After the mandatory two days of training camp in shells, the Packers finally get to put the pads on to see what they have on the field. Both rookies and veterans alike now get the chance to show their true athleticism and ability in a realistic setting, doing all the drills needed to get ready for the 2017 season.
And with that comes the test for guys who are the “underwear warriors.” Those guys excelled in shells, but struggled when the pads come on due to size, hesitance, or something else. (Example: Trevor Davis in 2016) However, the opposite is also true. Some guys struggle with just helmets and shorts, and they show why they’re professionals once the pads come on. Here are five such guys.
DISCLAIMER: This list consists of guys who are either viewed as depth guys or fringe roster guys, not established guys like Mike Daniels or Clay Matthews. That would be too easy.
- LaDarius Gunter, CB
- Gunter was a favorite whipping boy of people the past couple days on twitter as he had a rough opening to camp. Getting beat repeatedly by guys like Trevor Davis and Colby Pearson, Gunter definitely didn’t look the part of an NFL player, but that would be disingenuous to the third-year corner. Playing in shells does expose his lack of speed, but that isn’t his game. He is a press-man corner who is best when he can get his hands on receivers and rough them up a bit down the field. He is a guy who needs to practice with pads to best show his skill set, and I look for him to make some plays this weekend now that the pads are on.
- Kyle Murphy, T/G
- Working inside at guard as well as at right tackle, Murphy faces a big camp to prove he is a part of the future of this team. A guy who, as a late round pick last year essentially got a redshirt year, Murphy is kicking inside more to try to become the heir at right guard for 2018. Tall and strong, Murphy is a dilligent worker who has been in the playbook all offseason, and offensive linemen are some of the most watched guys during the first padded practice as they can finally hit someone or something. Murphy is motivated and should elevate his own profile during these early padded practices.
- All 3 Rookie Running Backs
- I really wanted to pick one, I did. But all three have something different to bring to the table, and with them not being used much in OTAs and a disastrous showing for the most part the past couple of days filled with fumbles and missed assignments, the time is now for Jamaal Williams, Aaron Jones, and Devante Mays. And all three are more known for their game speed than testing numbers, and their college tape shows that. That goes especially for Williams and Jones, who are instinctive runners who have a knack for finding a hold and exploding through it. With the running game likely being a focus early on now that the pads are on, all three should show why they were drafted.
- Kenny Clark, DT
- Last year’s first round pick has a year in the system and a lot of high expectations to take a big jump. A Mike Daniels-type of player, Clark has the size and quickness to be an elite nose tackle, but he needs to continue to gain experience, and when the pads come on, that’s when the defensive lineman have to take advantage. Half-line drills and one-on-one pass rush drills are some of the highlights of any training camp and Clark has a chance to make a huge impression during those.
- Jake Ryan, LB
- With all the talk of Morgan Burnett and Josh Jones playing nickel linebacker, Jake Ryan has flown under the radar despite improving dramatically from Year 1 to Year 2. And now in Year 3, he has the chance to show that he belongs at the top of the depth chart at Inside Linebacker. A natural tackler and run stopper, Ryan needs to continue to work in pass coverage, but a lot of young players really show what they’re made of in their third camp, so look for Ryan to have a strong August and become the everydown linebacker the team envisioned when drafting him in 2015.
What guys do you think will stand out now that the pads are on? Let us know in the comments. Football is back and it’s a great day to be a Packer fan!——————
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.