The 2017 Green Bay Packers training camp has finally arrived. For serious fans, it’s the first look at the team that will make and break their Sundays for the next several months. New additions through free agency and the draft are on display for the first time.
As exciting as it is for fans, it’s a crucial piece of the offseason for every player on the roster. Of course, some will have more to prove than others. Below is a list of veteran players that are on the hot seat, most needing to utilize camp well and change an established narrative on their role with the Packers.
Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins (CB)
After promising rookie seasons for the duo in 2015, both fell off of a cliff last year. Packers GM Ted Thompson reminded the media that both players struggled through injuries throughout the course of the season in 2016. Whatever the cause of their stagnation, coming in to 2017 as recent first and second round picks, Randall and Rollins represent an enormous investment for the Packers. They need them to succeed.
However, contingency plans have been made. Green Bay brought back Davon House in free agency and selected cornerback Kevin King with their first pick in the 2017 NFL draft. Ladarius Gunter also stepped up and stole playing time last season, eventually winning a starting spot.
With House, Gunter, King, and many other young bucks in camp (Josh Hawkins, Herb Waters, etc.) vying for positions, as crazy as it might have sounded just a year ago, Randall and Rollins could find themselves on the outside looking in if they fail to show that 2016 was an anomaly in their NFL progression.
Jeff Janis and Trevor Davis (WR)
Janis has been a fan favorite since being selected in the seventh-round of the 2014 draft. While his speed and size have tantalized us all for the last three seasons, Janis has been unable to put everything together and show himself to be a consistent NFL receiver. Through three seasons loaded with plenty of opportunities for Janis, he has only 188 yards and 1 TD to show for himself. If he can’t make a large jump, the Packers need to cut bait and develop younger, more promising receivers.
Davis is entering just his sophomore year in the NFL. While he stood out as one of the quickest receivers in the 2016 draft, he was incapable of earning himself much playing time.
Speed is a great asset at wide receiver, but as with Janis, speed alone is not enough to find success in the NFL. Already sitting behind Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, and Davante Adams on the depth chart, Janis and Davis have to compete with 2016 surprise Geronimo Allison as well as 2017 fifth and seventh round additions DeAngelo Yancey and Malachi Duprey, respectively (not to mention free agent additions like Max McCaffrey, the brother of 2017 top ten pick Christian McCaffrey).
Janis has already shown himself to be a difference-maker on special teams, but coming into his fourth year, that may not be enough to save him. Given that Davis is only coming into his second year, solidifying himself as a returner would help to make his case. However, even if the Packers keep seven receivers, Janis and Davis are certainly coming into camp on the bubble.
Joe Thomas (ILB)
Unlike the other players on this list, Thomas actually had a fairly solid season in 2016. What most weighs against him, however, is the Packers’ defensive installation of the hybrid safety/inside linebacker role. The Packers flirted with Morgan Burnett at inside linebacker in 2016, and early indications out of the first day of camp are that Dom Capers and company are serious about employing the hybrid role as a major staple of their 2017 defense.
The move makes a lot of sense. With the NFL moving toward smaller linebackers who can cover a lot of field in the running game and provide better pass coverage against the increasingly ubiquitous usage of tight ends in the receiving game, lining up larger bodied safeties inside has become more and more common.
The Packers have the personnel to make this work. Burnett already showed an ability to play the role, and the Packers added large and hard-hitting Josh Jones in the second round of the 2017 draft. Jones is probably even better suited for the hybrid role than Burnett.The emergence of Kentrell Brice and Marwin Evans last year also gave the Packers flexibility in moving their safeties around.
The Packers have more traditional inside linebackers in Jake Ryan and Blake Martinez to pair with a hybrid presence inside. Thomas plays smaller than both Ryan and Martinez with coverage having been the strong point of his game in the NFL thus far. Accordingly, he has been utilized in the past as a dime linebacker. Thomas will have to prove that he can continue to diversify his game and remain stout against the run if he doesn’t want to risk becoming redundant by falling in between two distinct inside linebacker roles.
Letroy Guion (DT)
Not only has Guion’s play slipped over the past several seasons, he’s facing his second suspension in three years. After missing three games in 2015 after he was charged with possession of marijuana and a firearm, Guion will miss the first four games in 2017 for violating the NFL’s policy on performance enhancing substances.
Somewhat surprisingly, Guion is still on the Packers’ roster coming into training camp. If Green Bay was sure that Guion was not part of their future, they wouldn’t be wasting a camp spot on him. However, you’d have to be crazy if you didn’t think that the Packers are just looking for a reason to move on. They signed free agent Ricky Jean Francois and drafted Montravious Adams in the third round of the draft. Guion will be competing with both for spots on the interior of the line, along with 2016 first round pick Kenny Clark and second year, undrafted player Brian Price.
Christian Ringo (DE)
Ringo is entering his third season in the NFL (he spent 2015 on the practice squad). He’s accumulated only two tackles in that time, and finds himself well behind Mike Daniels and Dean Lowry on the depth chart. Although there is some room for the Packers to keep someone else who can play from the 3 to 5 technique, Ringo will have to show versatility and development to make the cut on a crowded defensive line.
Demetri Goodson (CB)
Like Guion, it’s somewhat surprising that Goodson remains on the Packers’ roster. As a sixth round pick in the 2014 draft, Goodson is coming in to his fourth NFL season with little on his NFL resume. He’s also coming off of a four game suspension in 2016 for violating the NFL’s performing enhancing substance policy.
His presence is a testament to the weak state of Green Bay’s cornerback corps. With so many younger prospects around him, it’s now or never for Goodson to show some serious progress.——————
Taylor O\'Neill is a Packer fan born and raised in Oshkosh, WI. He currently lives in Florida and is pursuing his PhD. Taylor is a writer with PackersTalk.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @TaylorONeill87 for more Packer news.