In a little over 24 hours from now, the Green Bay Packers will kick off their preseason schedule with a home game against the Tennessee Titans. For this week’s roundtable, APC’s contributors weigh in on who they are most excited to see take the field.
Not surprisingly, there are several rookies in the bunch. However, there are a couple of second-year players in the mix, one who came over in a trade, and one of the new coordinators even makes an appearance.
Read on below and let us know in the comments who you’re most pumped up to see on the Lambeau Field turf tomorrow.
Evan “Tex” Western: ILB Oren Burks
I’m sure that a couple of the rookie wide receivers will show up on this list, but I’m going with the one player for whom the Packers traded up in this year’s NFL Draft: Burks. With Jake Ryan on IR with a torn ACL, Burks will be thrown into the fire much sooner and in a much bigger role than first anticipated. I’m expecting him to play significant snaps on Thursday, probably starting the game and rotating in and out of the lineup throughout.
What Burks brings is a skill set that has largely been missing from the Packers’ linebackers. He has exceptional athleticism and the size and coverage ability to stay with tight ends in the passing game. Whatever he brings against the run will be a bonus in my eyes. I’m hoping to see him make a few big plays on Thursday and look like he belongs - if he doesn’t do so in the first couple of exhibition games, then I could see the Packers making a move for some veteran help.
Bob Fitch: S Josh Jones
Where the heck is this guy going to line up? After starting his playing time last year as a linebacker in the Nitro package, injuries and poor cornerback play forced him back into the safety position where he looked a bit lost at times. Having to play conservatively and analyze more of what the offense is doing doesn’t, at this point, suit Jones’ strengths. I don’t know a lot about Mike Pettine’s defensive scheme so I’m curious as to how he will be utilized. Weak side linebacker? Oversized nickel cornerback? Traditional safety? It’s a passing league, we all know that - but where does an undersized linebacker lineup? I hope, and think, that we will see a lot of Jones matching up against Delanie Walker who is consistently a point of emphasis in the Titans’ offensive game plan.
Peter Bukowski: Josh Jackson
The names above are more than worthy, but Oren Burks will likely start at ILB for the Packers and Josh Jones, based on pedigree alone, will get a chance to start at some point. I’m excited to see them player because I think they’re exciting talents, but the fight for a roster spot and playing time is slightly less interesting to me because I expect the outcome is predetermined: they’re going to play sooner rather than later.
But rookie cornerback Josh Jackson appears to at least be behind Kevin King, Davon House, Tramon Williams and Jaire Alexander. His draft status may give him the benefit of the doubt against guys like Josh Hawkins and Lenzy Pipkins, but I want to see him go earn it. With King and Alexander unlikely to play against the Titans, Jackson should get time with the No. 1 defense on Thursday. More than running with Mike Pettine’s first group, Jackson will get to face the Titans new-look offense that may feature their young starters for a series or two. Jackson is supremely talented, but raw as a man cover corner. I want to see those talents, instincts, and playmaking abilities come through in a game setting.
Shawn Wagner: Montravius Adams
I wrote about Adams earlier this week, and he had an outstanding showing in the Family Night practice last weekend. Last year, Adams was injured prior to the preseason and rarely saw the field for meaningful action during the regular season. I’m excited to see if he can carry over his success for two straight training camps against Tennessee this week and into the 2018 season.
Adams showed a variety of moves to slip by blockers, including starting right guard hopeful Justin McCray, in both the running and passing games on Family Night. Having a healthy Adams is almost like owning an extra third round draft pick this year to further fortify an impressive defensive front. While Adams is taller, his strength, play style, and number 90 jersey seemed rather reminiscent of the last player to wear that number in Green Bay.
Wendi Hansen: DeShone Kizer
It’s no secret that DeShone Kizer had a bit of a rough season last year. Being the starter on a team with no wins can really take a toll on one’s confidence. Aaron Rodgers talked about his possible No.2 in a press conference earlier this week by saying that “this is kind of a fresh start for him. Having less pressure on him has given him some of that love for the game back.” Football is just as much about timing as it is talent and heart, and I personally am excited to see what this opportunity with the Packers will bring him.
Paul Noonan: The old receivers vs. the new receivers vs. Jake Kumerow
No one seems to care about DeAngelo Yancey or Trevor Davis, what with shiny new toys Equanimeous St. Brown, J’Mon Moore, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling around. If the old guard is going to make it, they are going to need to show something in front of a large audience just to get on radars. I’m also looking forward to seeing coverage of Kumerow, aka “The Great Whitewater Hope,” as the others are far more talented, but you just know Packer fans are going to love him. Receiver is the most interesting race, and one of the few positions open enough for preseason performance to matter.
Mike Vieth: Mike Pettine
I know that Pettine isn’t a player but he could be the most important acquisition the Packers made this offseason. While I don’t expect we’re going to see anything too complex from his defense tomorrow, I want to see some new coverage schemes and a base defense that can open up to some creative blitz and stunt packages. I want to see players communicating more and playing with more aggression and composure. While we all know the Packers will go as far as Aaron Rodgers will take them, Mike Pettine’s defense will be the real catalyst to determine if the Packers are a true Super Bowl contender or just another playoff team.