In the vast majority of cases, one preseason game will not make or break a player’s chances for a contributing role or a spot on the season-opening roster. However, their performances make up part of the larger picture, something the Green Bay Packers’ coaches will consider as the preseason progresses.
After the Packers’ 31-17 exhibition victory over the Tennessee Titans, several young players stood out, though not all did so in a positive manner.
Though only a rookie, the spotlight found Oren Burks early in training camp following Jake Ryan’s season-ending ACL tear. In his first live action as a member of the Packers, Burks produced more good tape than bad. He showcased his speed and range, making tackles that other linebackers on the team couldn’t attempt. At the same time, he also overpursued on a few plays, yielding some first downs. Even so, Burks finished Thursday’s game with a team-high six tackles.
While a pressure-aided interception dragged down Brett Hundley’s final numbers, he displayed quiet competence during both his time with the starters and backups. His connection with Packers Pro Bowl receiver Davante Adams certainly remains intact, a fact demonstrated by the 48-yard bomb the pair produced on Green Bay’s opening drive. But Hundley also managed to squeeze a ball between multiple defenders to find rookie Equanimeous St. Brown for 13 yards, the type of throw the fourth-year quarterback rarely attempted last season. Hundley needs more than one solid showing to convince the coaching staff that he has moved on from 2017’s struggles, but he started the preseason on the right foot.
Early on, it appeared Marquez Valdes-Scantling’s drops would define his professional debut. Instead, the rookie wideout overcame his mistakes and put together tremendous five-catch, 101-yard, one-touchdown showing that included a highlight-reel contested catch that went for 51 yards. Valdes-Scantling has the size (6-foot-4, 206 pounds) and the speed (4.37 seconds in the 40-yard dash) to add a vertical dimension to the Packers offense if he can build upon Thursday’s performance.
Tim Boyle - The undrafted rookie put up impressive numbers and connected for big gains to Valdes-Scantling and Jake Kumerow. Still, Boyle did his damage against back-of-the-roster players on a bad Titans defense. Even so, he earned himself more opportunities to prove himself later in the preseason.
Reggie Gilbert - Since joining the Packers as an undrafted free agent in 2016, Gilbert has developed into a genuinely effective rotational pass rusher. He didn’t register a sack on Thursday, but he produced quite a few pressures and looked like he could start the season as the top backup at outside linebacker behind Clay Matthews and Nick Perry.
Jake Kumerow - After a quiet first half, Kumerow hauled in a 52-yard touchdown from Boyle. Like his quarterback, he’ll need to perform well against a higher level of competition in the future.
After surprisingly starting ahead of Jason Spriggs at right tackle, Byron Bell struggled most of the night. He allowed multiple pressures, including the one that resulted in Hundley’s interception. The Packers have little guaranteed money invested in Bell, meaning the veteran offensive lineman badly needs to rebound in the coming weeks to stick around Green Bay.
Looking at the positive, J’Mon Moore seemed to slip his coverage fairly consistently Thursday night. Unfortunately for the rookie receiver, he dropped several passes that came his way. Inconsistent hands plagued Moore at Missouri, contributing to his fall into Day 3 of the 2018 NFL Draft. He’ll have several chances to redeem himself this preseason, but he’ll have to play some catch-up after Valdes-Scantling’s big day.
The Packers have given Quinten Rollins every opportunity to find a role in Mike Pettine’s defense during camp, playing him as a linebacker, corner, and safety in recent weeks. Yet regardless of where Rollins lined up on Thursday, he fell flat. The Titans targeted the former second-round pick for a big gain early on their opening drive and followed it up with a pick play that Rollins didn’t diagnose quickly enough to stop. Rollins also gave up receptions when replacing Josh Jones at safety. It appears increasingly clear that he cannot play at the NFL level, at least not after last year’s Achilles injury robbed him of his already suboptimal athleticism.
DeShone Kizer - Kizer’s final numbers (nine completions on 18 attempts for 134 yards) might not seem too bad, he struggled until the Titans pulled their starters and top backups. Though his potential remains evident, he lags behind Hundley in the race for the No. 2 quarterback job.