While the Green Bay Packers didn’t use many starters against the San Francisco 49ers in last Friday’s preseason opener, we were able to get a good feel for the rotations and snap counts for offensive and defensive backups during the game. Beyond that, we also got examples of what the special teams might look like in Week 1.
With all that in mind, let’s take another look at the Packers’ roster, going position-by-position, and make some predictions on who will make the team’s final 53-man cut. We’ll discuss why some positions are harder to project out than others and touch on what the team’s options are.
Aaron Rodgers and Jordan Love
Running backs (3)
Aaron Jones, AJ Dillon and Patrick Taylor
The big debate at the position is going to be who is playing the third running back role until the second-year Kylin Hill returns from the physically unable to perform list. On Friday against the 49ers, the Packers did use Tyler Goodson as “the starter” with Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon held out of the preseason opener as healthy scratches.
With that being said, it’s important to note how the backup backs were used. Goodson was the team’s first- and second-down back, but Patrick Taylor was used as the team’s pass-blocking and short-yardage specialist, even seeing time as an outside receiver in empty formations as a tendency breaker.
You have to put weight on the roles these players are going to play, if you’re putting yourself in the Packers’ shoes. Goodson is the team’s third-ranked base downs back behind Jones and Dillon, at least until Hill returns. Taylor is the team’s second-best option to pass block and run goal line/short yardage work behind Dillon. Despite Goodson “starting,” I’d still give Taylor the nod at RB3 knowing that Hill, a scatback, is likely to return at some point during the regular season.
Allen Lazard, Sammy Watkins, Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs, Randall Cobb, Amari Rodgers and Juwann Winfree
With Shemar Jean-Charles, Rico Gafford and Keisean Nixon contributing on special teams as the Packers’ fourth through sixth cornerbacks, the Packers don’t have to roster a non-returning special teamer at the receiver position this year. This was the role that Malik Taylor has played for Green Bay in the past.
While Amari Rodgers has been used offensively as a slot receiver, essentially Randall Cobb’s backup, he does seem to be getting consistent work as a returner, which gives him a very good chance of making the 2022 final roster. Juwann Winfree, the team’s fifth outside receiver behind Allen Lazard, Sammy Watkins, Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs, sees a significant amount of playing time with “the ones” or as a “starter” on the second team. The fact that he’s starting on two core special teams units currently might lead to the team rostering seven players at the position.
Tight ends (4)
Robert Tonyan, Marcedes Lewis, Tyler Davis and Josiah Deguara
With the release of Dominique Dafney on Tuesday, the tight end group is pretty straightforward. Robert Tonyan, Tyler Davis and Josiah Deguara are going to get looks as the team’s pass-catchers, while Marcedes Lewis and Davis primarily play as inline tight ends. Deguara will play some sort of mix between a wing tight end and fullback in 2022.
Offensive linemen (9)
Yosh Nijman, Jon Runyan Jr., Josh Myers, Royce Newman, Elgton Jenkins, Zach Tom, Jake Hanson, Cole Van Lanen and Sean Rhyan
The big question on the offensive line is if David Bakhtiari will be off the physically unable to perform list before the 2022 regular season starts. If not, the expectation is that Yosh Nijman, Jon Runyan Jr., Josh Myers, Royce Newman and Elgton Jenkins will be the team’s opening week starters, assuming Jenkins is healthy. This is the lineup that the Packers have been using in walkthroughs, which Jenkins participates in, since Jenkins' return from the PUP list.
Behind those five, the most-played linemen in Green Bay are Zach Tom (tackle/guard), Jake Hanson (guard/center), Cole Van Lanen (tackle/guard) and Sean Rhyan (guard.) At this point, there doesn’t seem to be any reason for the Packers to roster a tenth lineman, at least until Bakhtiari returns, as it’s unlikely that any of the players in the running for OL10 would get picked up by another team’s 53-man roster, allowing the Packers to potentially having call-up options from the practice squad.
