GREEN BAY, WI. – Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst has three of the first 34 picks in the 2022 NFL Draft thanks to some swinging and scheduling.
Gutekunst ended up drafting 11 players. Eight of those players made their professional debuts in the preseason loss to the San Francisco 49ers. The result of the game, of course, is completely irrelevant. In a team sport, the only thing that matters is individual scores.
“The difference between what you do out there on the practice field and when the lights come on and you don’t have a coach behind you to tell you what’s coming, and being able to communicate and perform at the same time, I mean that’s the game,” – said Gutekunst this week. “Guys that have come up in this league and play at a high level for a long time, they can handle that environment and that atmosphere. This will be the first and best test to really see those guys. Whether or not whether they have good performances or bad performances, what matters is what they learn from it and how they carry it over to the two training sessions and the next game.”
So how about Green Bay’s 21-man rookie class with one preseason game in the books, a joint practice against the Saints and a 53-man roster cut set to take place on Aug. 30? Following our first report on rookie progress through the first week of training camp, here’s a second look at Green Bay’s rookie class.
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Round 1: #22 – Quay Walker, ILB, Georgia
Some first-round picks are promoted to the starting lineup because they are first-round picks. Walker was promoted to the starting lineup from the first day of camp because he deserved it. The Packers drafted him with the hope that he and All-Pro De’Vondre Campbell would be an excellent tandem. Nothing Walker has done has dampened those expectations.
Walker wasn’t a part of 12 snaps Friday night, one play earlier this week that stood out. Needing an outlet Wednesday, Jordan Love found tight end Josiah Deguar alone in the flat. He had about 7 yards on Walker. By the time Deguara caught the ball and returned to the field, Walker was there and capped the game by maybe a yard.
Round 1: #28 – Devonte Wyatt, DT, Georgia
Wyatt had a quiet training camp, though his potential “sack” of Jordan Love was one of the highlights of “Family Night.” With Kenny Clark, Dean Lowry, Jarran Reed and TJ Slayton, the Packers have a huge back four and can afford to be patient with Wyatt until the fastest 300-pounder at this year’s Scouting Combine can put it all together.
Wyatt did not play Friday after being evaluated for a concussion. However, he is not in the concussion protocol and will probably be good to go to practice against the Saints.
Round 2: #34 – Christian Watson, WR, North Dakota State
Watson did not practice due to knee surgery after OTAs. This week, he joined his fellow PUP list rehabbers on the field, a good sign that his comeback is progressing.
The Packers gave the Vikings two second-round picks to move up and select Watson in this year’s draft. Certainly, with his game-breaking skills, they’d love to see him on the field and contribute in the opener in Minnesota.
“It’s a challenge every day, going out there, not taking physical reps and trying to stay engaged mentally,” coach Matt Lafleur said this week. “But I think he did a really good job of staying on (receivers coach Jason) Vrabl’s hip and constantly asking questions. Hopefully once we get him out there, it’ll be quicker for him.”
Round 3: #92 – Sean Ryan, G, UCLA
Ryan has been slotted at right guard throughout camp, getting nearly every second- and third-team rep to help him prepare. So far, he has not been involved in the right wing battles, which include Jake Henson at right guard, Royce Newman at right guard and right tackle and Zach Thome at right tackle. His muscular lower half showed up with a quality block against the Nine. He looks like a future player, but how soon?
Round 4: #132 – Romeo Dubs, WR, Nevada
No Packers rookie has received more hype than Dubs, and deservedly so. He made more big plays than any receiver, including a 33-yard touchdown on Friday, and that should be a factor from the start of the regular season.
However, he also threw more passes during training camp than any receiver; of course he had more options. He had one terrible snap on Friday and had a chance on a poorly thrown ball that was intercepted in the second quarter. He went 0-for-2 on contested catch chances; it wasn’t his forte in Nevada either. Also, his blocking wasn’t good enough. That could cost him a setback because coach Matt Lafleur wants that skill.
Dub has a chance to be really good. Maybe the game is too fast for him now. With about four weeks left in the regular season, there’s time to get it down. They will need him.
