Three Packers to watch in 2020

This Sunday’s matchup against the Minnesota Vikings is the Green Bay Packers first regular season game of 2020. Just let that sink in. Outside of the bye week in week 5, you’ll get to see Packers play football every week until January.

I, for one, could not be more ready.

After the initial 53-man roster was released, there’s still plenty of question marks heading into the season for the Packers. Who will start up front on the right side of the offensive line? How will reps be split among the backfield? Who will get middle linebacker reps next to Christian Kirksey?

Although we’ll know the answers to those questions soon enough, there’s still some players I’m excited to watch this season. Whether they haven’t quite lived up to their draft status yet, or they’ve dealt with injuries, these are the players I’m hoping to see progress this season.

Rashan Gary

When he was drafted in 2019, it was very clear that Gary possessed all the physical tools to be a solid player in the National Football League. Standing at 6’5, 277 pounds, defensive coordinator Mike Pettine and Packers fans-alike were excited to see what he could do in his rookie season.

All the physical tools didn’t necessarily translate to success in year one, though. Gary finished with 30 total tackles and just two sacks. He was only on the field for less than 25% of the season’s defensive snaps. Many Packers fans were quick to pile on his lack of production after he was picked so high in the draft.

There’s many factors that could’ve played into why he didn’t produce. Maybe it’s because he sat behind possibly the best pass rushing duo in the NFL in Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith. Or, as talented and physically gifted as he is, he could have just not been ready enough early in the season to step into a full-time role.

But, near the end of the 2019 season, he did start to see more playing time — and he started making more plays. Gary started to see more reps playing alongside the Smiths and Kenny Clark, something that Pettine says we’ll see more of in 2020.

“Ya’ll going to see all three of us on the field and ya’ll going to see how much havoc we bring,” Gary said. “I don’t really want to talk about it.”

There was promising reports of strong progress during training camp. Every time I logged into Twitter during practice, it seemed Gary was making his presence known somehow. After a slow start in his rookie year, I’m anxious to see if glowing practice reviews can translate on Sundays this fall.

Equanimeous St. Brown

St. Brown was part of the trio of receivers who were drafted in 2018. When the Packers had their down-season in 2018, St. Brown seemed, to me, like a bright spot. Finishing with 21 catches for 328 yards, there was a real chance that he could progress in 2019.

He was in the middle of a stellar training camp before, unfortunately, a high ankle sprain during a preseason game put an end to the 2019 season before it even began.

Although he’s remained quiet throughout this season’s training camp, I still remember him making back-shoulder snags against the 49ers on Monday Night Football in 2018.

It seems Allen Lazard has worked his way into the WR2 spot, but there will still be plenty of chances to see EQ in action this fall. After Jake Kumerow was released after training camp, that makes me think that coaches have plenty of confidence in guys like St. Brown and Marquez Valdes-Scantling.

I, for one, am on the EQ hype train and I’m anxious to see if he can take a leap like he should have had the opportunity to do in 2019.

Josh Jackson

I remember sitting and watching the draft in 2018, hoping and praying that Josh Jackson would continue to drop to where the Packers sat in the second round. I live in Iowa, and I watched Jackson dominate for the Hawkeyes during 2016 and 2017. What Hawkeye fan can forget his one-handed interception against Ohio State?

A unanimous All-American and Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year, Packers fans had high hopes for Jackson. He has yet to live up to them.

Jackson saw the field plenty in 2018, but struggled in man-to-man coverage — often getting beat or flagged for holding. What’s worse, he hardly saw the field in 2019 — only playing primarily on special teams. Many Packers fans, including myself, were starting to wonder if Jackson could be a bust. 

But don’t lose hope just yet. Reports from training camp are that he’s playing the best football of his young career this year. Pettine himself has stated that Jackson will see significant minutes, which is a sharp contrast from a year ago.

From watching him on Saturdays, I know how good Jackson can be. Has he developed enough to become a strong player in the Packers secondary this fall? Only time will tell.

——————

Gunnar Davis is a lifelong Packers fan and a recent graduate of Simpson College, where he was a 3-year letterwinner on the offensive line and graduated with a degree in multimedia communications. You can follow him on Twitter at @Gunnar57Davis.

——————

Share