Packers Elevate Young WR & OLB With Starters Uncertain

Winfree/Hamilton Moves

Getty Juwann Winfree #88 of the Green Bay Packers catches a pass in front of Budda Baker #3 of the Arizona Cardinals during the first half at State Farm Stadium on October 28, 2021 in Glendale, Arizona.

Juwann Winfree is getting another chance to help out the Green Bay Packers’ wounded receiving corps.

The Packers have elevated the third-year wide receiver along with outside linebacker La’Darius Hamilton from the practice squad to the game-day roster for their Week 11 road game against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, November 21.

Both promotions help address some depth concerns for the team with starting outside linebacker Rashan Gary (elbow) questionable to play and wide receiver Allen Lazard (shoulder) doubtful. The Packers will also be without backup wideout Malik Taylor, who was ruled out with an abdominal injury in the final injury report against the Vikings.

Winfree has already been temporarily promoted to the active roster twice this season, catching four passes for 30 yards in Week 8’s win over Arizona when Davante Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Lazard were all unavailable, but both times were as a COVID-19 replacement. He will still be eligible for standard elevation one more time after Week 11’s game in Minnesota.

Hamilton, on the other hand, spent about two months on the Packers’ active roster and played three games as a rotational pass rusher, but he recorded just two pressures and no tackles over 25 pass-rushing snaps. He was released on November 13 after spending Week 8 and 9 as a healthy scratch; though, Green Bay re-signed him to the practice squad just three days later after Gary was injured in Week 10’s win over Seattle.

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Will Packers Have Gary in Limited Capacity?

Gary is less than a week removed from a nasty injury in which his right arm was bent in the wrong direction during a pile-up on the ball, but it sounds as though there is still a decent chance the former first-round pick will see some action against the Vikings on Sunday — even if it means he will have to wear a brace on his injured elbow.

“Yeah, we’ll see where he’s at,” LaFleur said on November 17. “We’ll take it on a daily basis and see where he’s at, but certainly, we hope to get him back sooner than later, if it’s going out there with a brace or whatever it may be. But Rashan and I were actually talking about how fortunate (he is) that it wasn’t a major injury.”

Gary has been vital to the Packers’ edge rush this season in the absence of All-Pro outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith, leading the team with 5.5 sacks through the first 10 games. According to Pro Football Focus, he has also hit other career-high marks in total pressures (46), quarterback hurries (29) and quarterback hits (11) with seven games left to play in the 2021 season. Suffice it to say, the Packers defense is better when Gary is on the field, even if only in a limited capacity.

If Gary cannot go, things get a little bleaker for the outside linebacker room against the Vikings. The Packers still have veteran Preston Smith, but the rest of the group boils down to 2020 seventh-round pick Jonathan Garvin (1.5 sacks, 16 pressures), second-year Tipa Galeai (recently signed up from practice squad) and Hamilton.

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