The Packers depth chart changes on an almost week to week basis some years. Players get injured, they lose the trust of the QB, or backups just outplay them. Here are five players who could see a jump up the depth chart ion the coming weeks.
There’s a case to be made that the worst move Brian Gutekunst has made is signing Kevin King for more money than Casey Heyward this past offseason. Heyward hasn’t allowed a completion yet this season. King has given up almost the same number of touchdowns as he has pass breakups over the past few seasons.
Stokes has played surprisingly well over limited snaps in the first two games. The sooner he can take over, and use his Sam Shields level speed, the better.
Kenny Clark is a bonafide top 5 interior defensive lineman. He has the 7th highest PFF grade despite a bad grade in week 1. He leads the team in run stops, and he has accounted for 80% (!) of the team’s interior pressures through two weeks. The other interior linemen just aren’t cutting it.
Slaton showed out in preseason and flashed in college. He probably can’t handle playing every down or even most downs (that was the main knock on him coming out of college), but he certainly couldn’t play worse than what his teammate’s have put on tape so far.
Really, the best-case scenario is making Slaton the first team nose on base downs and acquiring another defensive end. Kawann Short is available. A few teams (mainly the Panthers and Seahawks) have several interior linemen graded in PFF’s top 30. Gutekunst should be on the phone with those teams daily until the run defense is fixed.
Lukas Patrick has outplayed his undrafted status over the past two years. He is a dependable if not flashy guard and can fill in at center in a pinch. There are just other players with more upside. Royce Newman quickly unseated Patrick as the starting right guard and Runyan may soon takeover the starting left guard spot.
Patrick didn’t play this past week because he hadn’t practice due to a concussion sustained in the previous game, so Runyan took his place. Runyan put up PFF’s third best pass blocking grade of the season in the game and cleared the way for Aaron Jones in the run game all night. If Runyan keeps it up, he may even keep his spot when David Bakhtiari comes back if Elgton Jenkins is moved to right tackle.
In some part of the multiverse, Allen Lazard is a cross between Cooper Kupp and Kenny Golladay. A run blocking, tall, leaping, down field wide receiver. In this universe, he has four targets and just 16 yards through two games.
Coach LaFleur’s favorite “goon” is caught between a run block and a hard place right now. He won’t be unseating Davante Adams anytime soon. He doesn’t have the field stretching ability of MVS. And coaches and players alike have spent the week talking about how to get Randall Cobb more snaps and targets going forward.
Lazard’s run blocking prowess is unquestionable and last season he looked like a legitimate number two wide receiver before getting injured against the Saints. But this season, he simply doesn’t have the production through two games.
Randal Cobb’s mind meld with Rodgers and superior ability in the backfield, on jet motion, and on third down choice routes could spell a demotion for Lazard.
It’s not what you’re thinking. I obviously don’t think Kylin Hill will overtake AJ Dillon and Aaron Jones on the depth chart. I’m talking about punt returner here.
Amari Rodgers has two punt returns for 19 yards and just one target on offense (which came when the game was far out of hand). Meanwhile, Kylin Hill has already earned praise from Davante Adams as potentially the best kick returner the team has had in Adams’ time here.
Rodgers may not be big enough to contribute on coverage special teams, Cobb does all of the jet motion stuff he was drafted to do, and Kylin Hill may be good enough at returning to take his spot. Don’t be surprised if Rodgers is a healthy scratch soon to carry another interior d lineman on the active roster while Kylin Hill returns punts.
Mike Price is a lifelong Packers fan currently living in Utah. You can follow him on twitter at @themikeprice.