As uncertainty continues surrounding the upcoming NFL season and ability to host fans, teams tread on in preparations and the Green Bay Packers are no different.
Before the team is able to put pads on, there is plenty of time for speculation on training camp battles and surprise players. One of those particular battles will come at outside linebacker where several first-year players will battle for limited roster spots. Who will make up the depth with only three known locks?
A look at some of those contenders and thoughts on a pair of returners also looking to find niches elsewhere on the Packers’ roster can be found in today’s musings.
Could Lane Taylor be an emergency tackle option for Green Bay?
In last week’s musings, the offensive tackle depth was discussed with myriad tackle prospects contending for reserve roles along with potential swing guard-tackles. One player left out of that group was backup guard Lane Taylor, who had never played tackle outside of one spring game snap in college before being called into duty in 2017. Against Chicago that season, Taylor performed admirably in emergency relief at left tackle, starting in place of the mending David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga. In that game, Taylor and the makeshift offensive line allowed only two sacks. While it has been a fairly decent amount of time since Taylor was called upon to play the position, the guard-by-trade could be another name to add to the list of reserve tackle possibilities.
A lot of focus is on Rashan Gary, but a lack of preseason could impact depth on the edge significantly
The hopeful jump in production from Gary in his second season is one of the defense’s larger stories leading up to the regular season. But another storyline to watch is the depth behind him.
The Packers are in great shape with Preston and Za’Darius Smith as the starters at outside linebacker and Gary makes up a good third option for the team. But with Kyler Fackrell departing, Green Bay’s edge-rushing unit is slim on experience and results at the pro level. That is not to say it is low on potential, however.
Rookie Jonathan Garvin slipped to the seventh round but is the definition of “hasn’t scratched the surface” of his ceiling. The athletic Garvin could carve out a long-term role with the Packers, but expecting a fruitful first season is unwise. Tim Williams is another player who could find snaps as a situational rusher after a lackluster NFL career up this point, and Green Bay did give rookie Delontae Scott a higher guaranteed salary than all but one of its other undrafted signings. Still, without normal pre-camp workouts and exhibition snaps to help get newcomers up to speed, the development of the team’s newest edge linebackers is a slight concern.
How will a full season at cornerback impact Kabion Ento’s roster chances?
The Packers have three cornerbacks as current locks to make the roster in Jaire Alexander, Kevin King, and Chandon Sullivan. After that, there should be a fight for two or three additional roster spots from a number of competitors.
One of the names in the ring is Ento, a college receiver who converted to cornerback last training camp. At 6-foot-1, Ento has good size, excellent explosiveness, and natural ball skills from his receiving years. He impressed in flashes last summer, enough to spend the season on the team’s practice squad, and joins a list of similar players the Packers have tried to mold over the years such as Herb Waters, Raysean Pringle, and to some degree Sam Shields.
Barring a return of Tramon Williams or a second-year leap from Josh Jackson, the Packers will be extensively watching young players like Ka’Dar Hollman and Ento this summer. Both should have a leg up on the undrafted free agents who will already have less opportunity than usual to learn the defense and showcase their talents. With a season of learning the position under his belt, Ento could be one of the surprises that emerges from this camp.