With the Green Bay Packers' first preseason game in the books, the first round of substantive player evaluation can commence. Though the No. 1 offense and defense had their rough patches, some individuals stood out positively. Even more high marks were earned after the reserves entered the game. While plenty of time remains before the Packers have to make their first wave of cuts, some players stand a better chance of sticking around than others.
Andy Mulumba and Jayrone Eliott
Less than a year removed from an ACL tear, Andy Mulumba has become one of the stars of training camp. That momentum carried over into the Packers' first preseason game, with Mulumba registering half a sack and generally wrecking havoc on the Patriots' offensive line throughout his time on the field. Though listed as an outside linebacker, he rushed from an inside position as well. With Mike Neal and Nick Perry dealing with injury issues, Mulumba stands a puncher's chance of securing a starting spot in the base defense when Clay Matthews shifts inside.
However, Mulumba wasn't the only reserve pass rusher to flash Thursday. Second-year linebacker Jayrone Elliott picked up right where he left off last preseason, notching a half sack of his own along with a team-high eight tackles. Elliott worked against the Patriots' second- and third-stringers, but he clearly outclassed them, suggesting that with time he might develop into a useful player. He certainly has room to improve, as he ran himself out of several plays during the game and picked up an off-sides penalty.
Quinten Rollins and LaDarius Gunter
Two weeks into training camp, rookie cornerback Quinten Rollins became an afterthought. The second-round pick barely made it onto the practice field, and by the time he appeared Damarious Randall and LaDarius Gunter had stolen the spotlight. That changed Thursday night, as Rollins played like a top draft choice, batting away two passes including a near interception. Perhaps even more impressive, the young corner showcased his tackling acumen, a skill the Green Bay secondary too often lacked in previous years. It's only one game, but Rollins' left quite an impression on his teammates and coaches.
As for Gunter, he notched the game's only takeaway, an interception of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo that he returned for 28 yards. The cornerback has a prime opportunity to carve out a niche, as his size (6'1", 202 pounds) and length (31 1/2" arms) are peerless on the Green Bay roster. If the undrafted rookie strings together a few more strong performances like this one, the Packers will have no choice but to keep him on the 53.
While Rollins, Elliott and Mulumba garnered the most attention Thursday night, Scott Tolzien may have put the biggest smile on his general manager's face. The Packers took a calculated risk when they let trusted veteran Matt Flynn walk this offseason, allowing the younger Tolzien to step into the primary backup quarterback role.
When the Wisconsin product first arrived in Green Bay in 2013, his passes lacked zip and his decision-making proved deficient. Those don't appear to be concerns any longer, and Tolzien now looks capable of running the offense at a high level should an injury press him into action.
The bad news? Packers fans can no longer claim Jeff Janis only catches touchdowns. Other than that, Janis once again showed off his elite athleticism and game-breaking ability as a pass catcher, hauling in a touchdown from Tolzien during the second quarter. Janis has had a respectable if somewhat unspectacular camp thus far, but he made another statement Thursday with his play.
Janis hasn't secured a roster spot by any means, but he probably has the best chance to make the roster of any of wideout after the big four: Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Davante Adams and Ty Montgomery.