On Monday, the Green Bay Packers released their first depth chart of the 2016 season. This document resulted in some angst and consternation among Packers fans and even some hyperbole among national football writers - check out this piece from Pro Football Talk for an example of the latter.
However, the only reason the Packers released a depth chart is because the league mandates it. Furthermore, with how often the Packers line up in formations with three wide receivers or with five defensive backs, using traditional “base” alignments are poor reflections of the actual pecking order.
Still, there are a handful of mildly interesting items that can be found on the depth chart and that are worth mentioning. Take these topics with the caveats that the team has not yet played a real snap in the preseason - thanks, Canton stadium crew - and that it does not reflect the way they will align on the bulk of their snaps.
For now, Joe Callahan is listed ahead of Marquise Williams in the race for the third spot. This should be no surprise, as Callahan was supposed to start in the Hall of Fame Game and was signed immediately after the draft as an undrafted rookie, whereas Williams was added to the roster a few weeks later.
For now, Richard Rodgers is listed as the starter with Jared Cook as the #2 and Justin Perillo in the third spot. Cook can’t eclipse Rodgers while he’s sitting on the PUP list, of course, but Perillo definitely appears to have an edge on the other young tight ends for the time being.
I hope there are no complaints about Jeff Janis being listed as a third-stringer right now. The depth chart lists just two receivers, but it looks like this is broken down into players who primarily play on the boundary in one category and slot players in the other.
Nelson, Adams, and Janis are the three boundary players (in that order), while Cobb, Abbrederis, and Montgomery make up the other group. Perhaps the bigger item here than any of that is the fact that rookie Trevor Davis is listed in the reserves, behind the injured Montgomery.
This area of the depth chart is truly fascinating, however. Instead of our expected starting line of Letroy Guion at 5-tech DE, Kenny Clark at NT, and Mike Daniels at 3-tech DT, the line goes Mike Pennel, Guion, and Daniels, respectively, backed up by Dean Lowry, Brian Price, and Clark.
Still, don’t get too worried about Clark showing up on the backup line. Pennel will be suspended for the first four games, and Clark has already been receiving some significant snaps on the nose with the starters.
On the inside, Sam Barrington is still listed as the starter opposite Jake Ryan, with Blake Martinez and Joe Thomas backing up. Obviously Barrington’s injury and PUP list status has kept him off the field, and we will not know whether he regains the starting job until he returns.
The outside linebackers look as strong as ever, though. As expected, the three-deep looks very strong, with Peppers/Matthews backed up by Perry/Elliott and Datone Jones/Kyler Fackrell. There are no surprises there, but it’s exciting to see so many talented pass-rushers listed.
For now, Damarious Randall is still listed as the starter over Quinten Rollins on the left side. With no starter named at slot corner, we can only guess as to how the rotation will go, and both of those players (plus LaDarius Gunter and others) have been impressing on the inside.
At safety, the only slight surprise for this author is to see Micah Hyde listed as the backup at strong safety and Chris Banjo at free safety, instead of vice versa. However, the Packers’ safeties are in large part interchangeable, and therefore those distinctions matter little.
Finally, we have our first looks at the projected return situation, and here’s a spot where Janis appears on the first team - at kick returner. Micah Hyde is second, but maintains his spot as the top option on punts. Backing Hyde up on punts is Trevor Davis, who also slides in at the 3rd spot on kickoffs. Based on the early returns on the depth chart, Davis’ best chance to make an impact in 2016 will be in the return game, as expected.