The Replacements

The list continues to grow. After Mike Neal and Brady Poppinga were placed on the season ending injured reserve earlier this week, OLB Brad Jones has joined them, pushing the list to ten players. To put it another way, almost 1/5 of the Packers' 53 man roster has been lost for the year with over half of the season to go, and five of them are from the front seven.

Normally, when you lose a player or two, you have reserves on the practice squad you can elevate, project-type players who would benefit from the regular-season game experience. But the Packers have already done that, and the injuries continue to pile up. So now the team is forced to start bringing in new faces, and GM Ted Thompson has brought in several. So let's meet the new guys:

Howard Green - DT - 6'2" 340 lbs - Good Lord this man is big. For comparison's sake, Gilbert Brown was listed as 6'2" 325 in the Packers' Super Bowl year of 1996. Even if he plays a lot, its unlikely he'll make a mark statistically. Naturally he figures to give BJ Raji the occasional breather, but while Raji is young, agile, and capable of rushing the passer, Green is more likely to do little more than eat up blockers with his sheer size (not to discount that quality in a nose tackle).

But the real intrigue with this signing lies with his former team: Sunday's opponent, the New York Jets. With the Packers' obvious depth issues on the defensive line, you almost have to wonder what New York was thinking with this move. You just know the Packers will sap him for whatever knowledge he may have of his former team, and hope to use it to their advantage this Sunday.

Matt Wilhelm - ILB - 6'4" 247 lbs - Wilhelm seems to be a mixed bag. While his 2007 season with the Chargers was a solid one, his 2008 was bad enough for him to earn an outright release prior to the 2009 season. A fan's scouting report recounts him as average in coverage and against the run, and that he isn't suited for the 3-4. Since his release he's had stints with the Eagles and . He provides depth, but after 7 years in the league, its unlikely that he has a breakout season ahead of him. Its hard to see Wilhelm as a Packer beyond this season.

Diyral Briggs - OLB - 6'4" 230 lbs - This guy's a youngin'. He spent time with both the 49ers in '09 with Wilhelm and played a game with Broncos last week before being released in wake of their brutal 59-14 loss to the Oakland Raiders. He's rarely saw the field during his 2 year NFL career, which means he's a bit of a blank slate. A DE at Bowling Green in college, he led the MAC in sacks with 9.5 in 2008. His combination of a lack of size and pass rushing prowess made him an intriguing fit for the 3-4 at linebacker. In camp in 2009 with the Niners, he caught the eyes of Patrick Willis and Takeo Spikes while flaunting his athleticism. Its pretty obvious what Thompson saw in Briggs: the potential to bolster the pass rush opposite of Matthews.

Erik Walden - OLB - 6'2" 250 lbs - Walden is an interesting case. While all reports show that his biggest value is on special teams, his recent stint in free agency was due to an untimely mistake on a punt in which he missed his blocking assignment, which in turn led to the punt being blocked. It would seem the last thing the Packers need is more mental errors on special teams. On defense, like Briggs, Walden is a former college DE pass-rush specialist who was converted to OLB by Dallas when he was drafted in 2008.

While the signing of three linebackers may seem excessive, its possible Capers has a very linebacker-heavy scheme in store for the Rex Ryan and the Jets this Sunday. But I think of this more as a midseason training camp for a roster spot. CB Al Harris, S Atari Bigby and RB James Starks all have to be activated no later than the Dallas game next week, or else they're effectively out for the year. It will be convenient for Thompson to let go of two of these acquisitions to help make the necessary room.

The guess here is that Briggs will be the last man standing--he's the youngest and seems to have the most unrealized potential of the three, which are two traits Thompson has shown an affinity for during his 6 years in Green Bay.

Of course, the way this season is going, two of the three will probably end up on the IR and his decision will be made for him.