With the Hall of Fame #PaintGate debacle officially behind us, the Green Bay Packers will instead make their 2016 preseason debut this Friday vs. the Cleveland Browns. We received some good news on Tuesday when Sam Barrington, Jared Cook, and Ty Montgomery all returned to practice off the PUP list (Nelson still remains for now), ending any speculation that Montgomery might have to start the regular season on IR. But with only two practices under their belt, don’t expect to see any of them on Friday, with A-rod and most of the veterans likely sitting this one out as well.
Unfortunately Brett Hundley is still nursing an ankle injury too, so it seems we’ll only be seeing Joe Callahan and Marquise Williams in a QB3-showdown instead. Not exactly a headline grabbing duo, but the battle brewing on the receiving end of their passes will surely be worth the price of admission.
Considered by many to be on the roster bubble at the start of camp, Jared Abbrederis has reportedly been the best receiver in camp outside of Cobb, with Rodgers himself describing his camp as “phenomenal.” A solid performance in his first game action of the year could go a long way to ensuring he’s back on the roster in 2016.
Perhaps even more surprising than Abbrederis has been the strong start of UDFA Geronimo Allison, who has gotten glowing reviews all week in practice, connecting with Rodgers on multiple big plays. Allison’s biggest weakness is his lack of top-end speed, so it will be interesting to see if he can separate consistently against opposing NFL corners.
On the other hand, Jeff Janis was described by offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett as a “work in progress,” which might be the nicest thing anyone’s said about him all summer. Perhaps a lock to make the roster as a core special teamer regardless, Janis could use a strong performance in this game to make a case for more opportunities with Rodgers in practice.
Similarly, with strong starts from Abby and Allison, Davante Adams would do well to make a few plays to ward off all this new competition for the WR3 job.
We’ll also get our first look at rookie Trevor Davis, who will look to show he can consistently beat big, physical corners in the NFL. RB John Crockett is the early favorite to provide depth behind Starks, but he could earn himself even more snaps if he can display some receiving ability in the preseason.
A lot of attention has been paid to Rodgers and his receiving corps this summer, but DL depth is perhaps a bigger question mark for Green Bay heading into week 1 with Pennel suspended for 4 games. As things stand now, Mike Daniels and Letroy Guion are the only “known quantities” on the entire roster. As such, all eyes will be on first round pick Kenny Clark, and it will be interesting to see if Green Bay lines him up at NT or as a 5-technique DT to begin his career.
Christian Ringo will look to make the leap from practice squad holdover to key rotational contributor, and rookie Dean Lowry will be battling him for snaps. UDFA Brian Price had some sleeper-buzz coming into camp, but UDFA Demetris Anderson has supposedly looked more impressive, per Bob McGinn and Michael Cohen of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Given the depth issues, whoever has a stronger preseason between these two may very well crack the initial 53-man roster.
It’s safe to assume we won’t see Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers, or even Nick Perry on defense, both in an effort to keep them fresh and give coaches a longer look at the OLB’s vying for reps behind them. Rookie Kyler Fackrell and former Raven Lerentee McCray will be making their Packer debuts, and Jayrone Elliott is a potential playmaker looking to make a leap in his third season. Another Packer making his debut will be ILB Blake Martinez, whose pre-snap communication skills have already made an impression on players and coaches alike. A strong performance could give him a real chance to start the season as a 3-down ILB.
In the secondary, it will be interesting to see how the Base and Nickel roles shake out between Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins, assuming they play. Ladarius Gunter might have the top backup role secure, but Robertson Daniel, Demetri Goodson, Josh Hawkins, and Makinton Dorleant are among the CBs battling to fill out the depth chart, with very little professional experience between all of them. UDFA Kentrell Brice is my favorite sleeper pick to make the roster as a backup FS, but will need to make some splash plays to get noticed.
Even with most of the stars likely sitting out this game, there are clearly enough depth chart battles and intriguing rookies making their debut to make this game an interesting one.