Injuries are a part of football because of the physical contact involved on every play. Every year, the Green Bay Packers, and every other NFL team deal with injuries to key players which can change the outcome of a season. But some players are more easily replaced than others. Here are the five players the Packers can least afford to lose to injury in 2023.
Players are ranked on a combination of how talented they are, how important they are to the team’s success and how difficult it is to replace them. So, the depth available at the position is a factor in putting together this list.
Fifth Player the Packers Can Least Afford to Lose to Injury: WR Christian Watson
While the entire Packers wide receiver corps is inexperienced, an injury to Christian Watson would be the most devastating.
Watson possesses a rare combination of size and speed. His ability to stretch the field and force defenses to account for him. It should also help teammates get open even when the quarterback is not targeting Watson.
None of the other wideouts on the roster possess Watson’s measurables and those that come close have even less experience. That earns Watson a spot on this list.
Fourth Player: Edge Preston Smith
Because Rashan Gary may miss the early part of the season due to last year’s season-ending knee injury, Preston Smith steps into this slot. Even if Gary is ready to play in Week 1, he will likely be on a play count.
The depth behind Smith on the roster is inexperienced with second-year man Kingsley Enagbare and first-round pick Lukas Van Ness likely to be the top two.
The Green Bay pass rush would suffer a big drop off if both Gary and Smith were unavailable or limited early in the season.
Third Player: DL Kenny Clark
Kenny Clark remains the best defensive lineman on the roster and has been for several seasons. The UCLA alum is a two-time Pro Bowler. He’s also one of the few players who can provide strong defense against the run and get some pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
The Packers lack depth behind Clark. The other two starters are expected to be T.J. Slaton and Devonte Wyatt. Slaton has two career stars, Wyatt has none.
The Packers next players on the depth chart should be rookies Colby Wooden and Karl Brooks who GM Brian Gutekunst added on day three of this year’s draft.
If Clark goes down, the Packers lack a replacement who can do anything near what Clark is capable of.
Second Player the Packers Can Least Afford to Lose to Injury: Jaire Alexander
Jaire Alexander earned Pro Bowl honors twice in his first five seasons in the NFL. His speed and confidence make him one of the best cover corners in the league.
While the Packers have some depth at corner, injuries are already a factor here. Eric Stokes remains likely to start the season on the PUP list as he continues his return from last season’s season-ending injuries. That means if Alexander is injured, the Pack would have to start an inexperienced player opposite Rasul Douglas. They could also move Keisean Nixon outside and replace him with an untested slot corner.
The loss of Alexander would also cost the Packers confidence and leadership on defense which they can hardly afford to be without.
First Player: QB Jordan Love
Quarterback Jordan Love earns the top spot on the list. While the Utah State alum has only started one NFL game, the organization remains confident he is ready to lead the team.
But if Love is lost for any time, the Packers lack a backup who has taken even one snap in an NFL game.
The two candidates for the backup position are Danny Etling, who was drafted in 2018 but has yet to play in the regular season and fifth-round pick Sean Clifford. Scouts feel Clifford lacks the arm strength to excel as a starter.
Should Love get injured, the Packers season trajectory would change immediately and not for the better.
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