GREEN BAY — The self-proclaimed “Captain of Hope” isn’t worried — even though “Captain Obvious” might say that the Green Bay Packers head coach should be concerned about two glaringly thin areas of his roster: outside linebacker and offensive line.
Despite injuries and ineffectiveness at outside linebacker, and uncertainty on the offensive line depth chart because of uneven play from the group’s non-starters, Mike McCarthy insisted Monday that there’s nothing to worry about at either spot following Saturday night’s preseason loss at Denver — even as his team is 13 days out from its Sept. 10 regular-season opener against Seattle.
McCarthy, who jokingly referred to himself Monday as the “Captain of Hope” in response to an injury-related question later in his news briefing, professed confidence in his offensive line, which was without veteran right tackle Bryan Bulaga (ankle) against the Broncos. With Bulaga out, second-year backup tackles Kyle Murphy and Jason Spriggs shared time in his spot, and after blocking Broncos All-Pro pass rusher Von Miller cleanly to start the game, Spriggs was beaten for a sack on what ended up being Aaron Rodgers’ final play.
“Feel great about our offensive line depth. I tell ya, we’ve got great numbers on the offensive line,” McCarthy said. “This week will be big for those guys. Really, just spending some time with the personnel department this morning, we’ve got some big decisions coming Friday and Saturday that are going to be tough. And offensive line will be part of that.”
The starting five up front — left tackle David Bakhtiari, left guard Lane Taylor, center Corey Linsley, right guard Jahri Evans and Bulaga — is among the league’s best. The Packers signed Evans, a six-time Pro Bowl pick with New Orleans, to a one-year deal this offseason after their own Pro Bowl right guard, T.J. Lang, left to join the Detroit Lions in free agency.
But behind them, veteran backup Don Barclay has been sidelined most of preseason with an ankle injury, Spriggs has struggled the past two weeks, Murphy remains unproven and rookie sixth-round pick Kofi Amichia, the only lineman the Packers drafted this spring, hasn’t distinguished himself.
“Yeah, we need to shore that up a little bit,” Rodgers said after Saturday’s game. “It’ll be nice to get Donnie back here pretty soon. He was having a great camp, but we’ll look at the film and see how the guys graded out. But we need to keep getting better at those backup spots, see who the swing tackle’s going to be and who the next guard is going to be.
Asked how he felt the offensive line reserves performed against the Broncos, McCarthy was reluctant to criticize the group.
“I think everybody needs to learn from their last experience. I think it’s important to factor in everything that leads up and leads into each and every game,” McCarthy said. “I thought the film for our evaluation process was excellent. We had a lot of younger guys get to play against a little more experienced players, as far as how their reps sorted out in preseason game one and two. But it’s like anything, the quality of play for the evaluation was definitely there.”
Meanwhile, McCarthy downplayed any concerns at outside linebacker, where starter Nick Perry left the game with an ankle injury and top backup Jayrone Elliott departed with back problems.
McCarthy also brought up Clay Matthews’ name when discussing players who came out of Saturday night’s game early, but it was unclear whether the coach was implying that Matthews also suffered an injury or he was simply lifted after playing a couple of series, the way Rodgers was.
Second-year man Kyler Fackrell, a third-round pick last year, played extensively but was largely unproductive. The Packers were scheduled to have two-time All-Pro outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks, a free agent after being cut last week by the San Francisco 49ers, in for a visit today. Rookie fourth-round pick Vince Biegel, who remains on the physically unable to perform list after offseason foot surgery, might be cleared to return this week.
“I definitely get with Clay and Nick kind of going down with whatever they have, it does kind of just make you realize how quickly a position can become not deep,” Fackrell said. “That’s all kind of stuff that’s out of my control, so it’s not anything that I worry about.
“I think the more confidence you have playing with the guys around you, the more you’re able to just let loose and just play and know that you can kind of play off of each other.”
Having insisted during organized team activities that the Packers’ outside linebacker depth was “as good as depth as we’ve had there in some time,” McCarthy pointed to Thursday’s preseason finale against the Los Angeles Rams as a chance for youngsters such as Reggie Gilbert and Johnathan Calvin to make a run at a roster spot.
“That’s what the week’s for. There will be some great opportunities for the younger guys,” McCarthy said.
“So we’ll see (with) Vince Biegel’s situation what comes to light here this week. And for everybody else, it’s all about opportunities. Hey, this happens every year. In the fourth game, somebody jumps out, takes the rope and then he’ll be here when the 53 is picked. So we’ll see what happens.”