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Packers bubble players to watch against Washington

With two weeks before another roster cutdown, fringe players will need to shine.

NFL: Green Bay Packers-Training Camp
Taysom Hill showed his physical tools against the Eagles. Could he make a run at Joe Callahan for the third quarterback job?
Jim Matthews-USA TODAY Sports

For the Packers, a playoff team with its roster pretty close to set, there may only be a handful of spots available on the 53-man roster and with teams watching Ted Thompson’s transactions like hawks, don’t expect any fan favorite to be an easy addition to the practice squad.

With that in mind, we put together a list of five players who have work to do to sure up their spot moving forward, or have a chance to build some momentum and steal one. Week 2 of the preseason against Washington provides the stage for that next opportunity.

For some reference, here’s a look at our pre-camp projections for the 53-man roster.

Jeff Janis

Before the announcement of Geronimo Allison’s suspension, Janis was off our projected final cut list. The additions of DeAngelo Yancey and Malachi Dupre, along with the evolution of Trevor Davis as a returner appeared to seal the fate of everyone’s favorite “what if” receiver.

Then Janis cooked an Eagles corner on a sluggo route for a touchdown after an early drop in what has become an August tradition of flashing brilliance. His value on special teams can’t be denied as the team’s top kick returner at the moment, as well as a gunner on the punt team.

If Dupre were healthy — and thankfully he does not appear to be seriously injured — Janis would be in even worse shape. It wouldn’t be preseason without a flash play from Janis, so the Packers have seen this movie before.

But let’s say he makes a big play in the return game, or forces a fumble as a gunner. Could he force their hand?

Josh Hawkins

With injuries to Davon House and Damarious Randall, Hawkins was running with the 1’s in practice this week, and the coaching staff was pleased with the chance to evaluate him against starting-caliber receivers.

After another rocky preseason game against the Eagles for Hawkins, this could be code for “this week could prove Hawkins just isn’t an NFL corner.”

Meanwhile Lenzy Pipkins was one of Green Bay’s brightest spots on a sloppy night for the defense. The rookie has the body of a boundary corner, but played almost exclusively in the slot, where he blanketed receivers, blitzed effectively and made an impact in every facet.

Hawkins is ahead of him on the depth chart for now, but expect the Packers to also use Saturday’s tilt with Washington as an evaluation tool on a player like Pipkins against better talent.

Taysom Hill

The Packers’ belief in Joe Callahan boggles the minds of most of us at APC, but we can’t fight reality (or can we? Whoa).

Hill was 4/5 for 69 yards against the Eagles with a score, and the one incompletion was a beautiful deep shot to DeAngelo Yancey that should have been pass interference. It’s a touchdown if Yancey has two hands free to make the catch.

Hill also rushed twice for 14 yards, showing the kind of athletic talent that makes him so unique at the position. If the Packers plan to hold onto Hundley through the season, it makes sense to have a developmental player as the third quarterback, even if he’s just a practice squad guy.

Another stellar performance could make it painfully obvious start to make Callahan even more expendable.

Aaron Jones vs. Devante Mays

Green Bay’s running game was grounded against the Eagles. I guess you could say they never quite got off the ground. Run game? More like walk game.

Ok I’m sorry. It was really bad. About as bad as those dad jokes.

Jones and Mayes combined for five yards on four touches. This battle was expected to produce more fireworks than that, though to be fair it was a tough night for the Packers offensive line.

The expectation is the Packers will keep Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones after Ty Montgomery, but Green Bay loves Mayes’ talent and Joe Kerridge has shown some flashes as a fullback.

These will be difficult decisions to make and so far, and frankly the Packers best running back against the Eagles was Williams, who ran hard and has shown toughness in pass protection.

Marwin Evans

I’m not sure how Evans doesn’t make the team at this point, but the numbers are going to be tight so he has some work to do in order to be a lock. His over-the-shoulder interception against the Eagles picks up where he left off last preseason as a ballhawk and playmaker.

Evans only played 18 defensive snaps last season, but was in on nearly half of special teams snaps. Green Bay prizes special teams value for its backups.

Kentrell Brice once again struggled as a tackler against the Eagles and for all the physical tools he has, that issue pops up far too often. I’d expect to see Josh Jones get more run in place of Brice as the preseason wears on, and potentially into the regular season.

If it becomes clear Jones can start and the Packers are unhappy with Brice’s maddening inconsistency, it’s not unrealistic to think they could see Evans as having a brighter future and keep him over Brice.

And even if Brice makes the team, Evans has enough upside and special teams potential to be worth keeping. If he continues to make plays, the Packers will have an easy decision.