The Green Bay Packers welcomed the New York Jets to Lambeau Field on Saturday afternoon for week 2 of the NFL preseason. While the Packers lost 23-14, like in every preseason game, the score doesn’t matter. But the roster will shrink to 80 players on Tuesday, leaving one more week for bubble players to make their case for the 53-man roster. Let’s take a look at whose stock rose in the preseason week 2 edition of Packers Stock Watch.
You can never have enough good quarterbacks on your roster, and after Kurt Benkert’s performance on Saturday, he’s made the Packers’ decision on how many quarterbacks to keep a little bit tougher.
The 26-year-old played 59 of the Packers’ 62 offensive snaps against the Jets, starting in place of Jordan Love, who hurt his shoulder last week against the Texans.
Benkert was impressive in his first start of the preseason.
Despite tangling feet with Royce Newman on consecutive plays, bobbling a snap, and an air-mailed short pass that led to an interception, Benkert was efficient and looked comfortable.
He was consistent in going through his progressions, climbing the pocket, and using his mobility when needed.
Benkert’s 18/25 for 151 yards and one touchdown stat-line was also indicative of his decision-making throughout the game.
His most impressive throw may have come on his lone touchdown pass.
From the snap, Benkert seemed set on throwing to Jace Sternberger on a corner route and he layered a beautiful ball over the out-stretched hands of a lurking cornerback to the corner of the endzone. The seed capped off a monster 19 play, 10:19 drive in the second quarter.
There are things to clean up. Benkert and Matt LaFleur will both tell you that. But no one should expect a third-year, undrafted free agent in a new system to be flawless in his first start of the year.
Benkert is far from a starting quarterback at this point in his career, but he shows flashes that would suggest he could be someday, and that may make him worth stashing and developing.
There are plenty of teams around the NFL who would love to have a developmental signal-caller like Benkert on their roster, making the Packers’ decision to keep him on the roster that much more important.
Yeah, this guy again.
The Kylin Hill hype train has somehow gained more steam.
For the second week in a row, Hill’s final line won’t grab you. Seven carries for 29 yards doesn’t scream “game-breaker.”
But his 12-yard touchdown run in the first quarter did scream “steal” and secured Hill’s spot as the third running back on the depth chart.
Once again, Hill showed that when given an opportunity in space, he won’t disappoint.
An off-tackle run with good blocking left the Mississippi State product with one man to beat. Hill stiff-armed the defender before sprinting to the pylon and diving into the endzone for his second score of the preseason.
Another familiar name.
Now in week 2, Heflin has officially played his way into the final-53 conversation.
A four tackle stat-line doesn’t say much, but his tape speaks volumes.
At 6’3, 304lbs, Heflin is built to stop the run in the middle. But his unrelenting motor allows him to do so much more.
Not only is the 23-year-old rookie strong enough to absorb double-teams, but he’s athletic enough to track down runners in the screen game or when they bounce it outside.
The Iowa product is garnering some love from coordinator Joe Barry, who said Heflin has “no doubt” made a case for himself on the 53-man roster this preseason.
Heflin went undrafted this year and has turned into one of the great stories of the season.
He will surely be on everyone’s radar entering week 3 against Buffalo.
A monster in the making.
TJ Slaton, drafted in the fifth round this year, has turned heads since arriving in Green Bay.
Slaton is a large man at 6’4, 330lbs, and his incredible athleticism will leave you in awe.
At 23-years-old, he looks strong beyond his years. His punch at the point of attack has made it difficult for offensive linemen to drive him backwards.
He’s shown the ability to absorb double-teams and beat interior lineman with strength or speed through his first two games.
You can imagine what the Packers think of his versatility when you see where Slaton lines up on any given play.
The Florida product has played everywhere from the 0-technique (over the centre) to the 7-technique (outside the tackle) in both games this preseason and has looked comfortable wherever he’s been.
Slaton played 37 defensive snaps and 4 special teams snaps on Saturday, notching four tackles and a tackle for loss.
The big man’s key highlight came in the third quarter where he beat the guard with a swim move before engulfing quarterback Mike White for the first sack of his career.
The play somehow seemed overdue based on how impressive he’d been through his first two games.
Slaton’s spot on the roster isn’t in question, but he could command a substantial role on the defensive line if he continues to impress.
Special teams win jobs. A sentiment Christian Uphoff did not take lightly in week 2.
An undrafted free agent who signed with the Packers in May, Uphoff entered a loaded safety room as a long shot to make the roster out of training camp.
The Illinois State product hasn’t dazzled with his ability on defense, but he’s shown some juice on special teams.
Uphoff played eight special teams snaps against the Jets and ten versus the Texans.
On Saturday, he made two stand-out plays in punt coverage. After battling a double team down the field, Uphoff managed to split the blockers and impose enough pressure to warrant a fair catch. Later, he flew down the field and was knocked down before nearing the returner. As the returner caught the punt, he managed to scrape himself off the turf and grab the player’s ankle, bringing him to the ground.
With a special teams unit that is top of concern, effort plays like Uphoff showed this weekend will garner attention from the coaches.
Uphoff is a big, physical player at 6’3, 209lbs, and although he likely stands on the outside looking in, he could play himself onto the week 1 roster with another solid outing versus the Bills this week.——————
Joshua Frey-Sam is a journalism student and aspiring sportscaster hailing from Winnipeg, Canada. A Packers fan since 2005, Josh has worked to master the financial and scouting aspect of the NFL over the past few years. Josh remains a firm believer that Dez did not, in fact, catch the ball. You can follow him on twitter at @jfreysam.