Packers Secondary Gets Huge Boost as Standout Safety Returns From IR

Raven Greene Returns to Practice for Packers

Getty Raven Greene of the Green Bay Packers celebrates in the first quarter against the Houston Texans during a preseason game at Lambeau Field on August 08, 2019 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

The Green Bay Packers are welcoming back a valuable piece of their secondary at just the right time.

Packers standout safety Raven Greene, who was designated to return from the injured reserve list, was back at practice on Thursday for the first time since being carted off the field with an ankle injury during Week 2’s win against the Minnesota Vikings. According to head coach Matt LaFleur, Greene could “potentially” be available for the team’s first playoff game on Jan. 12 in the NFC Divisional Round depending on the evaluations of the team’s training staff.

Greene was the Packers’ highest-rated defender in their season-opening win over the Chicago Bears after tallying six tackles and breaking up a pass, playing an important hybrid role in Mike Pettine’s defense as the top option at dime linebacker. He played 70 defensive snaps before getting injured on the first play of the third quarter against the Vikings on Sept. 15.

The Packers used their second and final return designation on Greene after using their first on rookie tight end Jace Sternberger, and there is no better option than the versatile safety who stepped up last season after the Packers traded Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to Washington and earned his keep during this season’s training camp.

Former starting left guard Lane Taylor is well beyond the eight-week waiting period to return from IR, but the Packers have little reason to bring him back with rookie Elgton Jenkins providing a stable — and often better — presence on the offensive line. Jenkins didn’t allow a single sack during his first NFL season and played nearly 1,000 snaps, starting in 14 games, according to Pro Football Focus.

Another notable name — wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown — was injured in the Packers’ third preseason game and is likely in better health these days, but he is ineligible to return after being placed on IR during the team’s roster cutdown. He would have needed to make the initial roster prior to the move to stand a chance of returning in 2019.

Rookie linebacker Curtis Bolton and fullback Malcolm Johnson are also on the injured reserve list along with backup guard Cole Madison and offensive tackles Jason Spriggs and Yosh Nijman.

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Even if Limited, Green Can Make an Impact

The Packers were high on Greene’s potential prior to his injury, but LaFleur’s reluctance to say anything certain about his status for next weekend suggests he won’t slide back in as the go-to option. At least not right away.

The biggest thing Greene adds immediately is more depth at dime linebacker. The Packers received a midseason boost at the position from Ibraheim Campbell after he was added to the active roster off the reserve/physically unable to perform list at the beginning of November, but now he won’t have to carry the load alone. Striking a balance between them could allow Greene to get some valuable game reps on his ankle without demanding too much in his return.

Should Greene be limited or unable to play, Campbell will have to rise to the occasion, especially if the Packers end up facing the pass-heavy New Orleans Saints in their first game. He made six tackles and forced a fumble in his season debut in Week 10 against Carolina, but the fifth-year safety enters the playoffs with just 13 total tackles through seven games and three starts.

According to Pro Football Focus, Campbell has also allowed a reception 10 of the 15 times he has been targetted in the passing game, ranking tied for 82nd among safeties in the league.

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