Lattimore, Pennel could be in line for larger roles
Moments after the Green Bay Packers' 36-16 loss to Seattle last Thursday, questions began to sprout about whether defensive coordinator Dom Capers would consider any personnel changes.
Instead, that decision might have been made for him.
Brad Jones missed a second consecutive day of practice Thursday as he continues to nurse a quad injury, increasing the unlikelihood of the sixth-year inside linebacker suiting up this Sunday against the New York Jets.
Jones, who missed the Packers' preseason finale against Kansas City with the same ailment, played all 70 defensive snaps against the Seahawks, but struggled against Marshawn Lynch and the Seahawks' ground attack with three missed tackles.
If Jones can't play, the Packers likely will turn to fourth-year linebacker Jamari Lattimore in the base and nickel packages with veteran A.J. Hawk staying on the field as the lone linebacker in dime.
Depending on how much they want to utilize either Lattimore or Hawk, the Packers also could send out 2013 seventh-round pick Sam Barrington, who worked as the lone linebacker in dime during training camp with the second-team defense.
"The game this week's going to be a game where they switch personnel groups almost every down and they use every in the books," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. "I think experience is the one of the key factors there. You want your signal caller to be a confident guy, so experience factors into that as opposed to putting a guy out there that really hasn't done a lot of it against a team that's going to give you multiple personnel groups and fast-paced tempo."
Lattimore started four games last season in place of Jones, registering 35 tackles with two sacks and a forced fumble. An undrafted free agent in 2011, Lattimore played outside linebacker his first year before shifting inside with Jones in 2012.
A key contributor on special teams, the Packers thought enough of Lattimore this offseason to tender him a first-right-of-refusal restricted contract worth $1.4 million.
"He was productive last year, but this year is totally different," linebackers coach Winston Moss said. "I think that whenever he gets his opportunity, he has to be ready to execute or make the most of his opportunity, if he gets it."
Even if Jones would be ready by Sunday, the Packers still might consider some reshuffling after Jones and Hawk combined for four of the Packers' 18 missed tackles against the Seahawks, according to Pro Football Focus.
They were seen as the main culprits in Seattle rushing for 207 yards at the Packers' expense, which was second in Week 1 only to the New York Jets' 212 yards against Oakland.
One other area the Packers might adjust is on the defensive line with undrafted rookie Mike Pennel possibly being called upon in some capacity. The 6-foot-4, 332-pound rookie out of Colorado State-Pueblo is now the team's largest lineman with B.J. Raji out for the season with torn right biceps.
Pennel was one of two undrafted rookies to make the Packers' opening 53-man roster, but was inactive last week against the Seahawks. Veteran Letroy Guion (6-4, 315) had two missed tackles in his first start at nose tackles.
"I think he'll have a role and again it will probably depend on what personnel groups we're in based off what they give us," said Capers of Pennel. "Normally if they're in big people we match up with big people. If they're putting three and four wide receivers out there, then we're going to normally try to match up with a smaller more athletic group."
-- firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @WesHod.