Green Bay kicked off the 2021 NFL season last night in their preseason opener against the Houston Texans.
While many view preseason as pointless or a waste of time, it truly does serve a variety of important purposes. Chief among them is helping teams set their rosters. These games – essentially live dress-rehearsals – give players the opportunity to prove themselves and their worth on the field. Subsequently, preseason matches allow front offices to evaluate their athletes’ showings and ultimately determine who will make the final cut.
Dozens of fresh faces and names suited up in the green and gold on Saturday versus the Texans. Each one – rookies, practice squad members, and new-to-the-Packers players – is competing for a common objective.
Earn a spot, or even potential playing time, on the Packers’ official 53-man roster.
With the team’s first preseason game complete, here’s five players whose impressive performances have them moving in that direction.
#1: Devin Funchess (#11)
Green Bay’s leading wide receiver was Devin Funchess, a 27-year-old from Michigan. He registered six catches for 70 yards on eight targets, including an extraordinary one-handed grab shown in the video below.
Funchess spent his first four seasons in the league with the Panthers, who drafted him in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft. He played in a single game for Indianapolis in 2019 before suffering a season-ending injury. After being released, Funchess was picked up by the Packers in free agency and signed a one-year deal.
He later opted out of the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, citing the need to protect his at-risk family members. As a result, last night’s preseason game was the first time #11 played as a Packer.
Funchess’s strong performance against the Texans has put fans and coaches alike on notice. He’ll need to continue playing well in the next two preseason games in order to secure a roster spot, especially considering Green Bay’s very crowded receiver camp.
#2: Jordan Love (#10)
Green Bay shocked the football world when they moved up to select a quarterback in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Jordan Love has been the subject of intense scrutiny ever since. The controversy surrounding Love only intensified this past offseason amid the drama between Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ front office.
Considering the immense pressure placed on his shoulders, Love held up remarkably well in his highly-anticipated Packers debut. The 22-year-old from Utah State threw 12/17 with 112 yards and one touchdown against the Texans. He finished with an impressive 110.4 passer rating.
Love made some big plays in this first preseason match-up, as well as a few mistakes. He looked confident and capable at certain moments, yet floundered at times too. As ESPN writer Rob Demovsky put it, Love was “neither spectacular nor an abject failure.”
Matt LaFleur recognized that Love has room to improve, but praised his young quarterback’s encouraging performance. “By and large, I think he did a really nice job,” the head coach stated in his post-game press conference.
Overall, with this being Love’s first game back under center in a staggering 567 days, Packers fans should feel good about how #10 played. He showed talent and promise, and that’s all we could’ve hoped for.
#3: Kylin Hill (#32) & Dexter Williams (#22)
One of the most sought-after roster spots up for grabs this preseason is third-string running back. These two players – along with Patrick Taylor – are fighting for the coveted position behind Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon. All three had a chance to make their case during last night’s game.
Both Kylin Hill and Dexter Williams impressed in their own unique ways during the opener against the Texans.
Hill ended the game with -2 yards on five rushing attempts, much in part due to a struggling offensive line. However, the rookie out of Mississippi State still managed to show glimpses of his dynamic skill, vision, speed, and explosiveness. Hill scored the Packers’ one-and-only touchdown of the night on his first ever NFL catch-and-run. Check out his Lambeau Leap in the video below!
Jordan Love 🤝 Kylin Hill
(via @NFL) pic.twitter.com/s48mEUlBT7
— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) August 15, 2021
Williams, a Notre Dame alum, was selected by the Packers in the sixth round of the 2019 draft. He’s been on the practice squad for the majority of the past two seasons, seeing little action in the few games he was elevated to the active roster. Despite that, Williams displayed admirable grit and heart against the Texans. He finished as Green Bay’s leading running back, amassing 32 of the team’s 49 total rush yards on only four carries.
Because Hill and Williams each had noteworthy performances last night, it’s worth mentioning them both here. Keep a close eye on this match-up; it will be an interesting one to follow as the preseason continues.
#4: Oren Burks (#42)
On the defensive side of the ball, Oren Burks shined. The 26-year-old inside linebacker out of Vanderbilt got off to a fast start versus the Texans. He registered seven tackles and two key tackles-for-losses, as well as the Packers’ first sack of the season. Additionally, Burks was successful blitzing and shooting the gap, making things difficult for Houston’s offense.
Oren Burks. 😤💪
— GBP Daily (@GBPdaily) August 15, 2021
Burks was a third-round draft pick in 2018 and signed a four-year contract with Green Bay. He’s been moved around to play both the inside and outside linebacker positions, as well as on special teams. However, Burks has yet to make a significant impact in his time with the Packers thus far.
Last night’s preseason match appeared to be a step in the right direction, and Burks himself agrees. “The focus for me this offseason has been trusting my training, believing what I see, and playing fast. I felt like that came to fruition in this game.”
Burks, a backup to this point, showed his raw potential against Houston. If he stays healthy and continues to improve, Burks could become a real impact player for special teams and Joe Barry’s defense.
#5: Vernon Scott (#36)
A seventh-round pick from TCU, Vernon Scott is beginning his second season with Green Bay. He saw minimal playing time as a rookie, but has been praised for his versatility and ability to line up all over the defensive formation.
Scott is one of many players competing for the several open spots at safety. With the exception of veterans Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage, roster slots at this position remain up for grabs.
The 23-year-old made a good push for himself in last night’s preseason opener. Scott recorded six tackles in the short time he played and was all over the field defensively. He also made a huge play on third down, breaking up a goal-line pass and forcing the Texans to settle for a field goal.
Scott must continue to prove himself as the preseason progresses if he hopes to make the final cut. Still, his solid performance last night certainly helped him stand out from the crowd.
It’s still far too early to know for certain who will or will not make the final roster. However, with one preseason game down and only two left to go, decision time is looming near. Green Bay must have their team cut down from 90 players to 53 by August 31st.
Funchess, Love, Hill and Williams, Burks, and Scott were all impressive in this first match against the Texans. But will it be enough to earn a spot – or playing time – on the Packers’ final roster?
Hang tight… we’ll find out in two weeks!
For More Wisconsin Sports Content…
Follow me on Twitter at @mal__allen and follow us @WiSportsHeroics for more great content! For the latest in Wisconsin sports, click here. Check out our merch page here and use promo code Wisco at check out for $1 off + free shipping!