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Tracking the Green Bay Packers’ key snaps through the preseason

It’s time to wrap up the preseason and answer the 10 biggest questions we had about the Packers roster going into the Chiefs game.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, Acme Packing Company tracked the Green Bay Packers’ “key snaps” throughout the summer, which consisted of first-team snaps on Family Night and first-half snaps in the preseason. The first half has been a pretty significant line in the sand for the team this preseason, as we’ve seen significant personnel changes and play-callers switching coming out of the half.

We’ll continue the key snaps tracking with the data from the Packers’ Week 3 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs and use the data to attempt to answer the top 10 questions we had about Green Bay’s roster leading up to roster cutdowns.

As a reminder, most of the Packers’ starters were held out of the preseason, with the exceptions of the offensive line and rookie inside linebacker Quay Walker. The players highlighted in gray in the key snap tables did not participate in the preseason while the players highlighted in pink have since been released from the team. When we talk about a player “starting” in the preseason, that generally means they started with the second-team offense or defense.

Offensive Skill Player Key Snaps

Defensive Key Snaps

(an attempt in) Answering last week’s 10 questions

#1) Patrick Taylor or Tyler Goodson?

While Patrick Taylor got the nod as the starter in Week 2, Tyler Goodson again started — like he did in Week 1 — against the Kansas City Chiefs. Unlike in Week 1, though, Taylor did not come in for short-yardage and pass-blocking downs but was instead given just one drive in the first half, a drive that lasted north of seven minutes.

It’s worth noting that the offense had pretty distinct differences week to week. In Week 1, the offense was centered around condensed splits by the receivers and I formation football, which was hardly seen again. Against the New Orleans Saints in Week 2, the Packers played a lot of condensed splits football that featured more motion. On Thursday, the team played easily the most spread sets and five-route football looks that they’ve played this preseason, which is why there was such a significant uptick in the snap counts at outside receiver in the charting. For example, receiver Juwann Winfree had 21 key snaps at outside receiver in Week 3 of the preseason. The previous high by a player in a preseason game this year was Winfree’s nine snaps in Week 1, a number that was beaten or tied by three different wideouts in Week 3.

I don’t think that Goodson being the back on the field when Green Bay was in spread sets cements him as the team’s third running back. When Kylin Hill returns off of the physically unable to perform list, Aaron Jones, AJ Dillon and Hill should be ahead of Goodson in the pecking order in that exact situation. Meanwhile, Taylor has made more of an impact on special teams, as a pass blocker and as an inside runner. If I were to make a bet today, I’d say it’s 60/40 the Packers keep Taylor/Goodson going into the team’s final two practices ahead of the cutdown deadline.

#2) Do the Packers keep 7 receivers?

The easy answer here is simply “yes.” Juwann Winfree has contributed on special teams throughout the preseason, like Amari Rodgers, and has started opposite of Romeo Doubs offensively on a week-to-week basis. In the last two weeks, Rodgers has been featured as a running back and a motion man, as the team attempts to expand his offensive role beyond “Randall Cobb’s backup.” Rodgers even saw nine reps as an outside receiver this week, compared to just seven in the two weeks prior which mostly came on one two-minute drill once Winfree and Doubs were already pulled out of preseason action in Week 1.

#3) Tyler Davis or Alize Mack?

After Tyler Davis and Alize Mack played the same amount of inline tight snaps (five) in Week 2, Davis out-snapped Mack 10-6 this week and 16-6 overall in all tight end alignments. While Mack has started on kickoff return team every week of the preseason, it’s a safe bet that the team will attempt to put him on the practice squad instead of the 53-man roster.

Nate Becker, who went down with an injury in the game, is another practice squad call up option for the team if Josiah Deguara ever gets hurt. Becker’s game is built around being an off-ball tight end, like Deguara.

The tight ends, collectively, also saw 19 snaps in receiver positions this week, a huge jump from the nine snaps they received last week. Somewhat surprisingly, Davis out-snapped Deguara 10-7 in those situations while Mack only saw two reps split out from the formation.

#4) Do the Packers keep 10 offensive linemen?

I’m going to say no here, but that puts a lot of faith in David Bakhtiari or Elgton Jenkins being able to suit up in Week 1, as the team needs a minimum of eight offensive linemen dressed down against the Minnesota Vikings. If the team does play it on the safer side, it’s worth noting that seventh-round pick Rasheed Walker took a second-team offensive spot from undrafted rookie Caleb Jones in Week 3. Walker has been dealing with an injury for most of the preseason, limiting his playing time, but could be that tenth lineman now that Cole Van Lanen has been traded to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

#5) What’s with the logjam at DL6?

