The Green Bay Packers kick off preseason game action tonight against the San Francisco 49ers. Many of the team’s starters will not be playing, including Aaron Rodgers. This means that many players who are fighting for spots and playing time will be given ample opportunity to showcase what they can do. Despite having an offense and defense ranked in the preseason top ten by various sites, the Packers still have some question marks at key positions. Here, I highlight three position battles that could be determined by how players perform in the preseason games, starting tonight.
The Third Running Back Spot
The Green Bay Packers have two dynamic running backs on their roster. Last year, Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon both eclipsed 1,000 yards from scrimmage. They are easily the top two running backs on the Packers’ roster. However, the third running back position is wide open. Kylin Hill won the spot last season, but will start this season on the PUP as he recovers from a torn ACL.
Patrick Taylor was widely considered the favorite to win the third running back spot again. He was the Packers’ leading rusher in the preseason last year and was elevated to the active roster when Hill was injured. However, Taylor started training camp on the PUP list and missed several practices last week with a groin injury. He returned to practice this week and should be good to go tonight.
In addition to Taylor, the Packers recently re-signed their former 2019 sixth round pick Dexter Williams. Additionally, Green Bay has B.J. Baylor and Tyler Goodson, both undrafted free agents, on their current roster. Goodson especially has been looking very good in the early days of training camp,
Tyler Goodson has some of the best open field moves on the team. Just put a nasty shake and cut on Shemar. Shemar may have still made the play if there was tackling but it was a sick move nonetheless.
— Andy Herman (@AndyHermanNFL) August 10, 2022
With four players competing for one spot, this first game against the 49ers will give Packers coaches a good idea of who has a leg up in the competition.
The Packers have not had a decent kick return specialist in quite some time. Last season, Kylin Hill was doing well before his injury. Amari Rodgers received some game action in that role, too, but lost the job do to inconsistency. Under new special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia, the Packers have been trying out a variety of players at the position during camp.
Among these getting reps is Rodgers, who as mentioned lost the job last year. He appears to be a whole new player this year and has everyone around the team very excited:
Brian Gutekunst: "We're very, very bullish on Amari Rodgers and what he can do for this football team."
— Ryan Wood (@ByRyanWood) August 3, 2022
In addition to Rodgers, Green Bay has cornerback-turned-wide receiver-turned-cornerback Rico Gafford. Gafford has been having a phenomenal camp and has blazing speed. He also played under Bisaccia with the Raiders. Having played wide receiver, he also brings a level of versatility that no one else can match:
Another player I’m very intrigued by is Rico Gafford. You can only keep 48 players active on game day and Gafford could be CB5, KR, Gunner, kick coverage, fg block, and I don’t think it’s impossible with his blazing speed and WR history that he could get a package on offense. https://t.co/k5FiwX3sHD
— Andy Herman (@AndyHermanNFL) July 31, 2022
The Third Safety
As with running back, the Packers have two good starters at the safety position in Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage. Beyond that position, however, there are questions. Vernon Scott did not earn any defensive snaps last season, but has been playing very well thus far in camp. With Amos and Savage not playing tonight, he will get an opportunity to prove why he should get the spot.
Vernon Scott earned a ringing endorsement from Jaire Alexander yesterday. It could change over the next three weeks, but it’s appearing more and more that he’s in the lead for the Packers’ third safety spot. pic.twitter.com/4iZKCCZi1b
— zach jacobson (@itszacharyj) August 11, 2022
In addition to Scott, the Packers have Dallin Leavitt and Shawn Davis. Both have been playing well during training camp. Leavitt was signed shortly after he was cut by the Raiders. Apparently, Bisaccia wanted him badly.
Brian Gutekunst joked (maybe it wasn’t a joke) that he could count the seconds between when the Raiders cut safety/special teamer Dallin Leavitt and when Rich Bisaccia called Gutekunst to push the Packers to sign him. Leavitt seems to be a special teams cornerstone here.
— Matt Schneidman (@mattschneidman) August 3, 2022
For some analysis of the Packers’ wide receiver battle, you can click on the links below:
- Evaluating the Claim that the Packers Should Sign Will Fuller
- Aaron Rodgers Interview Implies 7 Packers Wide Receivers Make the Roster