As the season is going along, the Green Bay Packers are starting to work some of their rookie players into the game plan with more consistency. Three of the team’s draft picks — Jayden Reed, Luke Musgrave, and Dontayvion Wicks — have been drawing praise for their contributions in the passing game, but it’s worth highlighting another player whose reps have been steadily increasing over the past month.
That player is third-round pick Tucker Kraft, who played only sparingly over the first few games but who has been becoming more of a consistent contributor in recent weeks. The Packers’ week 10 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers saw Kraft post his highest snap totals and rates all season, while also making his first start with the Packers in 12 personnel.
Kraft’s play as a blocker — if this week was any indication — will continue to earn him more reps, which should increase the Packers’ rate of using heavier personnel packages overall. It was a slow start for the rookie out of South Dakota State, but he’s starting to carve out a significant niche in the scheme, an encouraging sign for the second half of his debut season.
OFFENSE (68 TOTAL SNAPS)
Jordan Love 68
Although the two late interceptions marred his passer rating, Love had his best-looking day overall in terms of throwing the football since week one. He also set a career-high with 289 passing yards, racking up seven completions of 20-plus yards. There were a few mistakes, but all told Love’s accuracy looked the best it has in weeks.
Aaron Jones 38, AJ Dillon 34, Emanuel Wilson 3
A health Aaron Jones seems to still be getting no more than about 60 percent of the snaps, with Dillon sitting right at 50 percent in this game. Dillon had the one explosive run of the day, however, breaking a career-long of 40 yards on a play that we’ll look at a bit more shortly.
Romeo Doubs 56, Christian Watson 51, Jayden Reed 35, Dontayvion Wicks 30, Malik Heath 3
Although Doubs and Watson led the way in playing time as usual — both over 75 percent of snaps — Reed and Wicks had the more productive days on the receiving end. Reed’s 5 catches led the team, as he caught all five targets for 84 yards and a score. Wicks finished second among the wideouts with 51 receiving yards on three catches and four targets, and he had his highest number of snaps and snap share (44%) since Watson’s return to a full workload in week 5.
Meanwhile, Love targeted Watson twice, and the receiver caught just two passes for 23 yards while both of Love’s interceptions were thrown in Watson’s direction. Doubs had a great catch in the back of the end zone for a touchdown, but finished 3-for-31 and the score on five targets.
Luke Musgrave 50, Tucker Kraft 35, Josiah Deguara 5
While Musgrave led the Packers tight ends in receiving as usual — catching two explosive passes for a total of 64 yards, Kraft set a career-high in snaps, taking the field on more than half of the Packers’ offensive plays. Kraft also saw three targets in the passing game, one of which was knocked down at the line of scrimmage. He caught one of the other two for a six-yard gain, but it was his work as a blocker that caught APC’s eye.
In particular, watch him help get a seal on AJ Dillon’s big 40-yard run, coming from the left side to help on lineman Armon Watts (94) before keeping linebacker Elandon Roberts (50) caught up in the middle of the field instead of getting into pursuit:
The execution up front has been much better. This run doesn’t happen a few weeks ago. Signs of progress. pic.twitter.com/lNp1d8la1F— Andy Herman (@AndyHermanNFL) November 13, 2023
That was great execution all around, as Zach Tom had a fantastic block as well, but it’s great to see Kraft getting into the action as an in-line tight end and getting a steady increase in snaps as a result.
Rasheed Walker 68, Elgton Jenkins 68, Josh Myers 68, Jon Runyan 68, Zach Tom 68
Tom made a great block on the play above, and generally held up well against perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate T.J. Watt. Watt did have one sack on Love, but in all, he and Alex Highsmith did not make huge impacts as pass-rushers. Meanwhile, Green Bay ran for nearly five yards per carry, though much of that production was skewed by Dillon’s big run.
DEFENSE (65 TOTAL SNAPS)
Kenny Clark 49, T.J. Slaton 41, Devonte Wyatt 28, Karl Brooks 14, Colby Wooden 10
Somehow, the Packers keep giving Clark a massive workload, as he is consistently playing more snaps than either of the team’s starting outside linebackers. The only game this season in which Clark did not equal or exceed Preston Smith’s snap count was in week 9, when Clark left the game in the first half with an injury. That workload is probably responsible, at least in part, for his limited impact of late. He recorded three solo tackles in the game but had no QB hits or tackles for loss.
Because of the Steelers run-heavy attack, Slaton ended up filling up the tackle columns on the stat sheet, picking up four solo tackles and four assists. However, none of the down linemen landed a QB hit or any other stats on Sunday.
Preston Smith 46, Rashan Gary 44, Kingsley Enagbare 21, Lukas Van Ness 19
Smith recorded the Packers’ only sack on Kenny Pickett in this game, while Gary had the only other hit from an outside linebacker. Meanwhile, Van Ness made one tackle for loss in the run game, the only TFL outside of Smith’s sack.
De’Vondre Campbell 65, Isaiah McDuffie 58
The Packers’ other two QB hits came from blitzing inside linebackers, with Campbell and McDuffie recording one apiece. McDuffie tied for the team lead with 10 total tackles, while Campbell had just three tackles and a pass breakup.
Rudy Ford 65, Jonathan Owens 65, Anthony Johnson 6
Tying McDuffie in tackles was Ford, who played some drop-down safety on occasion and was forced to support against the run when the Steelers’ backs got to the second level. With a limited cornerback room and Ford back in the lineup, the team ended up deciding to use Johnson as their dime back in the few situations that warranted it.
Corey Ballentine 65, Carrington Valentine 65, Keisean Nixon 54
No Jaire Alexander meant that Ballentine started opposite Valentine, and in general both players held up fine against an offense that barely ever threw the ball more than five yards down field. Valentine did commit an unfortunate pass interference penalty on third down on the opening drive as the biggest lowlight for the unit. Nixon was his usual aggressive self in the slot and around the line of scrimmage, but his heavy usage is a signal that the Packers were electing to stay in nickel almost constantly despite getting gashed in the run game with consistency.
SPECIAL TEAMS LEADERS
Eric Wilson 24, Dallin Leavitt 19, Kristian Welch 18, Deguara 17, Kraft 16, Enagbare 14, Nixon 14, Robert Rochell 13, Zayne Anderson 12, Innis Gaines 12, Owens 11