington — at least Taylor has lined up on the left side all season and has been in the system for four-plus seasons.
If Taylor got the call at left tackle, the Packers likely would move Lucas Patrick into the left guard spot. Patrick spent all of last season on the practice squad and made the 53-man roster coming out of camp, meaning at least the Packers would be fielding the five linemen who’ve been in their system the longest.
“At the end of the day it’s about winning,” McCarthy said. “The challenge in Atlanta was big. I thought our guys did a really good job of making in-game adjustments against Cincinnati. We bring some experience; hopefully we won’t have to do a lot of (juggling).”
Cobb good to go
The news was far better on wide receiver Randall Cobb, who sustained a chest injury during the second half against the Falcons and didn’t play Sunday. He was removed from the injury report, meaning he will play.
“I think I’ve shown them what I can do the past two days at practice, and I think the decision will be above me. And I’ll stay out of the decision — like I didn’t do last year,” said Cobb, who tried to play through injuries and struggled. “I did what I could this week and I showed them what I could do. I feel pretty good. The thing we were worried about was my breathing, and that’s been a lot better than what it was.”
Cobb, running back Ty Montgomery (wrist), safety Kentrell Brice (groin), linebacker Jake Ryan (concussion/hamstring) and defensive tackle Quinton Dial (chest) were removed from the injury report and are expected to play.
Perry, Daniels still iffy
The status defensive tackle Mike Daniels (hip) and outside linebacker Nick Perry (broken hand) remains up in the air. Both were able to do some work in practice, but Daniels said he expects to be a game-time decision while Perry admitted he still has pain in his surgically-repaired hand despite wearing a large club cast as protection.
“I finally got back on the field and moved around a little bit. It’s a short week so we didn’t get any hitting done — we’ll see how I feel there. It’s definitely going to be a game-time decision,” said Daniels, who initially injured his hip in practice before the Falcons game, then reinjured it on the opening possession of that game. “I made a significant amount of progress. I’m optimistic.”
Last year, Perry broke his left hand and missed two games before playing with a similar cast. This year, it’s his right hand and he’s hoping to play one game earlier — although the pain is a factor, he confessed.
“(The club cast) just protects me from further damage as much as possible. There’s obviously trauma going on in there,” Perry said. “You’ve got to use it, ultimately. You can’t play with one arm. I don’t want to go out there and give a half job out there. Just making sure that I can play with both hands and it (can) be manageable throughout the game.”