The Green Bay Packers are more than 10 days into training camp now and the first preseason game is just a few days away in San Francisco. While many things are going well for Matt LaFleur’s team, there are some areas of concern as the team prepares to take the field against another team for the first time since their playoff game last January.
Keep in mind that putting these issues on this list does not mean they will not be adequately addressed when the regular season starts next month, just that the team has some concerns about them and unanswered questions at this point in training camp.
- Long Snapper
The Packers struggled with inconsistency at the position last season and it caused difficulties for kicker Mason Crosby who missed nine field goals and two extra points in part because of these issues.
Midway through the 2021 campaign, Hunter Bradley was let go and replaced by Steven Wirtel. Unfortunately, Wirtel was not a significant upgrade over his predecessor.
During the offseason, the Packers signed undrafted free agent Jack Coco out of Georgia Tech to battle Wirtel for the starting job.
Coco has been taking most of the snaps with the first team special teams units but new coordinator Rich Bisaccia can’t be happy with what he’s seen.
Neither Coco nor Wirtel has been consistent in practice thus far and there were some issues at Family Night last Friday as well. The Packers need someone to step up and prove they can get the job or GM Brian Gutekunst and Bisaccia will have to search for another player who can make the team’s long snapping problems a thing of the past.
- Backup Edge Rusher
The Packers are set at edge as far as the starters are concerned with Rashan Gary and Preston Smith giving team a formidable starting duo. But behind them are a lot of unproven players with precious little NFL experience.
Neither Tipa Galeai nor Jonathan Garvin provided the team with much pressure on opposing quarterbacks last season when Za’Darius Smith and Whitney Mercilus were both lost to injuries.
La’Darius Hamilton is healthy again and aiming for a chance to show what he can do. He played 64 snaps on defense last year and was credited with three pressures in six games. Hamilton has been the best of the bunch in training camp thus far but he is hardly a proven commodity and his performance in the preseason will be critical to his chances of making the team.
Rookie fifth-round pick Kingsley Enagbare has also flashed some talent and a willingness to learn but it’s not clear how quickly the South Carolina alum will be ready to play a major role on defense.
The best edge rushers typically play 70-75 percent of their team’s defensive snaps and that’s if they stay healthy all season.
The defense’s ability to pressure opposing quarterbacks could take a huge hit if either Gary or Smith miss time due to injuries or even just on the plays they come off the field for a breather.
The Packers must find players who can provide a pass rush off the edge and provide depth at the position before the start of the 2022 NFL season.
- The Offensive Line
We all knew Elgton Jenkins was going to start training camp on the PUP list and fans weren’t shocked that David Bakhtiari did as well. But that leaves the offensive line without it’s two best players. When you add the departure of last year’s starting right tackle in Billy Turner and center/guard Lucas Patrick who started 13 games when injuries struck at those two positions there are a lot of questions surrounding this unit.
In training camp thus far, the defensive line has clearly outplayed the offensive line. While that was expected, the Packers need to use the preseason to figure out the best lineup possible to start the season with.
The team clearly has talent along the offensive line, but most of the players currently available lack experience. Yosh Nijman has eight career starts at tackle, Jon Runyan Jr. has 16 career starts and is the favorite to be the first string left guard. Starting center Josh Myers was limited to six regular season starts last year due to injuries and returns for a second season. Royce Newman has 16 career starts at right guard. He may return to that position or battle for the starting right tackle spot.
Rookie Zach Tom and Sean Rhyan have looked good at times but still have a lot to learn. Jake Hanson is looking to take over Patrick’s former position as the primary backup at both guard and center but he has never started an NFL game and has played only six offensive snaps in his career.
LaFleur needs to determine his starters and primary backups while figuring in how long Jenkins and Bakhtiari will be out of the lineup and where Jenkins will play when he returns.
The talent is there but there’s a lot to sort out along the line in the next few weeks.
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