With the Green Bay Packers a week into training camp and on an off day today, this seems a perfect time to round up a few storylines from the first week. Our roundtable discussion is back for another edition this week, as several APC writers examine a handful of questions that at the forefront of our minds after the first few practices.
Which new addition to the Packers’ roster are you most looking forward to seeing this preseason?
Evan “Tex” Western: The Wisconsin alumnus in me says Vince Biegel, but his debut will be delayed due to injury. And since we probably won’t see much of the starters (or the interesting parts of the offensive scheme) in the preseason, we won’t see Martellus Bennett’s true impact until week one. Therefore, I’ll say Josh Jones - in large part because I’m excited to see just how much inside linebacker he plays and how much nasty he brings to the secondary.
Mike Vieth: I’m not on the Ty Montgomery as a number one running back bandwagon quite yet. So, I’m looking forward to seeing what Jamaal Williams can bring to the table. I understand Montgomery will be the starter and he was definitely serviceable last season but Williams will get his fair share of carries and should be able to bring a tough runner between the tackles. The Packers need someone to step to the table since Eddie Lacy left and Williams should be the guy to get the tough yards this season.
Shawn Wagner: From a skill position standpoint, I’m intrigued to see the physical dimension Jamaal Williams brings to the running back group. He’s not quite the bruiser that Eddie Lacy was, but he brings more speed and durability. We could see him become a weekly contributor very early on, especially the first few weeks of preseason with extended work.
Bob Fitch: Kevin King. I’m intrigued by the Packers’ running back group, but I want need to see improvement from the defense to have any hope for a possible Green Bay Super Bowl appearance. With the length to match up with anyone, I think King will soon be matching up against the opponent’s #1 receivers. Bringing back Davon House was a great move to help shore up the secondary, but if Randall and Rollins don’t improve in year 3, King has a great opportunity to help bring the Green Bay defense back to prominence. Dare I say King of the North?
Jon Meerdink: Geoff Gray. The Packers have a well-understood lack of depth at guard, and while I’m not sure he could help this year, Gray is a fantastic prospect from an athletic standpoint. He tested better at his pro day than any lineman from the Ted Thompson era other than Jason Spriggs. If he can adapt to the pro game, he could be a fixture on the line.
Paul Noonan: This is the preseason, it’s backup QB time! Brett Hundley will almost certainly never be the Packer starter, and he’s only under team control for two more seasons. Hundley is an investment, and if that investment is going to pay off, it needs to happen very soon. I still believe the Packer QB development system is second to none, and that Hundley has the tools to excel if given the chance, and this is his last, best and only remaining chance to put on a show. He’s been unrealized potential so far, I’m looking forward to a Hundley taking the leap, and idiots talking about a quarterback controversy.
Who do you think is the most likely veteran to be a surprise cut at the end of training camp?
Tex: I’m not sure if Jeff Janis counts as a surprise, but he’s one option. I also think Joe Thomas could end up off the team, especially if the Packers do indeed use Jones and Morgan Burnett extensively in the athletic ILB role.
Mike: I went back and forth between Jeff Janis and Don Barclay but then thought of a huge surprise that could be plausible. I’m going with Randall Cobb. The Packers have shown they aren’t afraid to cut high-end players with the Josh Sitton cut last year and Cobb fits that mold as well. Cobb has two years left on his contract and is making more than $12.5 million each year. That’s definitely not worth the 10 touchdowns and 1,439 yards he has recorded the past two seasons combined. If they cut him, they’ll save around $6 million and could use that to extend Devante Adams before he hits free agency at the end of the season. Cobb is still young, at only 26, and one of Aaron Rodgers most trusted receivers but with the emergence of Geronimo Allison and younger guys like Trevor Davis, DeAngelo Yancey and Malachi Dupre waiting in the wings there could be a big shakeup at the wide receiver position on the horizon. (And cue the bashing of this in the comment section)
Shawn: Since the moment Green Bay drafted Josh Jones in the second round, I’ve felt Joe Thomas’ days at inside linebacker in Green Bay are numbered. With Green Bay already beginning to shift to the “Deone Bucannon” type of role at inside linebacker in subpackages with Morgan Burnett and Kentrell Brice, they added Jones with the expectation he can do much of the same almost immediately. Thomas, signed to a one year deal worth just $615,000 in the offseason, could be expendable if Green Bay elects to go with just Blake Martinez and Jake Ryan inside with their added safety help.
Bob: Jeff Janis or Richard Rodgers. Green Bay has too many receivers on its roster, and too much draft capital invested to let some younger guys go. I do think that Janis’ saving grace is his excellent special teams play, and that is a big factor to keep him around. Conversely, Richard Rogers isn’t a special teams ace, and while he has certainly made his fare share of memorable plays, he’s looking at a 3rd TE spot on the depth chart, with a more athletic prospect in Beau Sandland behind him. While he has decent hands and has been good at catching a 5 yard out route, in the last year of his contract, Rodgers’ overall lack of utility may not warrant him holding up a roster spot.
Jon: I don’t know if he counts as a veteran, but Quinten Rollins should be looking over his shoulder throughout training camp. From an athletic standpoint, Rollins has never really fit the mold of what the Packers look for from a defensive back. Given his alarming regression last year and the presence of other young up and comers at corner, he’s almost certainly in the danger zone.
