Who loses the most in a shortened preseason?

Amid months of uncertainty, it seems we’ll be having an NFL season after all. Most teams, including the Green Bay Packers, are required to start their training camps on July 28th, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

However, how preseason will happen is less clean, as NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero reports a two-game preseason for 2020 is being discussed. Though unofficial as of this writing, this solution makes a lot of sense, especially considering we still aren’t sure when stadiums will be allowed to be filled.

A shorter preseason has been discussed and desired for years, with four-game preseason critics pointing to injury risks and a decreased desire for fans to attend and its supporters arguing the value for rookies and roster-bubble players. While a shorter preseason affects many, who would be the biggest losers for the Green Bay Packers should a two-game preseason occur?

Jordan Love
While Love’s spot as a first-round quarterback means he’s a roster lock, his selection as the heir apparent to Aaron Rodgers means he has a lot to prove. As he is likely the only other quarterback to make the 53-man roster other than Rodgers, he won’t need to beat out competition, but the preseason is his best chance to show why he was selected by the team.

Even if he doesn’t play a single snap his rookie year, experience within the LaFleur system against real opponents is going to be vital for his growth and for him to win over the fan base. As Rodgers traditionally plays very little in the preseason, the full slate of four games would give Love plenty of NFL experience. Having only two games to show off, especially after a reduced offseason program, gives the young quarterback a sharper learning curve.

Oren Burks
Entering his third season, Burks is, oddly, the longest-tenured inside linebacker on the Green Bay Packers. Veteran Christian Kirksey was brought in to replace Blake Martinez and has familiarity with Mike Pettine, but Burks has been in the Green Bay locker room the longest.

In this time, Burks has yet to be able to forge a role on the defense, having been plagued by injuries, and, unlike Stella, he hasn’t been able to get his groove. Burks played just 57 regular season defensive snaps in 2019 and was active in 12 games. The opportunity is there for Burks to have a major role in the defense, and gaining momentum in the preseason and staying healthy is the best way for him to claim it. Fewer games mean less of a chance for injury but also less of a chance to start snowballing.

Josh Jackson
Before the 2018 draft, many analysts pegged Jackson as the Packers’ first-round choice. Getting him in the second round left many ecstatic. Yet Jackson has yet to make an impact, even when Pettine has used zone defense, which should be Jackson’s strength. Jackson, like Burks, had preseason injuries in 2019, but even when healthy has had trouble seeing the field, playing just 9.9% of defensive snaps.

Cornerback has traditionally been a major need in recent years, yet Jackson, a former second-round pick, is buried on the depth chart behind UDFA’s. Kevin King’s contract is up after the 2020 season, and with players like Kenny Clark and David Bakhtiari as priority resignings, he may not be on the team in 2021. Ideally, Jackson can take the leap and be the number two behind Jaire Alexander, but that starts with a strong preseason.

Kingsley Keke
The Packers need some consistency on the defensive line with Kenny Clark and Dean Lowry. Keke is the best option currently on the roster and showed promise in the 2019 preseason and his limited snaps in the regular season.

Keke is one of the players the Packers are most hoping to see a second-year jump from, and he’ll get that opportunity with a strong preseason. Keke needs playing time to develop, and the more he can do in the preseason, the more regular-season opportunities he can get.

Rashan Gary
Gary quietly played very well when given the chance in 2019. He was drafted as a project player after an underwhelming college career with the Wolverines, but his physical gifts are incredible. Gary had the luxury of getting to learn behind one of the best edge-rushing duos in the league and now needs to show what he’s learned. Mike Pettine would prefer to rotate Za’Darius Smith and Gary inside when he can, meaning there are plenty of opportunities for Gary to see the field even with both Smiths in the formation.

As is the running theme, the preseason is the place to show off how much he’s developed. The Smiths likely play little in the preseason, leaving the potential spotlight for Gary. Gary has the skills to demolish preseason offensive lines, but, again, fewer opportunities to do so aren’t ideal.

Matt Hendershott is a Packers fan and Miller High Life enthusiast from Northwest Ohio. He has a Master of Arts in Media and Communication from Bowling Green State University. You can follow him on Twitter @MattHendershott.
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