Defensive linemen (5)
Kenny Clark, Dean Lowry, Jarran Reed, TJ Slaton and Devonte Wyatt
Five is a very low number of interior defensive linemen to roster for a 3-4 team, but the team has gone into games with low numbers there under head coach Matt LaFleur before. Kenny Clark, Dean Lowry and Jarran Reed are the starters in practice while TJ Slaton (nose tackle/end) and Devonte Wyatt (end) get some work with “the ones.”
Nose tackle Jonathan Ford was a “starter” on the second team on Family Night, where he allowed TJ Slaton to kick out to end. In the preseason opener, though, Slaton manned down the nose tackle position and allowed Jack Heflin and Chris Slayton to get starts at the end positions. Slayton actually saw the most snaps of any defensive linemen in the first half of the 49ers game, before the defense made the change to their third-stringers.
Outside linebackers (5)
Rashan Gary, Preston Smith, La’Darius Hamilton, Tipa Galeai and Kingsley Enagbare
Depth behind Rashan Gary and Preston Smith might be a problem this year, but the Packers have a lot of bodies competing for playing time in camp. La’Darius Hamilton, Tipa Galeai, Kingsley Enagbare, Jonathan Garvin and Kobe Jones have all seen looks with “the ones” at one point or another.
On Family Night, Galeai was working with the third-team defense, but was able to record a start against the 49ers with Gary, Smith and Hamilton held out of the game. He also started on various special teams, the only outside linebacker to start on a core special teams unit.
Because of Galeai’s special teams play, and Enagbare’s recent surge, there probably is only one roster spot left for Hamilton, Garvin and Jones to battle for. Currently, I’d guess Hamilton has the lead, based on the team’s rotations this summer, though, this might be the Packers’ most wide-open position on their roster.
Inside linebackers (5)
De’Vondre Campbell, Quay Walker, Isaiah McDuffie, Krys Barnes and Ray Wilborn
The team will use their inside linebackers all over on special teams, but it appears that long-time contributor Ty Summers has slipped down the depth chart on both defense and special teams this offseason. Behind defensive starters De’Vondre Campbell and Quay Walker, Isaiah McDuffie, Krys Barnes and Ray Wilborn are expected to start on special teams.
Jaire Alexander, Eric Stokes, Rasul Douglas, Shemar Jean-Charles, Rico Gafford and Keisean Nixon
It appears Green Bay’s starting nickel unit will put Jaire Alexander and Eric Stokes as the team’s outside cornerbacks with Rasul Douglas playing the slot. Behind them, Shemar Jean-Charles, Rico Gafford and Keisean Nixon should round out the team’s defensive depth as well as start on special teams as the team’s gunners and vices.
Gafford is primarily an outside cornerback when he sees playing time on defense. Jean-Charles bounces between cornerback and slotback while Nixon sees playing time almost exclusively as a slot when on the field for nickel looks.
Adrian Amos, Darnell Savage, Vernon Scott and Shawn Davis
Due to the recent shoulder injury to Dallin Leavitt, we’re going to give Shawn Davis the edge here for the Packers’ fourth safety job. Davis began camp as Green Bay’s third safety, a job that Vernon Scott took from him when Darnell Savage went down on Family Night with a hamstring injury.
If Leavitt is healthy enough to suit up by final cuts, there’s a chance the Packers keep five safeties. There’s also a chance that Leavitt could get the nod over Davis when they’re healthy, though, Leavitt is more of a special teamer than a safety. Unfortunately, rookie seventh-round pick Tariq Carpenter hasn’t made himself felt on defense or special teams this summer.
Mason Crosby, Pat O’Donnell and Jack Coco
The only specialist who is facing internal competition is Mason Crosby, who is on the physically unable to perform list for a knee injury. Ramiz Ahmed, the team’s replacement kicker, was just signed on Sunday following Gabe Brkic’s release after an injury.