There’s only so much we can learn from a football practice where everyone is playing two-hand touch. Collective bargaining prohibits one-on-one drills for reasons that go beyond comprehension. Basically, they can’t hit, can’t do competitive drills, and while teams can do offense vs. defense work, how much good can it really do when there’s no real contact?
They might as well play Madden, right?
Except these organized team activities are essential in the development of any team. Young players show they’ve absorbed the scheme and their ability to fly around to make plays will stand out. Players hoping to move up the depth chart must show an alacrity with the concepts even in shorts.
And on one of the deeper, more competitive rosters this team has had in recent memory, a number of players need to get off to a fast start in order to solidify their standing on this team both in the short-term and for the future.
Kevin King, CB
Coming off a trying rookie season that ended with shoulder surgery, King could be the focal point of this defense under Mike Pettine. He could be.
With his size, physicality and athletic tools, King couldn’t be better suited to play the type of aggressive, press-man scheme Pettine wants from his corners. King didn’t press nearly as much under Dom Capers as he will under Pettine, so he’ll need to show early he’s comfortable with the techniques in this defense. Though there’s no tackling in OTA’s, the hand fighting and nuanced battles between cornerbacks and receivers still get waged.
Green Bay is relying on King to be its No. 1 cornerback in 2018 despite the heavy investment in the offseason at the position. He’ll need to show improvement instinctually as well as an elasticity to adapt to a new scheme in Year 2, especially because this change should suit his talents so beautifully.
Ty Mongomery, RB
Aaron Jones is good ... maybe really good. Jamaal Williams is good enough. So, where does that leave the 2017 opening day starter? Montgomery played nearly every snap before hurting his ribs last season but never quite got his legs under him and finished with a sub-par 3.8 per carry average.
Jones proved he was a legitimate NFL running back last season and Williams showed more than proficiency in his stint as the team’s lead back. Montgomery has to re-take the backfield bull by the horns and earn this starting job. He’s the most versatile back of this group as a former receiver and has the most familiarity with the offense, but Jones is the more natural runner and Williams looks like the most durable of the three.
Montgomery needs a fast start at OTA’s to remind the coaches, and potentially even himself, what kind of player he’s capable of being for this offense.
HaHa Clinton-Dix, FS
Few players drew the ire of Packers fans like the former first-round pick in 2017. Clinton-Dix played tentatively most of the season after drawing an early personal foul call, a touchstone moment that seemed to undercut his entire season.
We didn’t see the playmaker who had flashed much of his career, including in the 2016 season that earned Clinton-Dix a trip to the Pro Bowl. He stopped contesting passes, almost never made plays in the run game, and simply didn’t impact the game in meaningful ways.
With Morgan Burnett patrolling the Pittsburgh back end, Clinton-Dix must assume the role as leader and caller of the secondary. He’s not just playing for this season either, with a free agent offseason looming a year from now.
He must pick up the defense quickly and thrive in it, or the Packers will go into another offseason with safety as a priority position of need.
Geronimo Allison, WR
Brian Gutekunst’s 2018 offseason made the Packers better, while also indicating where the team stands with Allison. Though it’s a balmy May week, Allison should know he’s on thin ice.
Yes, Green Bay ditched Jordy Nelson, but it also brought in Jimmy Graham and went triple-dip at receiver in the draft. Clearly Allison, slated to be the team’s starting boundary receiver opposite Davante Adams, has to prove he deserves to be in that spot because the Packers will have options.
Trevor Davis likely has to prove he’s a receiver to make this team—the position is too crowded for him to only have value as a punt returner—and Michael Clark clearly has physical tools to develop. That leaves at least six receivers fighting to make this roster with DeAngelo Yancey, and all of them will be pushing Allison for that WR3 spot.
He’s the most veteran player, but has never been a consistent factor and lacks the top-tier athletic traits most of the other players at the position possess. At this point, he’s only a lock to make the team because the Packers don’t have anyone else they trust. If that changes? Allison could be on the trading block or worse: the unemployment circuit.
Vince Biegel, OLB
Without pads or one-on-ones, without blocks to take on, or ball carriers to smash, there’s not much an outside linebacker like Biegel can really prove in OTAs. Except that’s not quite true.
Biegel’s instincts, explosiveness, and athletic ability should be on display even without the chance to defeat blocks. The new scheme deployed by Mike Pettine should allow linebackers to run free, make plays, and otherwise wreak havoc assuming they know what they’re doing.
The former Wisconsin star possesses the requisite smarts and twitch to be an impactul player in this scheme, something he wasn’t at the end of last season in what ended up being a redshirt rookie year.
Now healthy, Biegel has to be the player Green Bay thought it was drafting last season: a playmaking edge player who can be the third guy behind Nick Perry and Clay Matthews. He won’t be able to show it all, but he has to show flashes to inspire some confidence in the depth of the front so Pettine feels comfortable calling his aggressive brand of blitzes and coverage disguises in the back end with the knowledge his guys can get home.