After a spirited week of practice, the Green Bay Packers wrapped up training camp and checked out of their dorms at St. Norbert college on Wednesday. They get set to head to St. Louis to take on the Rams this Saturday in their preseason week two matchup.
One thing the Packers won’t have to battle this week is the weather. After getting drenched in monsoon-like conditions in Tennessee last week, the Packers will be in a balmy 75 degrees inside the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. The Packers also faced the Rams during week two of the preseason last year as well.
Several skirmishes broke out at practice this week with both players and coaches jawing at each other. Afterwards, everyone was saying the right things and were back to being teammates with a common goal. Judging by many of the tweets and comments about the incidents, fans seem to be encouraged that the Packers have a little extra fire in their bellies.
This week will mark the first preseason game action for quarterback Aaron Rodgers, running back Eddie Lacy, safety Morgan Burnett and wide receivers Jordy Nelson & Jeff Janis.
As I did last week, I’ll be focusing on the current roster battles and who stands to gain or lose the most in this week’s game.
More To Gain
WR Jeff Janis
Janis has been lighting it up at practice since he was cleared over a week ago. He was held out of last week’s game but appears ready to make his mark on the field after establishing himself as a strong candidate for one of the Packers open wide receiver spots. I’d expect the Packers to remove their starters as soon as they can and open the door for a guy just like Janis, who they probably want to get a good look at. He should get quite a few snaps this weekend.
Janis has made at least one big catch a day in practice, whether leaping high into the air or leaving his feet and laying out. Janis has a build similar to that of Jordy Nelson and is faster. With the NFL seemingly moving towards bigger, stronger receivers, Janis could turn out to be a real gem for the Packers.
At this point and based on the consistency Janis has shown in practice, I’d give him the edge for the fifth spot on the depth chart in front of Myles White, Kevin Dorsey, Chris Harper, Gerrard Sheppard and Alex Gillett. If Janis continues to play as he has, I’ll be surprised if he’s not on the final roster. As for those others just mentioned, you may see a name or two later on.
TE’s Brandon Bostick & Richard Rodgers
Bostick has spent a lot of time with the first team since camp broke and he even started last week’s game. At a wide-open tight end battle, Bostick can help himself out in a big way with a crisp showing this week. Head coach Mike McCarthy has praised Bostick by name a few times already since camp started and Bostick has reportedly shown well on the practice field.
A string of good games and consistent practices will have Bostick atop the depth chart and taking the majority of snaps when the season starts.
Rodgers will have something to say about that with a strong showing of his own. Rodgers has done well in practice and is picking up the mental aspects of the offense well. His blocking has also been better than your average rookie. This is one of the things has moved him into the conversation about being atop the depth chart sooner than later. He has room to grow and develop further and seems to be on that path. This game is key for him in terms of establishing consistency.
Both of them will be on the roster and both should see time when the regular season starts. Between Rodgers, Bostick and Andrew Quarless, the Packers don’t have a tight end who can carry the load for an entire game. It’s tight end by committee, for at least a while, so the quest for more snaps is on.
Safeties Sean Richardson & Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
Safety is another position battle that has a lot of depth to it. Richardson has been surprisingly good in coverage during camp after being labeled more of a “box safety” who thrives playing near the line of scrimmage. With the injury to Morgan Burnett, Richardson has seen additional snaps and made the most of them with some timely plays on the ball during team periods. Richardson has a roster spot, but needs to continue to keep the pressure on Burnett, Micah Hyde and Clinton-Dix for more snaps.
Clinton-Dix made a nice play last week against the Titans on a ball that could have been caught for a long gain. HHCD was initially beaten off the line but recovered to swat the ball away causing the incompletion. He won’t be able to make a career out of playing that way, but he made the play, nonetheless. With Hyde and Burnett still labeled as the starting safeties in the base defense, Clinton-Dix needs to work himself into more of those packages and can only do so with consistency and playmaking ability. He has yet to intercept a pass in practice so a timely pick could do him wonders in endearing himself to the coaching staff.
RB DuJuan Harris
Harris will see increased snaps later in this game with rookie Rajion Neal out with a knee injury. Neal had been running well against Tennessee and was making a case as the team’s third back behind Eddie Lacy and James Starks.
As a third-down back and potential kick returner, Harris offers the Packers some value if he can stick. He needs a good game and positive yardage on each carry to take advantage of Neal’s absence.