Round 4: #140 – Zach Thome, OL, Wake Forest
The Packers seemed to be back somewhat this week with Jake Henson at right guard, Royce Newman at right tackle and Thome on the bench. It will be interesting to see if the rotation changes at all when the Packers return to action on Sunday. Tom was very good against the 49ers. Of course, he was up against some weaker players, but he showed a well-rounded game. He will face a much bigger challenge this week in joint practice against the Saints.
“Good luck to our scouting department and finding him, especially when they got him,” said Elgton Jenkins, who was Tom’s mentor. “I definitely feel like he’s one of those guys that can do it [play all five offensive line positions] and succeed at a high level playing any position he wants. Obviously, some positions are probably a little better than others, but with reps and technique, he can do it.”
Ultimately, the question is what is best for the team? Is Newman focusing on right guard, where he started 16 times as a rookie, and going with rookie Tom at right tackle? Or make Henson the first starter at right guard and push Newman to right tackle?
Round 5: #179 – Kingsley Enagbare, LB, South Carolina
Against the 49ers, Enagbare had one sack, two quarterback hits and, according to Pro Football Focus, three pressures. Maybe that’s an exaggeration, but he might not have had three pressures combined in training camp.
With La’Darius Hamilton (groin) inactive and Tipa Galeaii (shoulder) out, Enagbare played 45 snaps. His game reps were much better than his practice reps, and that should improve his chances of hitting 53 and working his way into a role.
Round 7: #228 – Tariq Carpenter, S/LB, Georgia Tech
With his combination of size and speed, Carpenter is a promising prospect. However, he fell to the bottom of the depth chart at safety and was not No. 1 on either special teams unit. Perhaps Friday’s performance will point him in the right direction. While he gave up a couple of short completions, his tackling in the open field was excellent. A player who can punt in the open field should be a valuable contributor on special teams.
Round 7: #234 – Jonathan Ford, DT, Miami
In a tough position group, Ford is battling with Jack Heflin and Chris Slayton to be the potential sixth back at 53. He wasn’t as impactful as those more experienced players against the 49ers, but Ford contributed a pair of assisted tackles in 31 defensive snaps. snapshots
Round 7: #249 – Rasheed Walker, Penn State
Walker missed the start of camp with a foot injury and doesn’t look like a three-year Big Ten starter on the practice field. He was destroyed by La’Darius Hamilton in Monday’s practice. Maybe he’s just not healthy enough to really compete. Walker was inactive Friday night. He has time, but it will be a long climb to win the 53 spot.
Round 7: Nope. 258 – Samory Toure, WR, Nebraska
Packers have an immediate need for a receiver. They also have a long-term need with Allen Lazard, Sammy Watkins and Randall Cobb entering their final season under contract. So Toure has a chance. He hasn’t played as much as Dubs, but he’s been a reliable and confident player in camp, aside from the two-minute onside kick that drew the ire of the coaches on Wednesday. He caught 3 of 4 passes for 42 yards against the 49ers.
The best undrafted free agents
Danny Davis (all photos by USA Today Sports Images)
By the end of rookie camp, the Packers had signed 15 college free agents. Only 10 survived the first day of the training camp.
Which of these 10 has the best chance to extend the team’s 17-year streak of having at least one undrafted rookie make the first 53-man roster?
First: Jack Coco is the only long bass on the list. That might not be the case by the end of training camp, but he’s No. 1 right now, which puts him in a good spot. There were no problems with his photos on Friday.
Second: Patrick Taylor may be the more reliable player in the battle to be the third man, but Tyler Hudson’s explosiveness is second to none.
Third: Offensive tackle Caleb Jones and receiver Danny Davis are long shots, but they’re logical practice squad candidates who could step up the game. Jones’ massive frame forces defenders to go where they don’t want to go. He performed quality punt blocking against the 49ers. Davis is not big and not very athletic, but he is open and catches the ball. Those skills were evident on his 33-yard touchdown run, a high-quality play between Jordan Love and the former Wisconsin standout.