Snap counts are not the be-all-end-all during the preseason, but they can provide us some insight into where things stand on the Green Bay Packers depth chart.
Practices can give us a glimpse into where things stand, but what takes place during the preseason games can carry more weight when it comes to determining playing time and final roster spots. Although it’s not the be-all-end-all, the total number of snaps a player sees in a given preseason game, their role on special teams, and with what units they are lining up with, can give us a better idea of where things stand on the depth chart in that moment.
At this stage of training camp, Matt LaFleur does not want the players focusing on where they stand on the depth chart or with what units they are playing with. But rather, he wants them to focus on getting better each day and playing with max effort.
"“Just because somebody is running with the ones, doesn’t’ mean that’s necessarily the case and vice versa if you’re running with the twos,” said LaFleur. “I don’t want the guys thinking about the depth chart at this point.“The sole focus each and every time you go out there is to try to get better each and every day in everything they do. In order to do that, you have to give max effort, you got to be deliberate about what you’re doing. Know the ins and outs, the details, the why of everything we are asking these guys to do.”"
Below are my eight takeaways from the Packers snap count totals from their first preseason game against the Bengals.
Matt LaFleur said that there would be a lot of rotating at the safety position as the defense looks for who is going to start next to Darnell Savage. However, over the last week, Jonathan Owens has been starting next to Savage, and we saw that during the preseason game as well. Another tell that Owens may be the front-runner for the starting role was that he played just 23% of the defensive snaps. Typically, in the preseason, starters play very little. For reference, Savage played just five snaps. Tarvarius Moore, the third safety, played 36% of the defensive snaps, and Rudy Ford 41% of snaps.
As I’ve written about before, Justin Hollins is not a roster lock from a salary cap perspective. If released, the Packers incur a dead cap hit of just $155,000. But in the preseason opener, he played just seven snaps after being a starter next to Preston Smith, who played only three snaps. Given Hollins’ play last season, the fact that he’s seen a lot of snaps with the starters, including on special teams, and played so little against Cincinnati, it very much looks like he will have a role this season.
Sean Rhyan and Royce Newman
Injuries to Caleb Jones and Luke Tenuta may have played a factor in Sean Rhyan and Royce Newman’s playing time. But the fact that both played well into the fourth quarter, totaling 48 snaps and 45 snaps, respectively, the second and third most along the offensive line, it goes to show that both are fighting for a roster spot. Neither played that well either. Ryan was credited with giving up four pressures, according to PFF and Newman two.
Daniel Whelan and Pat O’Donnell
Daniel Whelan played eight snaps, and Pat O’Donnell played five snaps. Both alternated as holder on Anders Carlson’s extra point and field goal attempts as well, with Whelan doing kickoffs in the second half. The relative split in opportunities in the first preseason game is further proof that there is a legitimate positional battle taking place. Whelan packs a lot of power, but he is a rookie, who could deal with inconsistency like many young players, and there is a lot of risk for the Packers in relying on a first-year holder and kicker on their field goal operations. For that reason, I would still give O’Donnell the edge, but it’s worth mentioning that releasing him saves Green Bay $1.5 million in cap space.
LaFleur said that to help determine who the third running back is, Patrick Taylor, Tyler Goodson, and Lee Nichols would each be featured in one of the preseason games. Based on snap counts, this was Taylor’s game to showcase what he can do, with a so-so performance. As a ball carrier, he averaged just 3.2 yards per carry on six attempts—although there weren’t these wide-open running lanes. As a pass catcher, Taylor had five receptions on five targets for eight yards. Along with being a ball carrier, special teams play and blocking abilities will play important roles in determining who the third running back is. Taylor played 31% of all special teams snaps and gave up one pressure in pass protection per PFF. This competition remains wide open, and now Emanuel Wilson may be in the mix.
Malik Heath and Bo Melton are competing for the sixth wide receiver roster spot–if the Packers keep that many. Heath out-snapped Melton on offense, perhaps telling us that he is currently ahead of him in that battle. Heath’s performance also may have helped create some separation. Heath was able to standout out as a blocker, showcasing that physicality that LaFleur has mentioned when discussing him, and he also had three receptions for 36 yards. But with that said, as I’ll get to shortly, Melton did out-snap Heath on special teams, and that is where the bulk of the sixth receiver’s snaps are going to come.
With Jaire Alexander not playing, Carrington Valentine saw a lot of action, playing 45% of the defensive snaps, including several with the starting unit. It’s not a surprise given what I’ve seen in training camp practices, but it does confirm that Valentine is the fourth cornerback on the depth chart right now with Eric Stokes still out. Valentine capitalized on the opportunity with a pair of pass breakups, an interception, and three tackles.
Special teams snaps
As we know, for back end of the roster players being able to contribute on special teams is very important when it comes to making the final roster. Below are the players who saw the most special teams snaps in the first preseason game:
Henry Pearson (47%)
Kiondre Thomas (44%)
Tyler Davis (44%)
Tariq Carpenter (44%)
Bo Melton (38%)
Corey Ballentine (38%)
Tucker Kraft, Austin Allen, Anthony Johnson, Patrick Taylor, Keshawn Banks, and Arron Mosby (31%)