The Green Bay Packers are going into a training camp that is going to be unlike any training camp the current roster has had before. They have a new head coach and offense for the first time in 13 years, they are coming off of back to back seasons that they missed the playoffs, and they finally, FINALLY spent big money in free agency. There are many things to watch as training camp approaches, but the battles over these positions are going to be ones to watch for.
The Packers clearly have their number one receiver in Davante Adams. He was second in the NFL last season in targets with 169. He has cemented himself as the top receiver for the Packers and one of the best in the NFL. Even with Adams taking a huge step forward last year, they still are missing the Anthony Davis to his Lebron James. They have a solid receiver one, but receiver two is still very much up for grabs.
The Packers chose to stick with the core they had last season, and trust that their growth and development will allow them to fill this spot in-house. During this offseasons OTA’s there was a lot of buzz around Trevor Davis and Jake Kumerow, but look for them to be getting opportunities as the third or fourth receiver. The players to watch are Geronimo Allison, Equanimeous St. Brown, and Marquez Valdez-Scantling. The two top prospects are Allison, who the Packers had high hopes for last year but battled injury and Valdez-Scantling. Valdez-Scantling showed flashes last season, but slowly fell out of the rotation. Both of these players who are going to come into training camp fighting for the number two spot.
The Packers addressed their offensive line this offseason in free agency by signing Billy Turner and also in the draft by choosing Elgton Jenkins in the second round. The Packers knew this was an area of weakness and addressed it.
Going into training camp, fans can expect Billy Turner to be the starting right guard next to Bulaga, but left guard is still a question mark.
The two main players fighting for the starting spot are Lane Taylor and Elgton Jenkins. Lane Taylor was an undrafted rookie who the Packers signed in 2013 who became their starter in 2016. Coming into this season, the Packers are looking to stabilize an offensive line that had 10 different players take snaps in 2018. Jenkins, unlike Taylor, was drafted by the Packers in the second round. He has experience playing every position on the offensive line and only gave up 1 sack over his junior and senior seasons. He is a talented player who, under the right system and coaching, could easily stand out and become a week 1 starter.
One dark horse player to keep your eyes on is Cole Madison. He was drafted by the Packers in the 2018 draft, but took last year off due to personal reasons. The Packers were excited about him last year, but now they can finally see how he fits the team and maybe earn some playing time. Lane Taylor has the NFL experience and skill to win this competition, but if he doesn’t put in the work and impress the new coaching staff he could find his job taken by two first-year players.
Usually the backup quarterback position is not one of much interest for most teams; however, Aaron Rodgers has not been the epitome of healthy over the past two seasons. Rodgers broke his collarbone for the second time in 2017 and sustained a knee injury week one in 2018 that had Packer fans questioning his ability to finish the season. The Packers are in desperate need of a quarterback that can come into the game and still run the offense. Obviously, there is not a backup or, for the most part, a starter in the NFL that can come in and run the offense like Aaron Rodgers can, but with a new offensive system, it will be easier than in years past.
The Packers have three backup quarterbacks on their roster right now with returners Deshone Kizer, Tim Boyle, and Manny Wilkins. Kizer and Boyle are two players returning to the Packers this season, whereas Wilkins was an undrafted rookie that the Packers signed this offseason. The two main advantages that Kizer and Boyle have coming into training camp is NFL experience and a rapport with the returning players on the team.
All three quarterbacks are coming into a brand new offense, so they are all starting from ground zero of the offense together. Kizer is the clear favorite since he was brought in on a trade, but he has not had the most impressive NFL career after going 0-15 his rookie year. He is also on year three of his four-year rookie contract, so the Packers could look to keep him until his contract is up. The battle that is going to be the most interesting is between Boyle and Wilkins. If the Packers choose to bring three quarterbacks into the season it could mean that whoever they choose to bring in could eventually take Kizer’s role. Kizer might be safe this summer but the battle between Boyle and Wilkins will show for how long.
The common theme throughout this article is that the Packers have their top guy, but are still searching for their complimentary player. This is no different for the inside linebacker position. The Packers have Blake Martinez as their leader of the linebacker core, but as of right now the second inside linebacker is up for grabs. The Packers let Morrison walk in free agency this offseason after trading for him a year ago, but they have young talented players ready to compete for the spot he left open. Second-year linebacker Oren Burks is a young, athletic linebacker who battled injuries last season. He is able to drop into coverage and use his athleticism play across the field. Burks main competition he will face this offseason is Ty Summers. The Packers drafted Summers in the 7th round in this years draft, and he already has shown potential to earn that spot next to Martinez. Burks is ahead in this competition, but Summers could swing that with a strong training camp.
I understand that defensive line is not a position, but the Packers have acquired players who can rush from the outside or inside, which allows Defensive Coordinator Mike Pettine to create different packages with different personnel. Mike Pettine gets to choose from a combination of Kenny Clark, Mike Daniels, Preston Smith, Za’Darius Smith, Rashan Gary, and Kyler Fackrell. These players are going to all be used during every game, but players will be fighting for their spot in the packages Pettine creates during training camp. Players like Reggie Gilbert, Dean Lowry, Tyler Lancaster, and Kingsley Keke, will all be players to keep your eyes on as well throughout training camp. Right now they are players who will be situational pass rushers, but a strong training camp and preseason can earn them some more playing time on an already stacked defensive line.
The Packers went through a big transition over the past two seasons replacing the General Manager and Head Coach, but they have created a team that can bounce back in 2019 and contend for a Super Bowl title. The healthy competition of training camp will only push players’ development further and get the Packers closer to their Super Bowl aspirations.