DT Mike Pennel
Another undrafted free agent coming on at Packers camp? You don’t say! Pennel grabbed some attention from media covering this week’s practice session and appears to be gaining some momentum inside the coaching room as well. As with any undrafted free agent, Pennel needs every snap he can get to prove his worth and make his case.
With Jerel Worthy being traded to the New England Patriots and with Letroy Guion still not able to suit up, Pennel has an opportunity to play quite a bit during the second half of this week’s game. Any momentum he currently has needs a boost that can only come from a solid in-game performance.
More to Lose
WR’s Kevin Dorsey & Chris Harper
With the emergence of Janis, both Dorsey and Harper have additional pressure for the fifth and, possibly, sixth receiver spot. The Packers very well could keep six, but it would require one or both to have a strong finish to the preseason. Harper led all receivers last week with 55 yards on two catches. Dorsey had 27 yards on three catches. He was targeted five times.
Both have had issues with drops in practice, which is the fastest way out of town in the NFL. Starting this week, both of these receivers need to get open and hang onto the ball. McCarthy typically likes to pull his starters in week two after a successful drive. If that happens early on, they will see more snaps.
Depending how many games Harper was on the active gameday roster last year, he could still be eligible for practice squad. A player who has just one accrued season and who was active less than nine games that year can be signed to that team’s practice squad the following season. Dorsey was on injured reserve last year so he would be eligible for the practice squad this year, if the Packers chose to go that route.
DT Letroy Guion
Guion will travel with the team but will not play. He hasn’t participated in a single drill this preseason and his time is running out. If Pennel continues to show well, the Packers will likely opt with the younger option and who they can mold into their defense from day one.
If he is able to return, Guion has a lot of catching up to do.
TE Andrew Quarless
Quarless isn’t in danger of not being on the roster this season, but he is slowly sliding down the depth chart. If he wants to reclaim his starting spot, he needs to start showing up on film. He can only do that by making plays when it counts. He has the chemistry with Aaron Rodgers, but a mediocre game could create a bigger debate about where he stands among the tight end group.
S Morgan Burnett
Burnett will return to action this week. He’s still a starter, as far as safeties coach Darren Perry is concerned, as he stated to the local media earlier this week. Burnett’s play received very ho-hum reviews last season and he’s under a microscope this year with it being his fifth on the team and following the big contract extension last offseason.
Burnett is on this year’s team, no question about it. Things could get interesting, however, if he is pedestrian on the field and Hyde and Clinton-Dix continue to improve. Let’s not forget about Richardson looming as well.
It’s a good problem to have at safety with an inherent level of improvement that can be expected all around. Burnett has to prove to be a part of that improvement and a solution to the mediocre play that plagued Packers safeties last season.
CB’s Jumal Rolle & Demetri Goodson
Some of you may be scratching your heads, especially those who follow the team closely during the week. Rolle has made play after play after play in practice. Then again, it’s practice, not a game. With a crowded cornerback position group (Sam Shields, Tramon Williams, Casey Hayward, Davon House), Rolle is going to have to do something to stand out and challenge Jarrett Bush and Goodson. Many expect that this is the year the Packers let go of Bush and move in a different direction. I’m not convinced and I think he’s still the fifth corner.
Goodson is still learning the cornerback position and seems a bit behind the curve. At this point, he’s a candidate for the practice squad unless he shows up in spectacular fashion. He did have a nice pass break up in the Tennessee game and that should earn him a decent look this week.
Rolle should remember that both Williams and Shields were undrafted free agents and both are starters with big contracts. If it can happen anywhere, it can happen in Green Bay.
QB’s Matt Flynn & Scott Tolzien
Insert eye roll. Are one of these two going to step up and truly claim the backup job so we can speculate on the other’s fate? Until McCarthy definitely says he’s keeping three quarterbacks this season, there’s a possibility that the most under-performing of Flynn or Tolzien gets sent packing.
The Packers can’t like the idea of letting Tolzien walk out the door after all of the work they have put in with him. They also aren’t likely thrilled with the prospect of watching their most effective security blanket walk away either.
At this point, they’ve been fairly equal and I still think the Packers plan on keeping both.
Jason Perone is an independent sports blogger writing about the Packers on AllGreenBayPackers.comFollow Jason Perone: