To say the least, the last two seasons for the Green Bay Packers have been quite disappointing. When you have future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers under center, anything less than a playoff berth is a failure.
As a result, GM Brian Gutekunst made quite a few changes this offseason, both to the roster and to the coaching staff.
The Packers would clean house and moved on from almost the entire coaching staff, while also going on a spending spree by signing four high profile free agents.
All of these moves will hopefully help return the Green Bay Packers to their winning ways, but perhaps the most important aspect of this past offseason will be hitting on a number of their draft picks.
This roster needed a boost and inorder to maximize the final years of Rodgers time here in Green Bay, they need a number of these draftees to hit. Although it is still early, based on what we’ve seen so far, this 2019 draft class has been quite impressive.
I’ve been able to attend a handful of practices and the athleticism and speed that Rashan Gary has been touted for is no joke. At 6’5″ – 278 pounds, his burst off the line of scrimmage mixed with his ability to run through blockers is remarkable.
Now, the knock on him so far has been his lack of production in the first two preseason games, however, when Mike Pettine was asked if there are reasons for optimism, he responded with “oh, without a doubt.”
Gary has been learning all of the aspects that come with the outside linebacker position in the NFL and the Packers knew this would take some time. Once the regular season rolls around, they will hone in on a few aspects of the position to better set him up for success. Given his natural abilities, it is easy to see why the Packers drafted him 12th overall.
The other first-round pick Darnell Savage gives the Packers a playmaker on the back-end of the secondary. At Maryland, Savage would come away with eight interceptions and two touchdowns during his tenure there.
He also provides Green Bay with someone who can be reliable in coverage which is something that has been missing from the safety position in recent seasons. And against Baltimore, we were able to see just what Savage can provide to this defense:
Early on, Savage had already learned the ins and outs of the playbook and was being given more responsibilities. Since stepping foot in Green Bay, Savage has looked like the real deal, both on in the locker room and on the field.
On the offensive front, Elgton Jenkins is in a battle with Lane Taylor for the starting left guard job. Jenkins’ athleticism better suits him for LaFleur’s offense and as a pass-blocker, he looks nearly impossible to move.
Up to this point, it’s not that Taylor has really done anything negative that’s caused him to lose the starting job, it’s just that Jenkins has been that impressive and it’s going to be difficult keeping him off the field.
Whether it’s been in practice or in a game, fifth-round pick Kingsley Keke just has a knack for finding his way into the backfield. His hand usage and ability to shed blockers has been quite impressive so far and Keke will get plenty of snaps this season.
What may be the surprise pick of this draft is cornerback Ka’dar Hollman. His ability in man coverage has caught the eye of Mike Pettine as that ability plays an important role in this defense.
Also, it’s not as if Hollman has been going up against Green Bay’s JV squad, he’s been seeing regular reps with the first and second-team defenses and is regularly winning his matchups. He also came down with an interception in his first preseason game against Houston.
Hollman has been sticky in coverage and with uncertainty around Kevin King’s health and many wondering if Josh Jackson can make that year-two leap, we could be seeing plenty of Hollman this season.
Next up is Dexter Williams who needs to show a bit more reliability in the passing game but has shown plenty of positive flashes as well. He’s an ideal one-cut back which makes him a perfect fit for the zone running scheme and his explosiveness when he makes that cut gives him that home run potential. What more could you ask for from your third-string running back?
Linebacker Ty Summers really put on a show in his first NFL game against Houston. He would total 10 tackles, and we saw that sideline-to-sideline mobility along with his ability to defend against the run that made him special at TCU.
While there is still work to be done, he will make an impact on special teams and will likely see some defensive snaps as well in certain situations this season.
Even though these two players weren’t drafted, they are still rookies and I do I have to bring them up. Linebacker Curtis Bolton and wide receiver Darrius Shepherd have been fantastic.
Bolton has shown that he has what it takes to be a three-down linebacker in this league and is the likely starter alongside of Blake Martinez in week one.
Meanwhile, Shepherd provides the Packers with a traditional slot receiver as well as someone who can make an impact in the return game as well. Whether it’s in practice or in a game, Shepherd has stood out and has received some high praise from Davante Adams and Aaron Rodgers along the way.
As I mentioned above, it is still way too early to be deciding whether or not this year’s draft class is a boom or a bust. But based on what we have seen from them up to this point, you cannot help but be impressed and encouraged.