Packers notes: Makeshift line spells trouble vs. Khalil Mack, Bears' pass rush
GREEN BAY - Facing the Atlanta Falcons without three starting offensive linemen is one thing. Facing the Chicago Bears at anything less than full strength might be a team’s worst nightmare.
The Green Bay Packers survived the absence of right tackle Bryan Bulaga (knee), right guard Byron Bell (knee) and left guard Lane Taylor (foot) on Sunday, beating the Falcons 34-20 at Lambeau Field.
On Monday, interim head coach Joe Philbin didn’t indicate whether any of the three would be available to play against the Bears’ fearsome defense, but Taylor said he thought there was a good chance he could play.
“I think I’ll be all right,” he said.
PACKERS REPORT CARD: Position evaluations vs. Atlanta Falcons
Bulaga and Bell didn’t practice last week, so their absence wasn’t unexpected, but Taylor did a little Wednesday, a little Thursday and made it through the entire Saturday practice. But he said it was obvious he wasn’t ready to play and would be a weak link in the chain.
“I hurt it last week (against Arizona) and I probably shouldn’t have kept playing,” he said. “I didn’t hurt it any worse, but I wasn’t able to finish those first two practices. It feels better now.”
Lucas Patrick started for Taylor.
It seems better than 50-50 that Jason Spriggs will start at right tackle and, if so, face a healthy dose of pass-rushing fiend Khalil Mack. Even if Bulaga were to play, he would probably need help to handle Mack.
The right guard spot is a question mark because Bell’s status isn’t known and Justin McCray hyperextended his right knee against the Falcons. He left the game for a short while, but he returned and seemed to be functioning well enough.
McCray said he was sore Monday, but he has all week to recover and said he thought he’d be fine. Bears defensive tackle Akiem Hicks dominated McCray in the season opener and eventually Bell wound up replacing him in the starting lineup.
Bell is a better all-around player than McCray, but in the run game McCray can move people around and that could be a consideration against the Bears, who rank second in the league in fewest rushing yards allowed per game (83.2) and fourth in yards per carry (3.7).
Packers bank on Pankey
Undrafted out of West Virginia in 2017, offensive lineman Adam Pankey made the Packers’ 53-man roster for 16 weeks last season, playing in the finale against Detroit. But the 24-year-old had spent all of 2018 on the practice squad, which has been an exercise in patience — which was tested even further when another team tried to poach him last week. To keep him, the Packers increased his pay to the league minimum to entice him to stay. He then was signed to the active roster Saturday.
“It was huge,” Pankey said of the Packers' effort to keep him around. “I like this place, I’ve learned so much about the game of football here and just my knowledge of the game has improved so much. It was one of those things where I wanted to try and make this work however I can because it’s the only place I’ve been and the only place I’ve known. For them to match that it was a big confidence thing for me knowing that I’m seen as a guy that can contribute to the team.”
He saw one snap Sunday, the final play that saw DeShone Kizer kneel out the clock.
“It might seem little to other people, but it was really important to me and my family and evreything,” Pankey said. “That was a big deal for me.”
Moore, Tonyan get brief looks
J’Mon Moore was the first of the three rookie receivers to be drafted by the Packers last April, but he has fallen far behind classmates Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown when it comes to his role on offense. Moore didn’t see an offensive snap against the Falcons but played 14 on special teams — including going back on kick return and bringing one out for 26 yards.
“The last two weeks I’ve been back there on kick return,” Moore said. “They’ve just been kind of, I don’t know, I guess hesitant to put me back there. But (Sunday) they pulled the trigger and let me get back there. I’m just taking everything I can get. They’re being hesitant when it comes to me, it seems like. I’m going to make the best of my opportunities when I get it.”
It was the second straight week and third time out of the last four that the rookie didn’t see the field as a receiver. Moore has played 47 offensive snaps, well behind St. Brown (228) and Valdes-Scantling (518). Moore has one target and one catch, a 10-yard reception against San Francisco on Oct. 15.
A bit frustrated by a lack of work on offense, Moore welcomes the idea of more work in the return game.
“Just to get it in my hands; I’ve been getting no action, haven’t had it in a minute, so just to be out there and get a chance to do something, get my feet wet, it’s a good feeling,” Moore said. “It’s easy. I can do kick returns. It’s nothing. I just need to get the ball in my hands, really. I know how to make people miss. Kick returns is nothing to me. If they need somebody to get back there and get loose, whenever they call ‘82’ I’ll get back there. Whenever I get that chance I’m always ready.”
Another younger player looking for more time on offense is first-year tight end Robert Tonyan. Against Atlanta, Philbin used all of his tight ends, with Tonyan rotating in for seven snaps. For Tonyan, the work is coming in small doses but it’s slowly ramping up. He played a career-high nine snaps against Arizona and 16 of his 30 snaps have come in the last two weeks. He has two catches on three targets for 59 yards, including a 54-yard touchdown against Seattle on Nov. 15.
“I just think it was Philbin wanting to get all the tight ends involved and see where we were at,” Tonyan said. “In the tight end room we’ve got a lot of playmakers and a lot of depth so he just wanted to give different looks to the defense and see where we’re at and see how teams play in that scenario.”