5 Packers to Watch at Mandatory Minicamp

Keep a close eye on these five Green Bay Packers during their mandatory minicamp this week.
Green Bay Packers v Las Vegas Raiders
Green Bay Packers v Las Vegas Raiders / Cooper Neill/GettyImages
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2. Lukas Van Ness, Defensive End

The Packers have big hopes pinned on Lukas Van Ness, their 13th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. They hope he mirrors the rise of Rashan Gary, who went 12th overall in 2019. Gary's rookie year saw him on the field for just 24 percent of the defensive snaps, but in his second year, that number doubled. He also saw a significant uptick in production, jumping from two to five sacks and from five to 19 pressures.

Van Ness played in 33 percent of the snaps last year, tallying four sacks and 12 pressures. Historically, edge rushers make a significant leap in their second year, and Packers' head coach Matt LaFleur is banking on Van Ness following that trend. The shift to a 4-3 alignment will allow Van Ness to zero in on getting after the quarterback, a focus that could unlock his full potential.

But it's not going to be handed to him. Van Ness must fight for his snaps against formidable competition from Gary, Preston Smith, and Kingsley Enagbare. It's a stacked lineup, but if Van Ness can harness his talent and make that second-year leap, the Packers' pass rush could become a real force to reckon with.

1. Josh Jacobs, Running Back

Whether he likes it or not, Josh Jacobs is going to be perpetually linked to Aaron Jones this season. Packers fans will be keeping one eye on Jacobs in Green Bay while their other eye is glued to Jones in Minnesota for comparison.

Despite being three years younger, Jacobs has racked up more career carries in the NFL than Jones, which raises the question: will he wear down faster than his elder counterpart?

We might already be seeing signs of that trend. After a monster 2022 campaign that earned him a Pro Bowl nod and an All-Pro selection, Jacobs had a lackluster 2023 season. It’s tempting to blame his struggles on the Raiders’ dreadful offensive line or their erratic offense, but it would be naive to give Jacobs a complete pass.

The Packers are aiming for a balanced offense that uses the run to set up the pass, and Jacobs is the only proven back on the roster. Green Bay needs him to channel his 2022 form rather than his 2023 slump. While we won't get a definitive read until the games begin, minicamp will provide the first clues about which version of Jacobs we'll see this season.

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