With the season fast approaching, some of the Packers players who started on the roster bubble have cemented themselves as a part of the long term future of the team. Each of these men have demonstrated flashes of at least one dominating trait that has gotten them a shot to play on a team like this.
With the cut day tomorrow, and the cut down to 53 not long after, let’s take a look at five players who have solidified spot based on some portion of dominance on the field.
Mike Pennel – Hands and Strength
Pennel was a surprise last season as an undrafted rookie who made the roster as a backup tackle and got playing time in goal line situations. Seen as a guy who had to fight this season with the return of Khyri Thornton as well as the draft of Christian Ringo, Pennel needed to impress in camp to make the team. And not only has he impressed but shined, especially in preseason games, consistently getting into the backfield due to his prodigious strength and his improved hand placement.
Signature Play: Against Philadelphia, during a two point conversion attempt, Pennel performed a perfect swim move at the line and got into the backfield to stop Tim Tebow on a quarterback draw.
Jeff Janis – Big Play Ability
Janis was almost a lock to make the team coming in, but he still had a lot to prove. Physically the most talented player on the roster, he needed to refine everything else about his game to be a productive member of the team. And while work is still to be done, he has delivered in spades. He hasn’t racked up the receptions like Myles White, but he has made them count, delivering big play after big play with his deep speed and solid adjustment skills. He looks to be the next Packers deep threat.
Signature Play: Both against New England and Philadelphia, Janis ran a simple go route, beating the corner by at least a step and hauling in an over the shoulder pass for a score. His smoothness on those plays got fans more excited for a 7th round pick in my lifetime.
Brett Hundley – Poise
Like Janis, Hundley was seen by many as a lock after Ted Thompson traded up to get him in the fifth round. But as recently as three weeks ago, a Bleacher Report correspondent listed that Hundley was on the outside looking in, so he’s here.
However, despite getting playing time with backups in the first two game, he has been pretty impressive, and got his chance to prove himself once and for all against Philadelphia, and he delivered. Despite a tough start, he settled down and was a revelation against the starting defense of the Eagles. He showed poise and intelligence far above his rookie status and looks to be long term player in this league. Coach McCarthy has a lot to work with and it will be exciting to see.
Signature Play: While looking over the middle, Hundley progresses through all his reads and threads a needle to Ty Montgomery, putting his receiver in a position to rattle off a 52 yard gain.
Andy Mulumba – Edge Rushing
A surprise undrafted player back in 2013, Mulumba developed well but suffered a devastating knee injury last season that ended his season. But his recovery has been swift and he looks back to being the powerful edge rusher that he was back then, and has since clinched a spot in the linebacking corps.
A converted defensive end, he has soaked up everything he can from Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews and has developed an array of moves to get to the quarterback. Like Jayrone Elliott, he has lived in the opposing backfields so far in the preseason.
Signature Play: Against New England, Mulumba lined up inside as a blitzer and, using a stunt, got to Jimmy Garoppolo for the sack.
LaDarius Gunter – Ball Skills
What can be said about Gunter that hasn’t been said already. An undrafted corner out of Miami (FL), he fell out of the draft partly due to an abysmal 40 time at the NFL Combine, but while the stopwatch was slow, his game tape has shown otherwise. Playing exclusively outside, he has made numerous plays on the ball, playing physically and showing exceptional cover skills.
At 6’2”, he is by far the tallest corner that the team has and looks to not just make the roster as an undrafted free agent, but see significant playing time in the sub packages. The Packers may have found another gem in the UDFA ranks.
Signature Play: Against Pittsburgh, Gunter was lined up against Martavis Bryan on a back shoulder fade, an extremely tough play to defend without committing interference. Gunter flipped his hips and using his reach knocked the ball away at the goal line.——————
Mike Wendlandt is originally from Iola, Wisconsin and graduated from Drake University in 2015 with a degree in History. With a significant journalism background both in writing and broadcasting, Mike can be heard as the play-by-play voice of Central Wisconsin High School sports on WDUX FM 92.7 and on Twitter @MikeWendlandt.
Mike Wendlandt is a writer covering the Green Bay Packers for PackersTalk.com.