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Breaking down the Packers’ first depth chart of 2020

What does the initial depth chart mean for this team? Let’s take a position-by-position look.

NFC Championship - Green Bay Packers v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Following the madness of cut-down weekend and the resulting follow-up moves over the past 48 hours, NFL teams have formalized both their active rosters and depth charts for week one of the 2020 season. The Green Bay Packers joined in on the latter when they posted their first team-issued depth chart of the season, which has few surprises but still a handful of notable items worthy of discussion.

Let’s break down the depth chart position-by-position to try to understand the team’s thinking heading into week one.

Quarterback

Aaron Rodgers, Tim Boyle, Jordan Love

There are no surprises here. Love remains the third-stringer behind Boyle, who will serve as Rodgers’ primary backup. Do not get overly discouraged by Love being unable to beat out Boyle this summer, however. Between a lack of in-person offseason practices and the fact that Love was always going to be a long-term project, his status as the #3 is entirely reasonable. Besides, Rodgers was the third-stringer behind Craig Nall in 2005.

Running Back

Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams, Tyler Ervin, AJ Dillon

Like quarterback, there are no real surprises at this spot. The question will be more about how Ervin is used on offense — whether he will line up as a running back, a wide receiver, or some general gadget player when he takes the field. Expect all four players to get playing time early unless the team desperately needs extra depth at another position on gameday.

Wide Receiver

WR1: Davante Adams, Equanimeous St. Brown
WR2: Allen Lazard, Malik Taylor
WR3: Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Equanimeous St. Brown

This is an interesting layout, but it suggests a hint at how the team will line up in 11 personnel more than anything else. Lazard will likely be the primary slot receiver, a role he played well over the second half of 2019. That leaves Taylor as the other slot option with EQ as the primary backup on the boundary.

Tight Ends

Marcedes Lewis, Robert Tonyan, Jace Sternberger, Josiah Deguara

For all the talk this offseason about Sternberger being TE1, seeing him listed behind not only Lewis but Tonyan as well is a bit of a surprise. Lewis makes sense — he is by far the best blocker in the group, and the team probably will need him on the right side of the line to help out the uncertain right tackle position. Still, with the team likely to use a heavy dose of 12 personnel, look for all four of these players to get significant playing time.

Offensive Line

LT: David Bakhtiari, Yosh Nijman
LG: Elgton Jenkins, Jon Runyan, Jr.
C: Corey Linsley, Lucas Patrick
RG: Lane Taylor, Lucas Patrick
RT: Billy Turner, Rick Wagner

Finally we get our first look at how the right side of the offensive line shapes up, and it’s what most expected from training camp: Taylor won the right guard job, with Turner holding a lead over Wagner at right tackle. Of course, Turner appears unlikely to play on Sunday, so that could mean that Wagner gets the call or the Packers could surprise and move one of the guards out.

We also have an idea of where Runyan is playing for the first time as he is listed behind Jenkins at left guard. Matt LaFleur said that he was having his rookie linemen focus on a single position, so it appears that Runyan will not be an option at tackle for the time being.

Defensive Line

DE: Dean Lowry, Montravius Adams
NT: Kenny Clark, Montravius Adams
DE: Tyler Lancaster, Kingsley Keke

Perhaps the most absurd thing about this entire depth chart is the concept of aligning it as if the defense will play a base 3-4 defense. This team functionally lives in nickel or dime with a two-man line, so the first two positions listed above are probably the notable ones.

Outside Linebackers

OLB: Preston Smith, Randy Ramsey, Jonathan Garvin
OLB: Za’Darius Smith, Rashan Gary

This checks out. Preston is the more conventional strong-side outside linebacker who will be dropping into coverage on occasion as well as rushing the passer. Ramsey in particular projects there, and him being ahead of the rookie Garvin reflects his year of experience on the Packers’ practice squad.

On the other side, Za’Darius and Rashan Gary would seem to be similar movable chess pieces who can play on the line, as an interior rusher, or as a conventional pass-rushing outside linebacker. Look for those two to be on the field together along with Preston Smith frequently.

Inside Linebackers

ILB: Christian Kirksey, Ty Summers
ILB: Oren Burks, Ty Summers

With rookie Kamal Martin now on injured reserve, that leaves the team with just three inside linebackers on the roster for the time being. Burks may get the starting job by default, with Summers backing up both positions.

Of course, expect the team to rotate safeties like Raven Greene and Will Redmond into the mix next to Kirksey (at least when the former is healthy). This structure may change when Martin returns from IR or if the team adds a linebacker as its 53rd man.

Safeties

S: Adrian Amos, Will Redmond, Vernon Scott
S: Darnell Savage, Raven Greene

Again, don’t read too much into Redmond and Greene here, as either or both could play linebacker for an extended period. With that said, Greene was working at deep safety early in camp, so the team seems to see him as Savage’s potential replacement in a pinch, while Redmond’s best work has typically come closer to the line of scrimmage.

Cornerbacks

CB: Jaire Alexander, Chandon Sullivan, Ka’dar Hollman
CB: Kevin King, Josh Jackson, Parry Nickerson

As mentioned earlier, listing a base 3-4 defense is absurd, considering that Sullivan will likely play close to 100% of the team’s snaps as the slot cornerback. The more interesting factor would be who plays inside if Sullivan were nicked up, but this alignment does not illustrate that.

Likewise, Jackson is likely to back up both boundary cornerback positions. This writer’s bet is that Alexander would slide to nickel if Sullivan were injured, with Jackson taking over on the outside. There’s a lot of speed deep on the depth chart — both Nickerson and Hollman are sub-4.4 guys — but look for this to be a four-man rotation with those two primarily serving as gunners on special teams.

Specialists

PR: Tyler Ervin, Josh Jackson
KR: Tyler Ervin, Chandon Sullivan

To nobody’s surprise, Ervin will man both return jobs to start the year. Jackson’s appearance as PR2 is interesting, however, as the team seems to be hearkening back to his impressive performance there in his rookie season. Sullivan, meanwhile, helped out a bit on kickoffs last year with three returns and is evidently in line to do so again should Ervin be unavailable.