The Green Bay Packers have a lot of difficult choices to make before final cuts are made ahead of Tuesday’s deadline. GM Brian Gutekunst will make those decisions along with head coach Matt LaFleur and his staff. There are many factors to be considered when they decide who will make the team, who they will try to put on the practice squad and who will be let go.
One of the more difficult decisions involves the running back position. We know Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon will be the top two players on the depth chart and that second-year man Kylin Hill will start the 2022 NFL season on the PUP list. But who will earn the third running back spot on the roster to start the season?
The two leading candidates are undrafted free agent Tyler Goodson and second-year man Patrick Taylor who took over as the third running back last season after Hill suffered a season-ending knee injury against the Cardinals.
Throughout the preseason, it’s been Goodson who has been the more dynamic runner and receiver. He showed good vision, read his blocks well and had a good burst through the hole.
He led the Packers with 29 carries in the preseason gaining 107 yards and scoring one rushing touchdown. He added eight receptions for 60 more yards. The one touchdown came against Kansas City and included a dramatic, highlight-reel spin move.
The former Iowa star is hoping what he showed as a runner and receiver will be enough to earn him the roster spot.
Taylor is a bigger player at 6’2” and 217 pounds as compared to Goodson who stands 5’9” and weighs 197. He also has more experience having played nine games with the Pack last season.
The Memphis alum led all rushers in the game against the Chiefs with 34 yards rushing on seven carries. He is not as dynamic a runner as Goodson. He ran the ball 18 times in three preseason games and gained 71 yards. His 3.9-yard average per rush was better than Goodson’s 3.7 but his long run was just 11 yards.
Taylor caught three passes in the preseason for 17 yards. He has a reputation as a good receiver. In the first two preseason games, Jordan Love missed Taylor on open passes in the flat near the sidelines. Taylor is a bigger target but is not as elusive after the catch as Goodson.
But the biggest strengths of Taylor’s game are his ability to pass block and contribute on special teams. LaFleur and Gutekunst have indicated that those skills will be crucial factors in determining who the third running back will be to start the season.
Jones and Dillon will get most of the carries but the ability to contribute on special teams would certainly give the third back a chance to get on the field and contribute. Taylor holds the edge there and has made tackles on punt and kick return coverage during the preseason.
The ability of the third back to help protect Aaron Rodgers and pick up blitzes is also important. Because of his size and experience, Taylor has the edge here as well. This is his third training camp with the Packers and he knows the offense well. He can read stunts and block blitzing linebackers and help give the quarterback enough time to get the ball away and make a play.
There is also a question of short-term versus long-term value. It appears that Goodson has more long-term upside as a runner than Taylor does, but he may not do the little things that coaches look for right now that Taylor does. Do the Packers value what these players can do right now or do they prioritize the potential that each player possesses but that may not be realized for another year or two.
So Gutekunst has a tough decision to make. Does he keep Taylor or Goodson? And then, when Hill is ready to come off the PUP and has recovered from his knee injury, does the team keep four running backs on the active roster or do they release the third running back to make room for Hill?
The Packers will likely try to keep the player that doesn’t make the team on the practice squad. Whether another team will claim either Taylor or Goodson is another uncertainty.
The decisions aren’t easy but this is why Gutekunst and NFL GMs make the big bucks.
Follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers
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