The Green Bay Packers opened the 2023 NFL season with a strong performance in a 38-20 win over the Chicago Bears. The Packers outplayed the home team in all three facets of the game, offense, defense, and special teams. The Packers got significant contributions from their 2023 draft class. Here is a look at five Packers rookies who shined and made significant contributions to the team’s Week 1 success:
Packers Rookies Who Shined Number Five: DL Karl Brooks
GM Brian Gutekunst selected Karl Brooks in the sixth round of this year’s draft. The former Bowling Green star had a strong preseason and training camp and while he’s not starting, he’s earned a spot in the defensive line rotation.
Brooks recorded his first NFL sack in the game, wrapping up Justin Fields for a nine-yard loss in the fourth quarter. Brooks was able to catch Fields who is one of the more mobile quarterbacks in the game today.
In addition to the sack, Brooks recorded two hurries against the Bears.
The addition of Brooks and fellow draft pick Colby Wooden gives the Packers more speed and depth along the defensive line than they’ve had in recent years.
Rookies Who Shined Number Four: TE Luke Musgrave
Second round pick Luke Musgrave enjoyed some strong moments in his NFL debut but also showed he needs some experience to reach his full potential.
Musgrave finished the game with three catches on four targets for 50 yards. His biggest play was a 37-yard catch on a play where quarterback Jordan Love fumbled the snap but still managed to find Musgrave alone deep downfield.
The ball was slightly underthrown, but Musgrave may still have scored a touchdown on the play had he not tripped over his own feet. Despite stumbling, Musgrave still made a good play and showed he can get open deep and stretch the field. That is something the Packers have lacked at tight end since Jermichael Finley’s career was cut short by injury in 2013.
Musgrave played 75 percent of the Packers offensive snaps. He should improve his overall play as he gains experience and gets more comfortable in the offense.
Packers Rookies Who Shined Number Three: Kicker Anders Carlson
Anders Carlson struggled at times during an uneven preseason. The Auburn alum proved he had a very strong leg, making a 57-yard field goal during one preseason game, but he also missed several extra points in both practice and games.
Carlson had a perfect day on field goals and extra points. He made all five PATs and a 52-yard field goal on the final play of the first half to put the Packers ahead 10-6 at the break.
Carlson’s kickoffs were also effective. He booted two for touchbacks, two landed at the one-yard line and only one was fielded at the 12.
There is no doubt Carlson has a stronger leg than his predecessor, Mason Crosby. Now he needs to show he can perform consistently at a high level in the NFL. He will also have to master the winds and cold weather conditions in Green Bay in the second half of the season.
Rookies Who Shined Number Two: WR Jayden Reed
The Packers also added wide receiver Jayden Reed in the second round this year and the former Michigan State star had some very nice moments in his first NFL contest. Reed lined up primarily in the slot and played 53 percent of the team’s offensive snaps.
Reed caught two passes on five targets for 48 yards. Both of his catches picked up first downs and his long catch went for 30 yards. Both catches came on the sideline route he excelled at in training camp.
He was also the team’s primary punt returner. Reed ran back three punts and averaged 18-yards per runback. His long gain was 35 yards.
Two of his returns helped set up scores. Reed’s 15-yard runback put the Packers at their own 44 with 1:12 left in the half and that put the Pack in position to kick a field goal before the half.
In the third quarter, Reed ran back a punt for 35 yards that set the Packers up at the Bears 42. Four plays later, Love found Aaron Jones on a 35-yard pass that gave Green Bay a commanding 24-6 lead.
Packers Rookies Who Shined Number One: Edge Lukas Van Ness
The Packers expected to bring first-round pick Lukas Van Ness along slowly this season. The former Iowa product has elite athleticism but clearly needed to improve his technique to excel at the NFL level.
In his first game, Van Ness played nearly half the defensive snaps in the game and was credited with two tackles, one sack, one tackle for loss and one pressure.
The sack came early in the second quarter with the Bears at the Green Bay four. Van Ness was rushing from the left side. Fields faked a handoff and rolled out to his right. Van Ness played the angle well and used his speed to run down the Bears quarterback and tackle him near the sideline. The play helped prevent a touchdown and limited Chicago to a field goal to preserve the Packers lead.
While Van Ness still has a lot more to learn, he showed some of his potential with a strong NFL debut.
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