The Green Bay Packers will need to win out or go 5-1 the rest of the way to qualify for the playoffs this season and the way the team has been playing all year, that is highly unlikely. Soon, the team will almost certainly be taking a look at some of their younger players as they get an informal audition to show the coaching staff what they can do and whether they have the potential to assume bigger roles on the team in 2023 and beyond.

Here is a look at five young players head coach Matt LaFleur should be giving substantially more playing time to in the final weeks of the season. Players are ranked on a combination of their potential and who the players are ahead of them on the depth chart that would have to see less action when you place these players in the lineup.

  1. DL T.J. Slaton

Slaton is a second year man out of Florida who the Packers added in the fifth round of the 2021 NFL Draft. He was selected to improve the team’s run defense and was primarily considered a space eater in the middle of the line.

Slaton has played in all 11 games thus far this season but has yet to start. He has made 15 total tackles but has yet to record a sack or a quarterback hit. He has played 31 percent of the team’s defensive snaps thus far this season.

It is highly unlikely Dean Lowry and Jarran Reed are back in Green Bay next season and if they are, the coaching staff already knows what they can do.

Slaton should get some starts and some games where he gets 60 percent of the defensive snaps or more. The coaching staff should see if he can help the team’s run defense. Any pass rush Slaton provides would be considered a bonus.

  1. WR Samori Toure

The Packers wide receiving corps has been hurt by injuries all season and before the season even started, two of the team’s top three wideouts from a year ago departed when Davante Adams was traded and Marquez Valdes-Scantling signed a free agent deal with the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Packers added three wideouts in the 2022 draft with Toure being the third of the group. The Pack selected the former Nebraska star with their final pick in the seventh round.

Thus far, Toure has played in five games for the Packers and has made four catches for 75 yards and a touchdown.

The rookie has played just 24 percent of the snaps in the games he has been active for. The coaching staff doesn’t need to see more from Sammy Watkins who will almost certainly not be back next season and who has not been productive when he’s been in the lineup. Toure should be getting a longer look late in the season to see what he can do.

If he gets healthy and can play again this year, Romeo Doubs would also be put into that category and the Packers should give him more playing time over veterans who are unlikely to be back or who the coaching staff is familiar with and has nothing more to prove.

  1. DL Devonte Wyatt

The Packers selected Wyatt with the 28th overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft. The Georgia alum has played in 10 games this season but has only eight total tackles and has played only 15 percent of the defensive snaps.

Veterans like Lowry and CReed are unlikely to be back and neither is playing particularly well. Giving Wyatt more reps down the stretch makes sense to get him more experience and to see how he is progressing.

Wyatt is still learning the defense and adjusting to life in the NFL. It’s time for him to get more work as the season winds down.

  1. WR Christian Watson

Watson has emerged in the last two games, making eight catches for 155 yards and five touchdowns. He enjoyed his first career 100-yard game against the Cowboys and has showed more of the potential that caused the Packers to trade up to draft him with the first pick in the second round of this draft.

For the season, Watson now has 18 catches for 243 yards and five touchdowns.

Watson appears to be gaining the trust of quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the coaching staff. In the last two games, he has played 84 and 80 percent of the team’s offensive snaps after being below 32 percent in every game since Week 2.

Watson needs to continue to be on the field at a high rate and needs to integrate himself into the offense and develop chemistry with his quarterbacks.

The key for the former North Dakota State star will be staying healthy as a myriad of injuries have slowed his progress and limited his ability earlier this season.

  1. QB Jordan Love

The Packers will want to take a long at Love before the season ends and he should start a few games after the team is eliminated from playoff contention. With Aaron Rodgers nursing a thumb injury and struggling with his consistency, the Packers can get a look at Love down the stretch.

If Love plays poorly, GM Brian Gutekunst would be a lot less likely to pick up Love’s fifth-year option, a decision he has to make this offseason. He will also be likely to consider drafting another heir apparent to Rodgers who at most has two more seasons left on his contract.

If Love does play well, the Packers could commit to him as the team’s next quarterback after Rodgers retires or trade him as his solid performance would increase his trade value for a club looking to improve at quarterback.

Love has started only one game in his career, a disappointing 13-7 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in 2021 when Rodgers missed a game due to Covid.

Getting a longer look at Love’s progress will only benefit the Packers and it will reduce the possibility that Rodgers suffers a serious injury in a meaningless game if AR12 is returning in 2023.




Follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

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