While the Green Bay Packers have turned to some former players to add depth at two depleted positions, their opponent has struggled to field a healthy team leading up to this week’s meeting.
The Packers look to take advantage of a second straight last-place opponent when they visit the flu-riddled Cleveland Browns on Sunday.
Green Bay (3-2) is coming off its first shutout since 2007, a 26-0 victory over Detroit last week.
Aaron Rodgers(notes) was 29 of 37 for 358 yards and two touchdowns while the defense held the NFC North-worst Lions to 149 yards of total offense. Detroit was 0 for 10 on third-down opportunities and threw three interceptions.
Rodgers had to overcome the continued struggles of Green Bay’s offensive line, which allowed five sacks to bring its season total to a league-high 25.
The victory was also costly injury-wise, as tackle Chad Clifton(notes) re-injured his ankle and backup running back DeShawn Wynn(notes) suffered a season-ending knee injury. Green Bay was already lacking depth at running back behind Ryan Grant(notes), as Brandon Jackson(notes) and practice squad player Kregg Lumpkin(notes) have struggled to stay healthy.
Trying to bolster a running game that ranks 19th in the NFL at 101.2 yards per game, the Packers re-signed veteran Ahman Green(notes) on Wednesday. Green, who rushed for 8,162 yards and 53 touchdowns for Green Bay from 2000-06 and needs 46 more yards to surpass Jim Taylor and become the franchise leader, was cut by Houston in February.
Green played 14 games in two seasons with the Texans, starting six. He was limited to 554 yards and five touchdowns, but still believes he has something left in him.
“Something was missing after these past two years that I didn’t want to quite finish that way,” said Green, who made four straight Pro Bowl appearances between 2001 and 2004. “The way my career was in Houston, I didn’t want that to basically become my legacy.”
Green’s return comes a week after the Packers brought back tackle Mark Tauscher(notes), who played in Green Bay from 2000-08 but is at least another week away from being in game shape. It’s not certain whether Green will play this weekend, but coach Mike McCarthy said both veterans will lend valuable experience.
“The starting point of bringing both Mark and Ahman back was they’re good football players, and that’s something we like to think we never lose sight of,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy is looking for some leadership on a young team that has struggled with careless mistakes. The Packers have the fifth-most penalties (43) for the fourth-most yardage (359) in the NFL this season. They committed 13 penalties for 130 yards against the Lions.
McCarthy’s issues are small compared to those facing Eric Mangini’s Browns. Cleveland held 12 players, including five starters, out of practice early this week because of flulike symptoms.
On Friday, though, only one of those players wasn’t on the practice field. Mangini said there have been no new cases, and he expects to have a nearly complete roster for Sunday’s game.
The flu news comes after Cleveland learned leading tackler D’Qwell Jackson(notes) will miss the rest of the season with a shoulder injury. Return specialist Josh Cribbs is also battling a knee injury.
Cleveland (1-5) failed to build on its only win of the season and fell 27-14 at Pittsburgh last Sunday. The Browns managed 197 yards of offense as Derek Anderson(notes) went 9 for 24 for 122 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
Cleveland’s offense has been a liability all season. The Browns rank 31st in total yards per game (254.7), and 30th in points per game (11.5) and first downs (82).
“There have been times where we’ve moved the ball really effectively,” Mangini said. “We have to do a much better job of not stopping ourselves.”
This is the Packers’ first visit to Cleveland since a 31-20 loss in 1995.
Green Bay rookie linebacker Clay Matthews(notes), who had two sacks last week, is a familiar name to Browns fans. His father, also named Clay, played 16 seasons for Cleveland from 1978-93, appearing in more games than any other player in franchise history.