GREEN BAY – The Green Bay Packers' wide receiver race hasn’t changed that much with the loss of Equanimeous St. Brown to a serious left ankle injury, but it has become more complex.
St. Brown will miss about six weeks with a high-ankle sprain he suffered against the Oakland Raiders on Thursday night at IG Field in Winnipeg, a source confirmed.
An MRI was performed Friday morning to determine the extent of the injury, a source said, and St. Brown and the Packers are probably feeling lucky given the gruesome twist of St. Brown’s ankle late in the first half.
Oakland safety Erik Harris’ hit on St. Brown, which was flagged for unnecessary roughness, caused the second-year receiver’s body to lurch backward after making a catch across the middle. As he spun to the ground, St. Brown’s hip and bottom landed on his ankle, causing it to bend badly.
The Packers have the option of putting St. Brown on injured reserve, but if they do it now, he would be lost for the season. If they carry him on the 53-man roster through final cuts Aug. 31, then he would be eligible to fill one of the two "designated to return" options every club possesses. The earliest the player could be designated and begin practicing is six weeks after being put on injured reserve. The earliest he could play was after eight weeks.
If they carry him on the 53, which they’re likely to do, it doesn’t necessarily change the number of receivers they keep. They could choose to go with six, including St. Brown, and then play the early part of the season with the five who are available.
They could also keep seven or eight receivers and then have six or seven available until St. Brown returns.
After Davante Adams, it’s a good bet that Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Geronimo Allison and Jake Kumerow will be on the roster. Trevor Davis wasn’t in that group last week, but after a terrific performance against the Raiders, he probably is in it now.
If the Packers keep seven receivers, then Darrius Shepherd, Allen Lazard, J’Mon Moore, Teo Redding and Malik Taylor would be battling for one spot and if they keep eight they would be battling for two spots. Shepherd and Lazard have come on strong and are the frontrunners for any available roster spots.
A sixth-round pick in 2018, St. Brown caught 21 passes for 328 yards (15.6 average) during his rookie season.
He had been having a quiet camp, but quarterback Aaron Rodgers recently said St. Brown was performing much better than people realized.
Kicking the boot
Each exhibition is a chance for rookie head coach Matt LaFleur to further learn how to balance his familiar job (play calling) with his new responsibilities (game management), a task made more difficult by his torn Achilles.
LaFleur, who did not wear a walking boot Thursday night, said he ran into difficulties near the end of the game. Unable to quickly get the officials’ attention with Green Bay down 22-21, LaFleur said extra time ticked off the clock before he could stop it with a timeout.
“Because I can’t just take off running and call timeouts in certain situations when you get down into that red area,” LaFleur said. “At the end of the game there, we wasted about six, seven seconds. I’m screaming, ‘Timeout!’ And the officials can’t hear me. But I can’t take off and sprint.”
LaFleur said the solution is for quarterbacks coach Luke Getsy to be his designated timeout caller until he can run, a span that will linger into the regular season.
It’s a role LaFleur had assistant chief of staff Joe McKillip handle in the Packers’ preseason opener against the Houston Texans. McKillip was chosen to handle challenge situations — tasked with throwing the red challenge flag — and red-zone timeouts because of his proximity to LaFleur on the sideline.
The issue, LaFleur said, is McKillip doesn’t wear a headset, and the coaching box only extends so far. So when the action is in the red zone, away from the coaching box, changing his mind was difficult.
“He’s running down there,” LaFleur said, “and I’m watching the seconds tick off the clock, and then you get into a situation where you’re like, ‘I don’t want the timeout,’ but he doesn’t have a headset on to hear you say that. so you get a timeout when you didn’t want it.”
LaFleur concluded his designated timeout caller needed to wear a headset. Enter Getsy.
Getsy is the quarterbacks coach. He might not have the proximity to LaFleur at all times that McKillip gets, but he’s usually not far and always has a headset.
So if the Packers need to call a timeout against the Chicago Bears in a couple weeks, it might be their quarterback coach’s job to get it done.
“He’ll be right there,” LaFleur said, “right in the line with where the line of scrimmage is, and it’ll be easy. I’ll just communicate to Luke.”
Benefits for Boyle
LaFleur and Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst left IG Field without having any sort of evaluation of their first-string offense playing in a game for the first time, but if the 80-yard field, no-kickoff exhibition against Oakland provided anything, it was more film of the players who will comprise the depth of the roster.
And perhaps no one benefited from the decision to sit Rodgers more than Tim Boyle.
LaFleur wanted to give the second-year quarterback out of Eastern Kentucky a bit of a longer look against the Raiders. The plan initially was for him to come in after Rodgers. Instead, Boyle started the game with the second unit and played the entire first half before giving way to DeShone Kizer in the second half.
“Tim played well,” LaFleur said. “We moved the ball. We had three straight drives that ended in touchdowns, and anytime you’re doing that, you’re doing something right. So I thought all in all, he played well and I thought he also got support from the guys around him.”
Boyle responded to the extended time by going 16 for 25 for 191 yards and two touchdowns for a 113.9 rating. He hit Davis and Kumerow for scores of 13 and 16 yards and exhibited more accuracy as the night went on — he started the game 2-for-9 and the Packers punted three straight times in a scoreless first quarter.
But Boyle opened the second quarter with an 11-yard completion to Robert Tonyan and then a 16-yard touchdown pass to Kumerow, who was wide open thanks to a precise double-move on former Wisconsin Badgers and Raiders defensive back Nick Nelson. By the end of the half, Boyle had directed three scoring drives.
“I think physically I have (improved), I think mentally I have to be more efficient in the huddle,” Boyle said of his progress through the three exhibitions. “I have to do a better job of getting in and out, efficiency at the line of scrimmage. I think that’s definitely an area I can improve.”
Packers starters look to Chicago
The dress rehearsal in Winnipeg involved only a bit of the dress, as the Packers’ starters did participate in warmups in full pads. But when they ran out for the national anthems, 33 players were no longer in pads. And with Kansas City likely playing no one of significance next Thursday at Lambeau Field, Rodgers and Aaron Jones will not have taken a preseason snap and the rest of the Packers’ offensive and defensive starters were limited to their game work against Baltimore on Aug. 15.
The regular-season opener is Thursday, Sept. 5 in Chicago.
On the television broadcast, Rodgers said he anticipated some game-planning for the Bears once practice resumes Sunday.
“I feel confident in our preparation,” LaFleur said after the game against the Raiders. “Hindsight is 20/20, and I know we’re going to get second-guessed every which way, but I’m not too worried about it. I’m concerned about how we go about our business and the mindset in that locker room, and I think our guys are confident.”