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Packers 2017 practice squad reactions and projections

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The Packers have an intriguing mix on their practice squad this year, and there’s reason for optimism about just about every player on that unit.

NFL: Green Bay Packers-Training Camp Jim Matthews-USA TODAY Sports

The Green Bay Packers locked in the initial version of their practice squad on Sunday afternoon, placing ten players — all of whom spent training camp in Green Bay — on the squad to start the season. That group includes two draft picks from the 2017 class plus four players who spent all or part of last season in the organization.

Here are a few reactions to the players the Packers chose to add to the squad.

Draft Picks

5th-round pick WR DeAngelo Yancey, 6th-round pick OL Kofi Amichia

The Packers cut Yancey, the wide receiver from Purdue, making him the highest-drafted player in years to not make the Packers’ roster in his rookie season. However, Yancey possesses a big, physical frame to go with good size, and this move allows him to keep his development going in Green Bay.

Meanwhile, Amichia was the most athletic offensive line prospect drafted this year, but is taking a while to harness that athleticism. The Packers kept Lucas Patrick on the 53 this year after he spent all of 2016 on the practice squad, and presumably hope to do the same with Amichia.

All told, the fact that these two players returned is a good thing. Both have the raw ability to help the Packers in future years, if they can develop their technique, and both likely rewarded the Packers’ investment in them by agreeing to stay within the organization.

The Quarterback

Joe Callahan

For Packers fans who watched Taysom Hill impress in the second half of this year’s preseason games, seeing him claimed by the Saints and the Packers landing Callahan as their third option might be a disappointment.

However, the Packers still seem excited about Callahan’s future development, and losing a 27-year-old rookie in Hill is not the end of the world. Could the team have cut one of their seven cornerbacks (perhaps Lenzy Pipkins) and kept Hill? Yes. But ultimately, the Packers had another player claimed on waivers in Brian Price, and there’s no guarantee that whoever they cut to make room for Hill would have been available after waivers cleared.

In a sense, Callahan and Hill will always be linked by this preseason. But while Hill impressed, there was not enough difference between the two to get too upset about a consolation prize in Callahan.

The pass-rusher

OLB Reggie Gilbert

This should be the player whom Packers fans should be most pleased about getting back on the practice squad this year. Gilbert was a tough player to see get released, as he largely played well with the second and third unit defenses. It was even more surprising when Vince Biegel was placed on the PUP list and the team kept just four outside linebackers (five including Ahmad Brooks now that he is signed).

By that token, Gilbert will surely be eligible for a promotion onto the 53 if there are any significant injuries at the position, and he should be able to step in admirably. If anything, it’s a surprise that he was not claimed by another team on waivers.

The other veterans

ILB Derrick Mathews, S Jermaine Whitehead

Mathews was probably a necessary player to retain, given that the Packers only kept three inside linebackers (not including the contributions expected from Morgan Burnett and Josh Jones). He is a hard hitter who spent all of last year on the team’s practice squad, and it’s good to see him return.

Whitehead’s return is a bit more surprising, as the Packers have depth at the safety position this year. Still, his athleticism is still a good thing to hold on to — but our bet is that if the team makes any changes to the squad, he might be the first player to go.

Rookies

CB Donatello Brown, WR Michael Clark, DL Izaah Lunsford, OL Adam Pankey

Brown had a couple of great preseason performances, especially in the final game against the Rams. With the team keeping seven corners on the 53, it’s slightly surprising to see an eighth on the practice squad, but Brown absolutely earned his spot.

Clark, as we predicted all along, drew no interest from other NFL teams and is an ideal practice squad candidate. Be excited about his long-term potential, but don’t count on him contributing this season even if there are injuries that strike at wide receiver.

Lunsford flashed a bit late in camp; the Packers surely would have liked to bring Brian Price back, but the Cowboys prevented that by claiming him on Sunday.

Finally, Pankey is an intriguing developmental lineman with the ability to play both tackle and guard. In addition, he appears a bit more ready to contribute as a rookie than Amichia, so if the team needs help mid-season I expect him to get the first call-up.