On Friday, the headlines across the media covering the Green Bay Packers will focus on the team’s offensive explosion and the pair of pick-sixes by two players who are guaranteed spots on the 53-man roster. Instead, in this look at the Packers’ 51-34 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, we’ll examine how the snaps broke down, which gives us an idea who the team is looking at for certain position and roster battles.
We’ll highlight a number of players who got significant playing time below, but three names stood out in terms of their snap counts this week. First is center Dillon Day, who led all players in snaps and appears to be the team’s only backup plan at the center position. Second is running back Joel Bouagnon, who’s getting plenty of opportunity to show whether he deserves a roster spot during Aaron Jones’ season-opening suspension. Finally, we look at linebacker Greer Martini, who’s playing with the twos but who is very much still on the bubble.
Here’s how playing time broke down this week.
OFFENSE (71 plays)
Tim Boyle 23, DeShone Kizer 21, Brett Hundley 20, Aaron Rodgers 7
As expected, the Packers got all four quarterbacks into the game on Thursday. Mike McCarthy said that his snap target for Rodgers was ten, so it was all but assured that he would only get one drive (barring a quick three-and-out or a quick-strike score on the opening series).
After Rodgers, the other three signal-callers split up the work pretty evenly. Kizer was probably the most impressive of the three, however; Hundley bailed on the pocket too quickly once again, even when receivers were open. Kizer instead showed good poise dropping back and excellent accuracy, particularly on the pass to Jake Kumerow that went for a score and the goal-line fade to Robert Tonyan.
Joel Bouagnon 35, Jamaal Williams 17, Ty Montgomery 10, Akeem Judd 9, FB Joe Kerridge 9, FB Aaron Ripkowski 2
It was another quiet night for the running game; Aaron Jones warmed up but did not dress for the game, and Williams turned an ankle a bit in the first half but should be okay. Montgomery’s biggest play in either direction was a fumbled kickoff return that led to Pittsburgh’s second touchdown.
Bouagnon did have a few slippery runs where he snuck through blockers, and he shedded a few tackls on occasion as he racked up 41 yards on 13 carries.
DeAngelo Yancey 29, Equanimeous St. Brown 28, Marquez Valdes-Scantling 27, J’Mon Moore 25, Geronimo Allison 20, Jake Kumerow 19, Adonis Jennings 12, Davante Adams 7, Randall Cobb 7, Kyle Lewis 5
It speaks volumes that Yancey can lead the team’s receivers in snaps but only saw a single target in the game. Fundamentally, he isn’t getting separation from coverage. St. Brown led the team in targets with five, but he had a pair of tough drops and only ended up with one catch for 12 yards. Meanwhile Moore couldn’t haul in either of his official targets (though he did have a nice 18-yard reception wiped out by a penalty) and MVS had just one target, a 15-yard catch.
Of course, this was the Kumerow show. All three of his targets were receptions, and all went for double-digit yardage and first downs. The big one was his 82-yard touchdown — as mentioned earlier, Kizer put the ball in a perfect spot on an out route, and Kumerow baited the safety into a bad angle before cutting back to the middle and outracing the DBs to the end zone.
Lance Kendricks 21, Marcedes Lewis 17, Robert Tonyan 17, Emanuel Byrd 17, Jimmy Graham 11, Ryan Smith 6, Kevin Rader 5
It was a nice day for the Packers’ tight ends in the passing game. When targeted, the group caught 9 of 10 passes for 106 yards and two touchdowns — a passer rating of 150.4. Tonyan had three receptions for 20 yards and a score, Kendricks had two for 28, Byrd went two for 27, and Lewis had one particularly impressive leaping reception for a gain of 23. Graham had the other score, an eight-yard post-up in the end zone that should illustrate exactly what he will do near the goal line all year.
C Dillon Day 54, T Kyle Murphy 52, G Lucas Patrick 40, T Jason Spriggs 40, T/G Byron Bell 35, T/G Adam Pankey 31, G Justin McCray 23, G Kofi Amichia 19, G Austin Davis 19, C Corey Linsley 17, T David Bakhtiari 17, T/G Alex Light 8
The Packers rotated tackles and guards throughout the game, and Patrick got the start in place of the inactive Lane Taylor. Murphy started on the right side, then moved to the left when Bakhtiari came out of the game. It’s becoming painfully clear that Murphy cannot handle speed off the edge on the left side, however, as he was badly beaten on a speed rush for a sack in the second straight game (this time by Bud Dupree). At one point, Spriggs and Murphy flipped, and Spriggs looked noticeably better on the left side.
