After almost a month of training camp, and the deadline to trim the roster down to 75 players coming up in less than a week, the Packers roster is beginning to take shape.
And while some rookies have met or exceeded expectations, taking advantage of the limited reps they have been given and making plays in practice, others have disappointed and really need to make a positive impression over the next couple of preseason games if they hope to make the final roster.
Here are the rookies on the defensive side of the ball who have made a positive impression, and some that have some catching up to do over the next couple of weeks.
Dud: Carl Bradford – My pick for most disappointing rookie, Bradford could be in danger of getting cut before the season starts. Although it would not be completely unprecedented, it would be a rarity for the Packers to cut such a high draft pick. With 2 weeks of training camp left, Bradford appears to buried on the depth chart behind rookie Jayrone Elliott, and 2nd year players Andy Mulumba and Nate Palmer. After two preseason games, the Packers have given Bradford just 19 snaps on defense, and in those 19 snaps, he has just 1 quarterback hurry.
There are those who believe that Bradford would be better suited playing inside linebacker in the Packers 3-4 scheme due to his size, or lack thereof, but with just 2 weeks before the start of the season, that would be a move most likely to take place next season, if at all.
Stud: Jayrone Elliott – Despite being a standout in practice, Elliott has played even fewer snaps in the first two preseason games than Bradford. But Elliott has made the most of his opportunities, racking up 3 sacks in just 8 snaps against the Rams. Yes, it was against the Rams 3rd string offensive line, but it was an impressive feat nonetheless.
Before we get too excited about Elliott’s performance, we should think back a couple of years when Vic So’oto was similarly dominant during the preaseason, only to be cut after 1 year with the team. That’s not to say Elliott can’t be a productive player for the Packers, but expectations should be tempered.
Dud: Khyri Thorton – If you forgot the Packers drafted Thorton this past May you are probably not alone. Despite the defensive end playing significantly more snaps than any of the outside linebackers on this list, 52 through 2 games, he has made very little impact.
The good news is young defensive ends often take time to adjust to the NFL, so the fact that he may be a bit of a project should not surprise anyone. Hopefully a year sitting behind Mike Daniels, BJ Raji, and Datone Jones will allow Thorton to begin to reach his potential as the year goes on.
Stud: Mike Pennel – At the beginning of training camp it would have been tough to imagine an undrafted rookie defensive lineman making the Packers roster, but after the Packers traded Jerel Worthy to the Patriots, and with free agent signing Letroy Guion having yet to play a snap, it’s looking more and more likely that Pennel will have a legitimate shot to make the Packers final 53.
Pennel has stood out in both games and practice, flashing some pass rush ability as well as being stout against the run. It may be a bit premature to make any proclamations about Pennel’s future with the Packers, but with BJ Raji set to be a free agent after the season, the Packers could see Pennel as a potential replacement at nose tackle.
Dud: Adrian Hubbard – Hubbard seemed like a good bet to make the Packer roster after he was signed as an undrafted free agent. He has prototypical size, comes from a big time college program, and he has experience playing outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, but his performance so far could best be described as nondescript.
Like Bradford, Hubbard hasn’t had a whole lot of opportunity so far this preseason, getting only 17 snaps on defense in the first two games. But unlike Bradford, the Packers didn’t use a mid-round draft pick on him, so his chances of making the final 53 man roster are even more remote.——————