Finally, the commencement of Packers training camp is less than a week away. New names and also familiar faces will put on green and gold as Pack Nation pours into Ray Nitschke Field July 28th. There is a great deal of buzz surrounding this year’s draft class, however there is a lot to talk about involving the impressive class of 2016. Some will be battling for starting gigs while others are just trying to keep their name above a locker. Regardless of their impact to the team or position, each second year player will strive to avoid a sophomore slump that inevitably leads to a change in scenery down the road.
Returning second year players:
WR Geronimo Allison
S Kentrell Brice
DT Kenny Clark
WR Trevor Davis
OLB Kyler Fackrell
DE Dean Lowry
ILB Blake Martinez
OL Kyle Murphy
OL Jason Spriggs
Each player on this list would love to hold off staggered play in 2017. Allison, Martinez, and Brice may face more pressure to heighten their play so the Packers can take a sizable step forward.
Kenny Clark sticks out as one of the more promising young players on the roster. The former first round draft pick lost a lot of thunder to fellow rookie Blake Martinez as he went on to start in the very first game of 2016 at inside linebacker. The immediate impact of Martinez overshadowed Clark’s presumed assurance that the defense was headed in the right direction.
Clark was expected to be the day one starter who could light a fire under the Packers’ front seven. He flopped in his attempt as went on to start in only 2 of 16 games. His 21 tackles went seemingly unnoticed as he struggled to steal reps from the aging Letroy Guion.
Offensively, Jason Spriggs’ seat is a tad hotter than the other players listed above. He left a lot to be desired in his rookie campaign after earning a 47.6 blocker rating from PFF.
Spriggs received initial praise for his athleticism, yet it has failed to translate to the NFL. During his limited snaps he was regularly bullied off the ball.
The Indiana alumni has benefited from a full NFL offseason drawing attention from his position coach James Campen. He spoke of Spriggs stating, “His growth is going to be very big for him. I’m looking forward to seeing him in the pads, because he’s bigger and stronger.”
According to reports, Spriggs has put on a lean 20 pounds that sits well with his 6’6” frame. Originally listed as a tackle, the Packers have an opening at right guard. If he desires playing time, then Spriggs could try to make the transition. That is if he can beat out newbie Jahri Evans who will turn 34 in August.
Nonetheless, a bulkier Spriggs should be better adapted and more physically capable in 2017.
Everyone’s anticipation will continue to grow leading up to Friday and the first whistle is blown. The importance of each second year’s role will not be swept under the rug, though Clark and Spriggs are likely a little more restless.
___________________Brandon Carwile was a Cheesehead at birth. His dad grew up attending games at Lambeau and passed on the legacy. He has covered the Packers for over five years and currently works with packerstalk.com. Find him on twitter at @PackerScribe.