The Green Bay Packers put an end to their 2019 preseason schedule on Thursday night, defeating the Kansas City Chiefs 27-20. In that game, the team chose not to dress a total of 36 players and held several more out, using only 45 players — exactly half of the 90 men on the roster.
In doing so, the team got a long look at players who are on the roster bubble or who are fighting to earn a spot on a practice squad when those units begin to fill up on Sunday. From the backup quarterback spot to an interesting battle in the defensive backfield, it will be fascinating to see how Thursday’s game ends up shaping the back end of the roster.
Here is how the team divided up the snaps.
OFFENSE (55 plays)
DeShone Kizer 25, Manny Wilkins 16, Tim Boyle 14
The Packers started the game with Boyle under center, and he played the first three drives before giving way to Kizer. Boyle’s only scoring drive came after a Chiefs fumble set up the Packers on the 29-yard line, and most of that yardage came via a pass interference penalty. He did find Jace Sternberger for a one-yard touchdown, however, on a beautifully-designed play to scheme the tight end wide open.
Kizer came on and was picked off on his first series. However, J’Mon Moore stopped on his route while Kizer was leading him, with the miscommunication leading directly to the pick. Kizer bounced back on the next drive, leading the team down the field on an 81-yard drive that ended in his own well-designed touchdown pass, this time to Evan Baylis. The Packers barely touched the football in the third quarter, and Kizer got one more drive before Wilkins took over.
Wilkins made a case for a practice squad spot, however, using his mobility to help the team on a 58-yard touchdown drive. That was done mostly on the ground, as Wilkins and a couple of running backs did the dirty work.
Tra Carson 24, Dexter Williams 20, Tommy Bohanon 12, Keith Ford 11, Danny Vitale 8
Carson started off the game, and rattled off a nice 15-yard run on the first offensive snap. He and Williams rotated early in the game, while Ford got some run mixing in with Williams late.
Williams finally showed some juice in the passing game, at least as a receiver. He took a screen pass for 21 yards and had a second reception for nine yards. That plus a three-yard touchdown and a not-awful average of 3.8 yards per carry very well could get him on the roster.
Ford had one highlight play, a 17-yard run that saw him bowl over a defender. He looks like a potential practice squad stash.
J’Mon Moore 53, Teo Redding 37, Darrius Shepherd 19, Malik Taylor 13, Trevor Davis 13
While Moore was on the field for almost every play, he did virtually nothing with his reps, catching one pass for seven yards on the first drive and leading Kizer into a pick on his only other target of the game. Redding ended up leading the team in receiving, catching four of six targets for 49 yards. However, one of those targets was a picture-perfect deep ball from Kizer that Redding should have caught; he short-armed it instead and did not reach out to haul in what should have been a big play.
Shepherd was quiet on offense in this game, and he was performing acceptably on returns until a catastrophic play in the third quarter. Running up a seam on a kickoff return, Shepherd got stripped of the football, and he did not see the field again on returns as the team lined up Redding or DB Chandon Sullivan instead. That may have cost him his roster spot.
Evan Baylis 26, Pharoah McKever 21, Jace Sternberger 18
The Packers finally got Sternberger on the field Thursday night thanks to his return from concussion protocol. He had some issues with drops but looked capable of getting open and providing a big target over the middle. both he and Baylis caught short touchdowns on schemed plays that QBs coach Luke Getsy called from the sideline.
McKever was a non-factor on offense, but he did force a fumble on special teams and played 18 additional snaps there.
Yosh Nijman 55, Anthony Coyle 55, Justin McCray 55, Gerhard de Beer 52, Adam Pankey 50, Dejon Allen 8
The more notable items here are which offensive linemen did not play. Elgton Jenkins and Lucas Patrick were suited up for the game, but only for emergency duty, as they did not end up entering the game. That indicates that both of them have roster spots locked up. The line for most of the game went Nijman, Pankey, McCray, Coyle, and de Beer from left to right. Allen, who was signed on Thursday, helped out with a few snaps and had a nice straight-ahead block in the run game on Ford’s big run.
DEFENSE (73 plays)
James Looney 55, Kingsley Keke 44, Deon Simon 40, Olive Sagapolu 19, Fadol Brown 15
Keke is the only player in this group locked in for a roster spot, and he showed why on Thursday night with a nice game. He had a pair of tackles, including a sack, and batted down a pass at the line of scrimmage. Sagapolu also had a batted pass.
As on offense, the players not participating say more than those who did. Tyler Lancaster seems to be firmly off the bubble and into lock territory due to him not taking the field at all. Looney seems like the likeliest of the group to make a push for a spot as a sixth lineman, but even that seems like a stretch.
Markus Jones 63, Randy Ramsey 62, James Folston 22
With the top options on the sidelines, the Packers gave Jones and Ramsey ample opportunity to make a statement, which Jones emphatically did. He forced an interception from quarterback Kyle Shurmur, winning with an inside move and hitting the QB as he was about to release the football. Jones also alertly recovered a fumble on a bad exchange by Shurmer and knocked down a second pass at the line.
Meanwhile, Ramsey finished the game with four tackles on defense and another on special teams, with one official TFL coming when he touched down quarterback Chase Litton on another bad exchange.
Ty Summers 65, Brady Sheldon 36, James Crawford 32
With limited player availability on the inside, it was the Summers/Sheldon/Crawford show. Crawford looks like a different player on defense versus special teams; he seems to take poor angles to the football from the inside linebacker spot, setting him up to miss tackles. he did lead the team with eight tackles, but probably missed at least two or three in the game. However, he makes plays on special teams, helping to force a fumble. Perhaps the bigger issue immediately for Crawford is that he appeared to suffer a concussion when his helmet collided with Sheldon’s on a tackle attempt in the second half.
Summers has a spot locked up, assured by a 74-yard interception on Jones’ tipped ball that he took to the house for a touchdown. He made five tackles in the game and was usually around the football, though he still has plenty of room for improvement in terms of gap assignments and his feel in coverage.
Sheldon had four tackles of his own and seemed to be neither a significant asset nor a liability. If Crawford’s injury is significant and the team feels that they need to hold on to a third healthy linebacker, Sheldon could well make the 53 to start the year.
Natrell Jamerson 72, Tray Matthews 64, Chandon Sullivan 55, Will Redmond 43, Nydair Rouse 39, Ka’Dar Hollman 37, Jackson Porter 30, Jocquez Kalili 12
For this game, I am lumping all the DBs together rather than splitting them up into corners and safeties. Jamerson, Sullivan, and Redmond all took snaps on the boundary, at safety, and in the slot, with Redmond even earning a handful of reps in the box at linebacker as well. He led the way with seven tackles — all solo stops — and appeared eager to stick his nose in and work through traffic near the line of scrimmage in the run game.
Jamerson’s rough camp continued, and it’s going to be difficult to see him on the 53. Matthews staked a nice late claim for a roster spot as well, as he recorded six tackles including a sack, and a forced fumble. Meanwhile, Hollman continued to look comfortable in man coverage, giving up only a few short completions.
The final decision for the Packers likely comes down to a quartet of Hollman, Sullivan, Redmond, and Matthews, with either two or three spots available for that group.