With Family Night wrapping up Saturday evening, there were a number of players that stood out for the Green Bay Packers heading into the first preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday night. While the offense appears to be stacked with playmakers, both newcomers and returners, the special teams unit left questions to be answered later.
Here are some initial reactions from those groups.
Mason Crosby was shaky at best during the end of the scrimmage, missing six of eleven field goals on the night from 40, 42, 48, 50, 50, and 50 yards respectively. Although Crosby was almost automatic last season, including a game-winning field goal in a playoff victory over the Dallas Cowboys, it was concerning to see him miss six of his last seven kicks. Of course, there is a new long snapper and holder this year with Derek Hart and punter Justin Vogel, but considering Crosby’s confidence has been overly critical to his performance in the past, let’s hope he is able to bounce back quickly.
Speaking of Vogel, he was impressive punting on the night, downing all four of his punts from the 50-yard line inside the 20: the 14, 4, 14, and 8-yard lines, respectively. He also had a hang time as high as 4.83 seconds and a long of 54 yards when punting from his own 30-yard line. It was a good start for the undrafted rookie from Miami.
The punt and kick returners are still to be determined. In punting situations during the first part of the night, Cobb and Trevor Davis took turns fielding punts. Later, in kickoff situations, receivers Pearson and Montay Crockett rotated as the returners. Stay tuned, as this seems to be a position up for grabs the next four preseason games.
If there were any doubts about Randall Cobb’s place on the team, they were shattered on Family Night. Cobb was a major target of Aaron Rodgers throughout the evening, especially during the two-minute drill, finding Cobb twice on 8-10 yard throws. Cobb will have a spot on the final roster.
As far as the competitive wide receivers group goes, Malachi Dupre had a nice evening and even caught a deep sideline pass from Aaron Rodgers early in the practice. Dupre was the most impressive of the young receivers, but fellow rookie DeAngelo Yancey made a nice play late in the scrimmage in beating LaDarius Gunter down the sideline. For what it’s worth, there was both a first and second team no-huddle drill at the end of practice and Jeff Janis didn’t crack the second team receivers group until Colby Pearson exited the game with an apparent lower leg injury. Although Janis received positive reviews from Packers’ media in practice the night before, Pearson, Yancey, and Max McCaffrey formed the second unit.
The tight end position is loaded and could put the Packers’ offense over the top this season. Martellus Bennett was a target in the flat and over the middle, while Rodgers found Lance Kendricks on a beautiful 20-yard strike across the middle on the first full series. The two free agent signees will be important to the team this year. But perhaps the story of the night was holdover Richard Rodgers, who hauled in multiple passes, especially throws more than 20 yards down the middle from Brett Hundley. For a player that has been used on short passes primarily during his first few seasons with the team, Rodgers was utilized down the field more often on Saturday evening.
The running back position is another talented group to watch in camp as roles are carved out. Ty Montgomery and Jamaal Williams split first team snaps, but Montgomery stole the show. After a rather slow start in finding running lanes, he warmed up as the night progressed and showed glimpses of being an extraordinary weapon out of the backfield on checkdowns, short routes over the middle, and screen passes (two-minute drill). A former receiver, route running is Montgomery’s strong suit, but the converted back showed Christian McCaffrey-type potential as an all-around weapon. It was clear he put on some muscle weight in the offseason and should be well-suited for significant snaps this year.
The other young backs displayed varying skill sets, and it will be fun to watch competition among them in preseason action. Williams was fairly quiet on Saturday, but Aaron Jones flashed the ability to be a good one-cut back in the Packers’ offense with one such cut across the grain leading to a 15-20 yard run. Devante Mays isn’t the tallest back, but he is solidly built at above 230 pounds and uses that size to break tackles. He has a low center of gravity and may be able to churn out short yardage, much like he did on Family Night. Undrafted William Stanback didn’t necessarily stand out, but did have a nice reception in the flat and, like Mays, has some power.
It will be intriguing to watch Hundley in live action on Thursday. He started off the practice by showing soft touch on a 20-yard pass down the middle to Richard Rodgers and nearly hitting Kendricks on the same play in a later series. However, there still seemed to be some hesitation at times to get rid of the ball, leading to what would have been sacks in real game action. On one play, defensive end Dean Lowry was able to get in Hundley’s face and force an ill-advised pass that was intercepted by Jake Ryan in the red zone. It was an up and down night for Hundley, but one in which you could tell he was going through his progressions and really scanning the field. Thursday should give a greater indicator of how far Hundley has progressed.