Jack Heflin has maybe been the most consistent defensive lineman on the team in the preseason, but he has also been the fourth-most played interior linemen even with the team’s three starters held out of competition. The race for the sixth defensive line spot, if the Packers keep a sixth defensive lineman, comes down to Chris Slayton and Heflin, who have both registered 26 key snaps over the last two weeks.

With that being said, Slayton did start in the team’s base 3-4 set, which could hint at where the team may be leaning. This preseason, Heflin has out-snapped Slayton 27-16 as a 3-4 defensive end, but Slayton has out-snapped Heflin 29-6 as a nickel defensive tackle, which frames the bigger question: If the Packers need a sixth lineman, is he going to be used to spell the starters in base or sub-packages?

#6) Who will emerge at outside linebacker?

The short answer here is that no one has emerged at outside linebacker. Maybe the team needs to look at the waiver wire to add a body (or two) to the position next week.

Tipa Galeai, who hasn’t had a great preseason but started on both defense and special teams, missed Thursday’s game with an undisclosed injury. In his absence, Kobe Jones (14), Jonathan Garvin (13), La’Darius Hamilton (13) and Kingsley Enagabre (10) split snaps relatively equally in the first half against the Chiefs. Enagbare is probably the only player whose job is safe behind starters Rashan Gary and Preston Smith, who were held out of the preseason, due to his fifth-round draft status. Anyone else could be moved on from, though, you could argue that Jones and Hamilton are the most gifted pure pass-rushers among the group of backups.

#7) Does Ray Wilborn make the team?

For the first time in this preseason, fifth inside linebacker Ray Wilborn did not receive a single defensive snap in the first half of a game. That should clear up the speculation of if he makes the squad to play special teams in the regular season. Go ahead and lock in an inside linebacker room of De’Vondre Campbell, Quay Walker, Isaiah McDuffie and Krys Barnes.

#8) Who is CB5/CB6?

Early on in the preseason, it looked like the Packers were almost certainly going to keep six cornerbacks, but it’s not so certain now. Rico Gafford, who was signed by the team to be a special teams ace, saw just eight snaps in the first half against the Chiefs after recording 44 snaps in the first halves of the first two games of the preseason. Gafford’s loss is Kiondre Thomas’ gain, though, as Thomas has seen his first-half snap count increase from 1 to 13 to 25 over the last three weeks, all as an outside corner.

The last man in the mix for the cornerback #5/#6 slots is Keisean Nixon, who has played 32 of his 39 key snaps this preseason in the slot, leading the defense. Nixon also contributes on special teams and could be the fifth cornerback if the squad only rosters five.

If the team keeps seven receivers, as we expect, that doesn’t incentivize Green Bay to keep non-special teams cornerbacks beyond the fifth cornerback spot. If the sixth cornerback comes down to Thomas or Gafford, the Packers may just elect to take their chances on Thomas passing through waivers and using him as a callup from the practice squad.

#9) Who are the Packers’ four safeties?

Green Bay got even more bad news at safety yesterday as Innis Gaines went down with an injury. Gaines joins starter Darnell Savage, Week 1 preseason starter Dallin Leavitt and the recently-released Vernon Scott as players who have been injured at the position this summer.

Shawn Davis and Micah Abernathy got the starts for the team this week at safety, with Abernathy recording 25 of his 33 key snaps in the preseason with the defense in Week 3. Davis was pulled in the second quarter to give seventh-round rookie Tariq Carpenter his first key snaps on the defensive side of the ball this preseason. Carpenter came out with a hit stick tackle on his first drive but ended it with a blown coverage assignment that led to a touchdown.

If the Packers were locking in a roster to play a game tomorrow, the four safeties would be Adrian Amos, Savage, Davis and Abernathy. The team may expose Abernathy to waivers, though, and roster Leavitt on the first day of cutdowns so that Leavitt can be placed on injured reserve with a designated to return note. Only players who make the initial 53-man roster can be designated to return in-season, as players placed on injured reserve before final cutdowns are out for the full 2022 season. Once Leavitt is placed on injured reserve with a designation to return, should Abernathy clears waivers, then the Packers could pick Abernathy back up as a free agent and have the best of both worlds.

#10) Is Mason Crosby going to play Week 1?

Kicker Mason Crosby wasn’t healthy enough to play in the preseason, but head coach Matt LaFleur stated late this week that Crosby’s recovery from his knee injury is about where it was expected to be six weeks after whatever injury he had. Crosby has been working on the side of the practice field with a football recently, after kicking around a Packers-branded soccer ball earlier in his rehab process.

While there’s no definitive yes or no answer to this one yet, it appears that he’s on target to play in Week 1, based on the timeline the Packers have been working off of. If not, kicker Ramiz Ahmed has looked solid in his limited opportunities since joining the roster two weeks ago.