The Green Bay Packers dominated the Dallas Cowboys in their upset win in the NFC Wild Card round. Now, they head to the Bay Area to take on the top-seeded San Francisco 49ers. However, the Packers defense lost some key players to injury in Dallas. That’s not great timing when they are about to take on a 49ers offense that is second in the league in yards gained and third in points scored.  Here is a look at how the latest Packers injury updates could affect the team’s defense on Saturday:

Packers Injury Updates: CB Jaire Alexander

Cornerback Jaire Alexander had a rough season for the Packers. Back and shoulder injuries limited him to seven games during the regular season. Even when the former Louisville star was in the lineup, the injuries hampered his ability to play to his usual Pro Bowl level.

Alexander worked hard to return to the lineup against the Cowboys. “The training staff got me out there,” Alexander said after the game. “They knew the importance of this game and I wanted to play so bad. So, I was in treatment about five or six hours every day and then at night more treatment.”

Alexander came up big, making an interception against Dallas that led to the Packers second touchdown of the game. Unfortunately, he also reaggravated an ankle injury late in the third quarter of the game and did not return. Head coach Matt LaFleur indicated that even if the game was close, it was unlikely Alexander would have been able to return to the game.

What Happens If Alexander Can’t Play

If Alexander is unable to go, the Packers will likely start Corey Ballentine and Carrington Valentine on the perimeter with Keisean Nixon again starting in the slot.

Having Alexander available and ready to play will be critical for the Packers. San Francisco has an outstanding receiving corps that features Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel as the starting receivers.  They also feature a dangerous receiving tight end in George Kittle and an elite pass catching running back in Christian McCaffrey.

Having Alexander in the lineup would give defensive coordinator Joe Barry more options to help slow down this dangerous group of receivers.

Defensive lineman Kenny Clark summed up what a healthy Alexander means to the team. “Ja is elite. Ja is one of the best corners in this game,” Clark said. “The story ain’t changed with him. Every time he’s out there, he’s making an impact and helping our team get better. We love him. We love having him out there for the team.”

Alexander’s status for the game is still unknown. He will likely miss practice this week and again require treatment on his ankle to try to play.

Packers Injury Updates: Edge Kingsley Enagbare

Edge rusher Kingsley Enagbare suffered what appeared to be a serious injury in the fourth quarter against Dallas. He was seen after the game in the Packers locker room on crutches and with tears in his eyes. The injury is believed to be serious and season-ending.

The second-year man out of South Carolina played in all 17 games for the Packers this season and recorded 37 tackles, two sacks and eight tackles for loss. Enagbare also recorded 11 pressures and five hurries on the season.

While he only started four games, Enagbare was a key part of the Packers rotation at edge rusher. He played 41 percent of the team’s defensive snaps which heled keep starters Rashan Gary and Preston Smith fresh. He also contributed on special teams.

What Happens if Enagbare Can’t Play

The Packers do not have established depth at edge rusher. This year’s first round pick, Lukas Van Ness, will step up and get more snaps. Van Ness played 53 percent of the defensive snaps in Dallas, higher than his 33 percent mark for the season.

The only other edge rusher on the active roster is rookie Brenton Cox. Cox was inactive for 13 of the team’s 17 games this season and only played four defensive snaps and nine special teams snaps total in those contests. The Packers kept him on the roster because they were high on his potential, but he is a project who needs to refine his technique to play a larger role in the future.

The Packers could also activate either Keshawn Banks or Arron Mosby off the practice squad. Banks has yet to play a snap in the NFL while Mosby played three games and made one tackle for Carolina in 2022. He played two snaps on defense and 33 on special teams.

The Pack could also sign a new player to the practice squad if they activate either Banks or Mosby.

Packers Injury Updates: ILB Isaiah McDuffie

Inside linebacker Isaiah McDuffie suffered a stinger against the Cowboys. His status for the 49ers game is also uncertain.

McDuffie played 16 games for the Packers and started eight. He finished second on the team in total tackles with 86 including five tackles for loss. While McDuffie is considered the third ILB on the depth chart, he played extensively due to injuries to both Quay Walker and De’Vondre Campbell during the course of the season. McDuffie is also a big contributor on special teams.

If McDuffie can’t play, Eric Wilson will likely be the one to step up and be the third ILB while Campbell and Walker will play more snaps.

The Packers will need good ILB play to slow down McCaffrey and Kittle in this game.




Follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

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