GREEN BAY—As the Packers offense continues to lose players to injury, key players are beginning to return to the team's defense, and the timing is just right.
It's expected defensive back Casey Hayward will be back in action on Sunday night in Minnesota, and the possibility exists that linebacker Nick Perry could also return to action. They will help a defense focused on stopping running back Adrian Peterson, who rushed for 508 yards in three games against the Packers last season.
"We're heading in the right direction," Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers said of a defense that was down near the bottom of the league's yardage rankings early in the season, but has since moved up to No. 15 overall on the strength of three consecutive games in which the Packers held the opposition to 17 or fewer points.
"I feel like the arrow is pointing up. I'm hoping that at some point in the season we can get all of our components back together at the same time," Capers added.
Hayward, the Packers' interceptions leader in 2012, would be in his first action of the season, after missing nearly all of training camp with a hamstring injury he reinjured late in the preseason. Perry missed last week's game against Cleveland with a foot injury. Hayward is listed as "probable" for Sunday, Perry as "questionable."
"Casey's a heady player. He's got good ball skills. He's normally around the football. It's been a long time since he's been out there," Capers said.
"Sunday will be another big test for us. We're playing against the best running back in the league. The last time we went up there, we didn't have our best game."
Offensive Coordinator Tom Clements lost another receiver when tight end Jermichael Finley sustained a frightening neck injury in the fourth quarter of the win over Cleveland last Sunday. Randall Cobb is sidelined for an extended period of time and James Jones is "doubtful" for Sunday's game, as he continues his recovery from a knee injury he sustained two weeks ago.
"You can't worry about it. There's nothing you can do but get the next guy ready to play," Clements said.
The next guy at tight end would seem to be fourth-year veteran Andrew Quarless. The "next guy" at wide receiver is Jarrett Boykin, who led the Packers in receiving last Sunday.
"He's a starter now," Clements said. "He's an excellent blocker. He gives great effort. He's going to help in the run game as well as in the pass game. He always does what you ask him to do."
The Packers could field a receiving corps on Sunday that would include only one player, Jordy Nelson, who was a starter on opening day. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is the constant.
"We know them and they know us," Capers said of a Packers-Vikings rivalry that will bid farewell to the Metrodome on Sunday. Additional coverage - Oct. 25