Bell played a large portion of the game at left guard following McCray’s exit, as Patrick moved from left to right. Also, it seems that Day is fully established as the team’s backup center, and I’m thinking he’s quietly earning a spot on the 53-man roster.
DEFENSE (68 plays)
James Looney 26, Montravius Adams 25, Dean Lowry 21, Joey Mbu 21, Kenny Clark 20, Tyler Lancaster 16, Muhammad Wilkerson 15, Conor Sheehy 9
Mike Pettine finally got his old buddy Wilkerson on the field last night, and he had a few ups and downs, recording one excellent tackle in the run game. Sheehy was the only member of the front line to record a hit on the quarterback, however, and the front struggled early on to contain the Steelers’ running game. Lowry recorded the unit’s only tackle for loss.
Reggie Gilbert 29, Vince Biegel 28, Chris Odom 22, Kyler Fackrell 17, Kendall Donnerson 13, Clay Matthews 12, James Hearns 8
This game was all about Reggie Gilbert off the edge. The third-year pro broke out with 2.5 sacks, including one strip-sack, as he abused the Steelers’ tackles all night long. Biegel spent much of the second half lined up over the center and dropping into a spy to follow Josh Dobbs, the mobile Steelers quarterback. That plan worked with mixed success; when Biegel read the play quickly enough he was able to beat Dobbs to the edge and make a tackle for loss, but a few times he did not react fast enough to do so, allowing Dobbs to pick up a first down.
Fackrell had another hilariously bad rep off the right side, as he tried to crash down the line, tripped, fell on his face, and gave up contain. He added a half-sack as he helped clean up Mason Rudolph after Gilbert got the initial pressure. Donnerson added an assisted tackle but had one very good pressure on the QB that forced an incompletion.
Greer Martini 34, Ahmad Thomas 32, Oren Burks 28, Blake Martinez 20, James Crawford 10, Naashon Hughes 9, Marcus Porter 4
Although Burks got the most snaps a week ago, the Packers sent the second-string linebackers out for a few extra snaps in this game. However, Burks and Martinez tied for the team lead with four total tackles, each having one for a loss. Burks once again looked fast and instinctive, and continued to build on his strong play from last week.
Martini had an up-and-down game, occasionally taking poor angles to the football and finishing with a single assisted tackle. Thomas had a solo tackle and an assist and continued to show the coverage ability that made him stand out early in camp. For now, Thomas looks like the #3 with Martini fighting for a roster spot and the #4 ILB job.
Marwin Evans 32, Raven Greene 29, Josh Jones 25, Kentrell Brice 17, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix 17
With no Jermaine Whitehead, the Packers turned to this group of five plus Quinten Rollins at the safety position. Greene posted three tackles to lead the way.
The starters looked rough early on, however. Brice continues to show that he can hit what’s in front of him, but he struggles in space and identifying proper angles to the ball carrier. Clinton-Dix gave up a touchdown pass to Juju Smith-Schuster, but that’s not a one-on-one matchup that would ever favor the Packers. He did have one particularly good tackle, but had a few ugly moments as well.
Josh Hawkins 29, Lenzy Pipkins 28, Herb Waters 28, Demetri Goodson 22, Josh Jackson 22, Quinten Rollins 22, Davon House 17, Tramon Williams 17, Donatello Brown 14, Jaire Alexander 10
Alexander’s debut was brief, as the team decided to only give him a handful of snaps. However, he did start in the slot with Williams and House on the outside, perhaps a sign of what’s to come in week one. Although Alexander wasn’t in on any tackles, he did have a nice pass rush on a corner blitz that nearly got home to Rudolph.
Williams and Jackson each recorded a pick-six, with Tramon taking Rudolph’s first pass to the house and Jackson doing the same to Dobbs. Both players baited the young quarterbacks into the throws up the right sideline, then used their considerable ball skills to make the catch and head to the end zone.
For the reserve corners, it was largely ugly. Hawkins got beaten badly on a deep route by James Washington, Demetri Goodson gave up a touchdown to the same receiver when he appeared to be in a good position to break up the pass but made no play on the football, and Waters allowed a score on a simultaneous possession call in the end zone.
A bonus note was that Jackson got a few opportunities on punt returns and made the most of them — he had one fair catch but took his other return 41 yards, weaving in and out of tacklers and looking very comfortable (perhaps from his days as a receiver at Iowa). Rollins also had a pair of nice returns that went 18 and 17 yards.