Green Bay Packers: 11 things to watch in Training Camp

GREEN BAY, WI - AUGUST 03: Helmets sit on the field during the Green Bay Packers practice at summer training camp on August 3, 2009 at the Ray Nitschke Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
GREEN BAY, WI - AUGUST 03: Helmets sit on the field during the Green Bay Packers practice at summer training camp on August 3, 2009 at the Ray Nitschke Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

With Green Bay Packers’ Training Camp starting later this week, here are 11 things to keep your eyes on as we get back to padded practices.

We have just about made it! Real Green Bay Packers football with padded practices is set to begin in just a few days with the start of Training Camp.

This has been an offseason full of change for the Green Bay Packers, from a number of new faces on the defensive side of the ball to an almost entirely new coaching staff that has been implementing a brand new offense.

As a result, there are a number of different players and positional groups to keep our eyes on once practice begins. I’m sure I’ve left a few off of my list but these are a few questions that we hopefully learn the answers to once the pads are on.

1. Oren Burks

After a strong Camp in 2018, an injury derailed the early portion of Oren Burks rookie season and he was never able to get back on track. Once healthy he would rarely see the field, even with the Green Bay Packers out of contention at the end of the season. And when he was out there, he would struggle, specifically in coverage.

Now heading into the new season, the Packers are a bit thin at inside linebacker with a number of question marks on the depth chart after Blake Martinez. Burks’ skillset compliments Martinez’ very well and together they have the potential of making a dynamic duo, but we need to see Burks take a big step forward in year two.

2. Wide receiver

This position has questions both on the front-end and back-end of the depth chart. First being who will emerge as the number two receiver behind Davante Adams? Through offseason programs, it would appear that Geronimo Allison and Marquez Valdes-Scantling (MVS) are the front-runners.

Prior to ending on the IR, Allison was set for a breakout season and led the team in receiving yards through four weeks in 2018 and has taken a number of snaps in the slot this year, which is an important part of Matt LaFleur’s offense. While MVS has really stood out in OTAs and mini-camp and could get plenty of opportunities downfield this season in an offense that likes to take the deep shot.

On the back-end, we are left wondering who will make the final roster. Last year the Green Bay Packers kept seven receivers but I see that number dipping to six or even five in 2019. That leaves J’Mon Moore, Trevor Davis, Jake Kumerow, Allen Lazard, and Teo Redding all battling for a final spot on the 53-man.

3. Backup quarterback

This is a position that we hope we don’t have to see play meaningful time this season but over the last two years, the backup quarterback has been needed. The Packers kept three QBs in 2018 but given needs at other positions, my guess is that they only keep two this year.

Kizer has flat-out struggled as a starter, while fan-favorite Tim Boyle has flashed some potential in the preseason but has made a number of big mistakes as well. As of now, I expect Kizer to come out on top given his pedigree as well as the fact that Green Bay traded for him, but it will be an interesting battle to watch.

4. Rashan Gary

One of the more polarizing draft picks in this year’s class was the Green Bay Packers’ 12th overall selection in Rashan Gary. While he clearly has all the physical tools to be a star, production was lacking during his time at Michigan.

Gary is stepping into an ideal situation as a rookie where he doesn’t have to be “the guy” with Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith and Kyler Fackrell all playing alongside him. This will allow Mike Pettine to put him in positions to succeed and his versatility along the front is something that this Packers’ defense covets. I can’t wait to see him in pads going full speed.

5. Kevin King

This feels like a now or never year for Kevin King who has struggled with injuries and has ended each of his first two seasons on the IR. Out of 32 potential games, King has appeared in only 15 of them. Now entering his third season he needs to prove that he can stay on the field.

While it was precautionary, King did miss a few practices during offseason programs but given his track record, it does raise some flags. This led to rookie Ka’dar Hollman taking snaps with the first and second-team defenses. If King continues to miss more practice time, he could begin to lose snaps if a player or two behind him is able to show that they are capable.

6. What will happen with Josh Jones?

In a surprise to most, prior to the beginning of OTAs, Josh Jones demanded to be traded or released. Apparently with the free-agent signing of Adrian Amos and drafting Darnell Savage, Jones feels that it is time to move on. However, even though he may be getting fewer snaps in the traditional safety role, I would still expect him to play a decent amount in the hybrid linebacker/safety role, which better suits his skill set.

In the past with players who have caused a fuss, such as Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Ty Montgomery, and Damarious Randall, we have seen GM Brian Gutekunst send them packing. So my feeling in this Jones situation is that we see the same result.

7. Mason Crosby v. Sam Ficken

Amongst the Green Bay Packers issues in 2018 was a struggling Mason Crosby who would miss a game-winning field goal against the Minnesota Vikings, go 1/5 in Detroit, and miss a game-tying field goal against Arizona. This resulted in the Packers bringing in Sam Ficken to compete for the starting job this summer.

Ficken is just 3/6 on field goal attempts for his career but during offseason practices, he did compete well with Crosby, even out-kicking him in a few practices which was nice to see. However, the intensity will get kicked up a few notches in Training Camp as well as into the preseason and while I expect the veteran Crosby to be the kicker week one, I do hope the competition revitalizes him as it did in 2013.

8. Tight end depth chart

This has been a position that has perplexed this Packers’ offense for a number of seasons but tight end should play a much bigger role under coach LaFleur.

Both Jimmy Graham and Marcedes Lewis are coming off down seasons and are on the back-nine of their careers. While Robert Tonyan’s skill set is still a bit raw and most rookie tight ends struggle to produce in their first seasons, so I’m not sure how much we can rely on Jace Sternberger.

With that said, LaFleur’s offense is predicated on scheming players open, rather than them having to constantly win one-on-one battles as they did under coach Mike McCarthy. I do expect a bounce-back season from Graham, however, I am on the fence with Lewis, and if Tonyan can show that he’s made improvements, he could see many more snaps in 2019. As a whole, it’s going to be interesting to see how it plays out.

9. The new offense

Compared to what we have seen in the past, the tight ends and running backs should play a much bigger role under coach LaFleur, and we should see Green Bay go back to using play-action quite a bit, amongst a number of other changes.

I for one am looking forward to these changes after watching a stale offense the previous two seasons but we need to keep in mind that it is brand new. So mistakes will be made but hopefully, everyone catches on fairly quickly and we see an explosive offense in Green Bay once again.

10. The offensive line unit

The guard positions struggled in 2018. On the left side Lane Taylor was fighting through injuries all year and on the right was a revolving door. This led to the Packers signing Billy Turner and drafting Elgton Jenkins in the second round. They also had the pleasant surprise of Cole Madison returning after taking a year off from football.

Turner will take over at right guard and while Taylor will start out at left, Jenkins is a player that could push him for playing time if we don’t see Taylor bounce-back from last season. For the first time in a few years, it feels that there is quality depth along the offensive front and added competition is always a good thing.

The name of the game for the Green Bay Packers is keeping Aaron Rodgers upright and as a whole, I think they have what could be a very good unit that will do just that.

11. Raven Greene

The additions of Amos and Savage transformed what was a very weak safety position but Mike Pettine does like to often utilize three safeties on the field at a time. With the uncertainty surrounding Jones, Raven Greene took over as the team’s third safety during offseason programs.

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This is an important position within this defense and it requires the player to be able to drop into coverage, blitz and be a run stopper. So we can only hope that we see Greene make a big jump forward in his second year and help stabilize the safety position along with Amos and Savage. Greene will definitely be a player to keep your eyes on in Camp.