Week one is finally upon us and now that the first injury report has come out these players could be key for the Green Bay Packers if they want to steal a victory on the road against the Minnesota Vikings. The players that are being referred to are offensive tackle Yosh Nijman, wide receiver Romeo Doubs, safety/special teamer Rudy Ford, and Linebacker Quay Walker. Some of these guys may be forced into action due to injury or may be guys that were drafted or signed to make an immediate impact.
Yosh Nijman, OT
Nijman was pushed into a starting position last year with David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins having torn ACLs. With Bakhtiari and Jenkins not being on the PUP list they do have a chance to play but head coach Matt LaFleur is not giving out any information that could help the Vikings gameplan. As of Wednesday, though, Bakhtiari and Jenkins were both limited in practice. If either were not to go Nijman would play a huge role in the game with having to attempt to slow down Danielle Hunter and an upset Za’Darius Smith. In game action last year Nijman gave up 20 pressures in 10 games and was given an average grade of 63.8 from PFF. That’s not the best but if he were to start on Sunday, he may be able to do well enough to help the Packers offense have a chance to move the ball.
Romeo Doubs, WR
The star of training camp. Doubs had a terrific training camp for a rookie, and he translated his play from training camp to preseason games as well. Will Doubs be able to translate his game quickly to regular season play? We may find out as soon as Sunday as Doubs may be thrusted into action lining up on the outside with wide receivers Sammy Watkins and Randall Cobb. Wide receiver Allen Lazard was a DNP in practice on Wednesday due to an ankle injury. LaFleur said that Lazard was stepped on last week in practice and is just taking it a day at a time. Reports have said that the Packers are optimistic that Lazard will be able to play Sunday but if he is not, Doubs is going to have to play a big role in the offense and we will see if Doubs “wow” plays can translate to regular season play right out of the gate.
Rudy Ford, S/ST
Ford was signed to the 53 man roster the day after rosters were finalized. Ford was mainly brought in to help special teams as general manager Brian Gutekunst said that Ford is one of the best gunners in the league and that he would like Ford to get some work in at safety too. It will be interesting to see how different the Packers special teams look after all the work they have done to improve the unit. Ford will play a big part in improving the unit as a whole. Ford also may throw into action at safety as safeties Darnell Savage and Dallin Leavitt were both limited in practice on Wednesday so Ford may be playing a big role already in week one. Something to keep an eye on as the week progresses.
Quay Walker, LB
Maybe the biggest question mark on the defensive side of the ball, Walker had a quiet preseason but did make some splash plays in the final preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs. Depending on how much the Packers play with two linebackers, Walker could play a huge part in this game with making stops in the run game or covering Vikings running back Dalvin Cook out of the backfield or any other players. If Walker struggles the Packers may be forced to change their game plan and play with more secondary players and bring a safety down in the box in place of Walker. So, Walker is a big key in this game as he will most likely be the determining piece of how/which way the Packers defense plays in week one.
Now the Packers would love to have all their supposed starters to be playing but that may not be the case. We will not have a clear picture if that is a possibility or not until later in the week, but we do know that if the starters do play this game might not be as close as some think it would be. If Green Bay’s starters are unable to play, the guys listed above will play a key role in determining if the Packers walk out of week one 1-0 or not.