The Ted Thompson model of draft and develop has undergone a little of a modernization in Green Bay. GM Brian Gutekunst has shown more of a willingness to bring in outside free agents to bolster the roster, something seldom done under Thompson. Another deviation from his predecessor is Gutekunst’s willingness to cut ties with draft picks early. LB Kamal Martin was a prime example a season ago. These two processes have led to a very quick roster turnover in the last 3 seasons. This off-season, however, the Packers have a well-documented salary cap issue. The biggest takeaway from this is that any roster improvements are going to have to come from internal development. Here are three potential Packers breakout players for the 2022 season:
Slaton was brought along slowly throughout his rookie year. With conditioning concerns coming out of college, it was likely by design. But he slowly become more involved as the season went on, playing in >35% of defensive snaps in each of the Packers last 4 games. His role will inevitably grow next season after the release of Kingsley Keke in January. And he has shown flashes to warrant this. As a 330 lb nose tackle, he has shown the expected stoutness against the run. But he exhibits quickness that shows he can also disrupt in the passing game. He has all of the tools necessary to be a difference maker, and will benefit from playing alongside Kenny Clark.
Deguara was another player that finished the 2021 season strong. 27 of his 35 targets for the season came from Week 10 on. The Packers were likely being cautious with him after suffering a torn ACL in Week 1 of the 2020 season. But Deguara has shown that he can be the move tight-end that is imperative in the LaFleur offense. He has the capability of being what Kyle Juszczyk is for the 49er’s.
There is no doubt that 2021 was a mentally challenging year for him – both in trusting his reconstructed knee but in being thrust back into this offense essentially as a rookie. Former tights end coach Justin Outten in December said of Deguara, “He’s clicking on all cylinders. He’s playing fast, he’s come alive in every facet, he’s Josiah.” Even if the Packers end up resigning Robert Tonyan, he likely won’t be ready to start the season after tearing his ACL in Week 8. That gives Deguara a big opportunity to become a focal piece of this offense.
In a season in which the Packers were constantly reshuffling their offensive line, Runyan was a rock. He and Royce Newman were the only 2 Packers players on offense to play >1000 snaps. And Runyan went the entire season without committing a single penalty, and allowed only 2 sacks. He has solidified himself of a starting role, and 2022 could be his opportunity to vault himself from solid starter into a Pro Bowl caliber player. The Packers felt strongly enough of the job Adam Stenavich has done developing the offensive line to promote him to offensive coordinator, and Runyan is the latest in the Packers run of late round gems.——————
Jared is a rogue Packers fan from a Steelers family and an overall football junkie, including playing 4 years at Ithaca College. You can follow him on twitter at @JPrugar.