Four observations the day after the Packers’ 30-16 win over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.
The Packers didn’t activate newly signed Tavon Austin for this game, but they signed him at a good time because it looks like they’re probably going to need him sooner than they expected. Austin was signed as a backup and complement for Tyler Ervin as a jet-sweep/bubble-screen/returner, in part because Ervin has had a bad time staying healthy. He has already missed four games because of injuries and was knocked out of this one because of an ankle injury in the third quarter. Before signing Austin the Packers didn’t have anyone else comparable to Ervin, who is more important for the threat he poses on jet motion than the relatively few times he actually gets the ball. But Austin is comparable and probably even more talented, at least if he’s healthy after just returning from a knee injury sustained in training camp with the San Francisco 49ers and still has some gas in the tank at age 29. Assuming Ervin can’t play this week at Detroit, you have to think coach Matt LaFleur will accelerate the plan for Austin and get the Packers’ newest offensive addition on the field some against the Lions.
One of the sideshow highlights of Sunday’s game was watching left tackle David Bakhtiari run all 77 yards with Aaron Jones on the running back’s 77-yard touchdown run that put the game away in the fourth quarter. As Jones stopped, started and weaved his way along the sidelines, Bakhtari kept running and looking for someone to block and crossed the goal line a little behind Jones. “It’s always great when you see a guy like David Bakhtiari, or a guy like (Marquez Valdes-Scantling) out there in front, you know, for their brother on that play,” LaFleur said. “Aaron Jones, a fantastic back, he did a lot of great things. But it’s always so great to see those guys battling for one another.”
The Packers’ special-teams cover units have become a liability. On Sunday they gave up two big returns – a 73-yard touchdown on a punt return by rookie Jalen Reagor that briefly got the Eagles within one score late in the fourth quarter, and a 46-yard kickoff return by Boston Scott that revived a glimmer of hope for the Eagles with 2½ minutes left and down by 14 points. Those plays can get you beat in the playoffs. “I don’t think that was JK (Scott)’s best punt by, by any stretch,” LaFleur said of Reagor’s touchdown. “… Reagor is a talented returner, I mean, I know he’s a rookie, but he’s a guy that we definitely had a high regard for throughout the evaluation process when we were going through the draft prep. But you know, you just can’t have that happen. … We gotta make sure that we’ve got the right people in there to go down and make a play, because that can’t happen.”
Ever since third-round pick Josiah Deguara’s season ended with a knee injury in Week 4, LaFleur has rarely lined up anyone at fullback. But after Jace Sternberger left the game in the second half because of a concussion, undrafted rookie Dominque Dafney (6-2, 243) lined up at fullback several times as a lead blocker. If Sternberger can’t play this weekend, it’s worth keeping an eye on whether Dafney gets a few snaps in that role against Detroit, too.