The Green Bay Packers are off on Monday, taking a break from training camp after a heavy four-day workload. As a result, APC is taking a quick look back at those first four practices of training camp. Although the Packers have had a few surprising absences early on in camp — Mike Daniels and Darnell Savage come to mind, though for very different reasons — that has opened up opportunities for other players farther down the depth chart to impress.
Meanwhile, a few players have shown some expanded capabilities compared to what they showed a year ago and the new offensive scheme seems to fit a handful of individuals better than Mike McCarthy’s old offense.
With all of those factors in play, let’s take a look at four players who are seeing their stocks trending upward — whether in terms of their odds of making the roster improving, their potential role on the team expanding, or both — after the team’s first batch of practices.
Montravius Adams, defensive lineman
When the Packers set Mike Daniels loose on Wednesday, that opened up the three-technique spot on the starting three-man line. Adams, who took many of the first-team reps in the offseason with Daniels sitting out, has stepped back in there with the ones in training camp and looks like he belongs.
Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said as much in his Monday press conference, naming Adams as the player on his unit who has improved the most since this point a year ago. In fact, Pettine flat-out said that his “opinion of (Adams) wasn’t real high” when taking the DC job in 2018, but that Adams has improved tremendously, starting midway through last season.
“(It’s a) tribute to him, how he’s changed his body over the past year,” Pettine said of Adams, but he complimented the improvement the lineman has made in technique, the mental aspects of the game, and playing physically as well. With Adams coming on in the spring, that probably helped the Packers make the decision to move on from Daniels, and he appears to be picking up right where he left off with very good performances early on in camp.
Raven Greene, safety
Another player benefiting from an unexpected absence early in camp is Greene, who has stepped into the starting lineup at safety due to rookie Darnell Savage’s recovery from wisdom teeth extraction. The reshaping Greene has done to his body this offseason has been well-documented, but it is worth mentioning again that his upper body looks much bigger — in part due to his ending last season on injured reserve with an ankle injury.
Now, with a bigger workload to start camp, Greene has staked a firm claim on the #3 safety job, vaulting ahead of Josh Jones in that area. Pettine noted that Greene’s confidence is arguably the second-year safety’s biggest remaining area for improvement, but getting those first-team reps should help with that.
At this point, it seems like it would take a massive collapse or an injury to keep Greene off the 53-man roster, and he should see significant playing time in the regular season on defense as well as on special teams.
Robert Tonyan, tight end
On the other side of the football, the Packers have been seeing a new Big Bob in the tight end’s second training camp. A year ago, Tonyan was a converted receiver who was learning to play tight end but who was primarily a receiving weapon. Now, Tonyan has been getting a significant chunk of reps with the first team when they line up in 12 personnel. He has been continuing to impress as a receiver, but it is his improvement as an in-line blocker that has people buzzing.
Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett is among those excited for Tonyan’s second year, bringing up his run-blocking abilities on Monday. With Marcedes Lewis a free agent after this year and Jimmy Graham being a feasible salary cap casualty in 2020, the Packers need either Tonyan or rookie Jace Sternberger to show signs that they can be a starting-caliber in-line player. Furthermore, with Graham always being more of a receiver than a blocker, Tonyan’s improvement in this area is likely to be the fastest way for him to earn more playing time. He’s getting it now, and fans should get to see these improvements early on in preseason games.
Danny Vitale, fullback
“The muscle man has done a nice job, hasn’t he?” That was Hackett talking about Vitale (and officially acknowledging one of the better nicknames on the team). The fullback position appears to be an important one for Matt LaFleur, whose mentor Kyle Shanahan tends to feature the position pretty prominently. That has led to myriad opportunities for Vitale, which range from aligning as a traditional lead blocker to lining up split wide and everything in between.
For the six-foot, 239-pound Vitale, it is important to remember that he was a versatile receiving weapon in college at Northwestern, playing a hybrid tight end/fullback/H-back role. To that end, he recorded at least 28 receptions, 288 yards, and better than a 10-yard-per-reception average in each of his four seasons.
Vitale has made a handful of nice catches throughout the first few practices, including on Aaron Rodgers’ first completion of the summer on Thursday. If he sustains this level of play, he should continue to get lots of opportunities through the rest of camp to create mismatches and solidify his spot on the 53-man roster.