Packers have 'more room out there' on offense

Green Bay’s defense “starts and ends with our energy and effort”

Head Coach Matt LaFleur

GREEN BAY – The various injuries that have hit the Packers' offense haven't slowed it down much.

Through eight games, other than roughly five quarters of play – the last three at Tampa Bay and the final two vs. Minnesota a couple of weeks ago – Green Bay has been pretty tough to stop despite rarely being at full strength.

But full strength may soon be on the horizon.

The Packers got Aaron Jones back last week at San Francisco. Fellow running back Jamaal Williams came off the reserve/COVID-19 list to practice on Monday. Left tackle David Bakhtiari and receiver Allen Lazard are also back at practice and could return soon after missing three and five games, respectively.

What all that means for an offense ranked seventh in the league in yards and third in points will hopefully be revealed as the second half of the regular season gets underway this week with a home game vs. Jacksonville.

"I think there is more room out there for us," Head Coach Matt LaFleur said Monday following a short practice.

"There's no such thing as the perfect game and I think there's just more out there for us to continue to grow, develop. So yeah, we're really excited about those guys potentially getting back into the fold."

The restful weekend following last Thursday's win at San Francisco was to "recharge that battery" with no more breaks between now and the end of the season. Should the Packers make the playoffs, they'll need the No. 1 seed in the NFC to get a bye, otherwise they'd be playing again right after the regular season concludes.

"We need everybody fresh and energized," LaFleur said, adding that the goal of Monday's workout was to get through any sluggishness in order to start sharp in Wednesday's prep on Jacksonville.

"I can't stress enough the importance of having positive energy for everybody involved in this thing as we hit the second half of this season. We're sitting in a pretty good spot right now at 6-2."

Energy was the buzzword for LaFleur on Monday, as he applied it specifically to the defense as well, which sits in the middle of the league statistically (11th in yards allowed, 17th in points) but has struggled to maintain the level it desires.

Perhaps two turnovers against the undermanned 49ers last week, which brought the season total to just six, will provide the spark the defense is looking for. The unit's inconsistent tackling has mirrored the up-and-down play overall.

Health-wise among front-line players, cornerback Kevin King (quad) plus linebackers Christian Kirksey (pectoral, IR) and Kamal Martin (COVID list) are back at practice, but corner Jaire Alexander (concussion) is currently sidelined.

"I think it always starts and ends with our energy and effort," LaFleur said of the defensive side of the ball. "I think when our guys are out there flying around, having fun, bringing great energy, straining for one another, when they're swarming ball carriers, I think that leads to a lot of positive plays.

"Certainly there's been times where it's been really, really good and there's been times where it quite hasn't been to that standard."

At 6-2, the Packers are currently tied for the best record in the NFC with Seattle and New Orleans, while three other teams (Tampa Bay at 6-3, Arizona and LA Rams at 5-3) are within one game of the top trio.

In the NFC North, Green Bay sits two games up in the loss column on 5-4 Chicago with both games against the Bears remaining. In the NFC more broadly, the Packers have already played the Saints and Buccaneers and don't have any more games against the current contenders.

But they are playing the top two teams in the NFC South – Indianapolis and Tennessee – in the coming weeks. The tough NFC West also has a lot of head-to-head battling to do, as Seattle and Arizona play once more, while the Rams play both the Seahawks and Cardinals twice each.

"I think it's anybody's opportunity to go out there and snatch it," LaFleur said. "We just gotta make sure that we focus on ourselves and attack each day."

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