Training camp is finally upon us! As camp starts today, where players can begin to find roles on the 2021 Green Bay Packers. For some, the search will need to wait. Six players were placed on the Non-Football Injury (NFI) list including linebackers Za’Darius Smith and Tipa Galeai, cornerback Kevin King, defensive lineman Kingsley Keke, safeties Will Redmond, and Henry Black. Surprisingly, all these players are on defense. While they can be taken off the NFI at any point, the practice snaps each day that would normally go to them are up for grabs. This means that other young defensive players at their positions can show out early and grab the eye of new defensive coordinator Joe Barry and his staff for extended roles on defense this year.
Vernon Scott is looking for a big second year jump at safety. He showed a couple of flashes in 2020 and has the range and athleticism that the Packers are looking for at the position. With both Redmond and Henry on the NFI, a lot of early safety snaps will likely go Scott’s way. If he can make some impact plays in early practices with the ones, that could grow into a more permanent stay as the #3 safety. Beyond that, Scott could also earn a lot of playing time during the preseason if he can flash early.
Jonathan Garvin is in a similar situation to Scott, in both that he’s looking for a second year jump and there are a lot of snaps available in practice early. The Packers didn’t see much of Garvin in 2020 with 85 snaps so training camp will be critical for him. He’s exactly the quick-twitch, rangy pass rusher that is a perfect fit for the 2021 defense. With a wide-open race for the fourth edge, the ability for Garvin to get some extra reps early is critical. Showcasing his development as well as showing out to contribute to what should be a fierce pass rush this season.
The final player that has the most to gain early is 5th round rookie TJ Slaton. Much has been made during the offseason of the Packers lack of depth at defensive line. With Kingsely Keke on the NFI, more snaps are available each day for Slaton to learn the position at the NFL level, which he needs. Throughout camp and preseason, if Slaton can show that he can contribute year one as a run stopper, then the Packers may actually have an effective defensive line rotation.
Overall, it’s exciting to finally be talking about training camp and the opportunities that these players have. Each day we’ll learn more about each one of these players and others we don’t even know about yet. Over the course of next month, the 2021 Green Bay Packers have young players looking to prove themselves throughout the defense and will shape the type of season this will be.
Jordan is a lifelong Packer fan who grew up in Idaho and now lives in Seattle, Washington. You can follow him on twitter at @jordantwolf.