Paul: I doubt there will be anything terribly exciting, but very much look forward to answering Clay Matthews next offseason. Most of the big potential veteran cuts like Cobb and Richard Rodgers are actually pretty cheap going forward. To the extent there is a surprise there is really no room for Janis on the roster, and I suspect Geronimo Allison has a tough time of things as well. I suppose I don’t think there is much of a surprise this season, but expect next season to be a veteran blood bath.
If the Packers keep one and only one undrafted rookie (not including punter Justin Vogel) on the 53-man roster this year, who is your pick to be that player?
Tex: I’ve got ILB Cody Heiman - he’s ridiculously athletic and could become a special teams stalwart.
Mike: The Packers drafted three running backs but were able to sign William Stanback as an UDFA following the draft. If he had stayed out of trouble at UCF, he would have easily been drafted this year. He ended up being dismissed from the team and needed to go to a D2 school to get his life and career back on track. He has the talent, now can he impress enough to make the Packers keep him over their draft picks?
Shawn: Green Bay has a tendency to retain an undrafted cornerback from year to year, so my pick is Oklahoma State’s Lenzy Pipkins, though I could see Daquan Holmes getting a decent shot with his versatility. Pipkins is confident, physical, experienced, and a special teams performer. Those are Green Bay kind of qualities.
Bob: Going to Echo Tex’s comments here - fringe guys make their hay off of special teams, and Heiman seems like he’s perfectly suited for that role. Very athletic and big enough to be both tackler and blocker, versatility means he finds a spot on the roster.
Jon: Johnathan Calvin could extend the long heritage of versatile undrafted outside linebackers making the roster, although he has a tough road ahead of him. He played a little inside rusher, a little traditional defensive end, and a little 3-4 outside linebacker in college and he has intriguing measurables. If he can translate that background into production, he could be the heir to the legacy of Vic So’oto, Andy Mulumba, and Jayrone Elliott.
Paul: Stanback. Running backs are so frequently injured, and Stanback’s measurables are impressive enough to get him a serious look. I expected to be smitten with Devante Mays but Stanback’s agility is is better, his tape is better, and he has as much of a chance as anyone to capitalize on an opportunity.
Which wide receivers will make the team behind Nelson, Adams, and Cobb (and Allison, who is on suspension for week one)?
Tex: I am changing my mind from my pre-training camp prediction already, bumping Jeff Janis off. That leaves me with three -- Trevor Davis, Malachi Dupre, and a surprise in Max McCaffrey.
Mike: I already cut Randall Cobb earlier, so I’m going with Jordy Nelson, Devante Adams, Geronimo Allison, Jeff Janis, Trevor Davis, DeAngelo Yancey and Malachi Dupre.
Shawn: There’s a ton of talent on this squad, but I will say three: Trevor Davis, DeAngelo Yancey, and Malachi Dupre. Keep an eye out for Max McCaffrey if the Packers want an extra body for one more week while they sort out the position.
Bob: Trevor Davis, DeAngelo Yancey, Malachi Dupre. I could easily be talked into Janis being replaced for Dupre, but again there’s too much draft capital invested in Davis and Yancey to have them stashed on the practice squad or cut this early on.
Jon: Give me the foursome of Davis, Janis, Yancey, and Dupre with a tough conversation happening after week one.
Paul: Davis, Yancey, Dupre. Davis is too athletic to not make it, Dupre has almost Janis-level hype at this point, and I still like Yancey, and believe his special teams ability will keep him around. Allison was fine last season and I could see him sticking, but lack of special teams acumen will hurt him. That same thing might keep Janis around, but his complete ineptitude as a receiver will do him in.
Which two players will start at inside linebacker in week one?
Tex: Morgan Burnett and Jake Ryan - we’re already seeing Burnett work heavily at linebacker in the nickel and dime, and since he’s been getting time even in the base 3-4, he is my bet to start there, only giving way to Blake Martinez in short-yardage situations.
Mike: It sounds like the Packers are experimenting with Morgan Burnett and Josh Jones as middle linebackers in camp, but that won’t make a difference. Blake Martinez and Jake Ryan will be back in those spots week one. Sure, Burnett or Jones could be there on passing downs but those guys will get eaten up by the offensive linemen moving to the second level on running downs. Ryan has proven to be a dependable tackler and, I think, Martinez is going to have a breakout season and be a great player for this defense moving forward.
Shawn: Jake Ryan and Blake Martinez. For now. A lot of subpackage opportunities for Jones and Burnett, but Ryan and Martinez are core three-down players at that position.
Bob: Ryan and Martinez. Jones won’t be in that role right away, as Capers’ scheming can be complex for a rookie to pick up. We definitely will see Morgan Burnett down there in game 1, but not on the first series. It’s also important to ask who will be taking Burnett’s position when he moves down to ILB - do the coaches trust Jones or Kentrell Brice enough? Losing Micah Hyde in the offseason pushes back this option a few weeks until the younger players are up to speed.
Jon: In the base defense, it’s going to be Joe Thomas and Jake Ryan. Whether the Packers actually play the base or not is up for debate, but Thomas got by far the most work out of any of the three “traditional” linebackers on the Packers roster. If the Packers are hoping for more speed and versatility out of that position group, why would they bench the only guy with any kind of track record of filling the new, hybrid role and working as a more typical linebacker?
Paul: Ryan and Martinez will be the John Kuhn Memorial Starters, quickly giving way to one of the safeties. Martinez will then have tea and crumpets on the sidelines until an obvious running down presents itself.