Training camp opened last week and the Green Bay Packers are getting an early look at their 2021 draft class as they take to the practice field. Thus far, several of the team’s rookies have made a first impression on the coaching staff and on reporters attending open practices.
It’s still early, so all evaluations must be taken with a grain of salt. The team will not practice in pads until Tuesday of this week, so things will move to the next level at that time.
Here are some early notes on the draft class of 2021 and how they are faring at training camp:
- CB Eric Stokes
Stokes has shown the natural ability that made him a first round pick. He has outstanding speed and is working hard to learn Joe Barry’s defense.
Stokes is getting extended reps with the first team defense since Kevin King has been held out of practice due to injury. Predictably, the results have been mixed. At times, Stokes’ speed gets him in position to make plays. However, double moves have resulted in big gains by receivers covered by Stokes in practice.
The extra reps with the first team defense are clearly helpful to Stokes and should speed up his development this season.
- C Josh Myers
Myers has been lining up as the first string center in practice and is the rookie most likely to earn a starting job this season.
In addition to lining up with the first string offense, Myers has been given the responsibility of calling the signals for the offensive line. That is a responsibility Corey Linsley had last season before he left via free agency.
So far, Myers has earned praise from his teammates, including quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers was asked about which rookies were impressing him and said, “I got to say the center, Josh Myers. For a guy to come in as a draft pick, as a rookie, to be that comfortable, it’s pretty impressive.”
- WR Amari Rodgers
Rodgers’ role in the offense will likely be reduced initially because of the return of veteran Randall Cobb but Rogers is taking it all in stride. The former Clemson star always considered Cobb a role model and appears to be very happy to be able to work with Cobb in person.
Rodgers will get a chance to compete for reps as a return specialist and can learn from Cobb there as well. He will also contribute to the offense on some gadget plays like jet sweeps, reverses and end arounds.
The addition of Cobb will give Rodgers a chance to learn more as a rookie with less pressure to perform. How well he takes advantage of that situation will be the key to his success in his first NFL campaign.
- OL Royce Newman
One of the things the Packers liked about Newman was his versatility. He is viewed primarily as a guard but can also fill in at tackle, a position he often played in college.
At OTAs, Newman got some reps with the first team but has mostly been a second-string guard in training camp.
The Packers like the way Newman gets off the ball quickly but he needs to work more on his strength especially as a run blocker.
Look for Newman to fight for playing time at right guard or right tackle where he may play until David Bakhtiari is ready to return to the lineup.
- DL T.J. Slaton
Slaton has been a standout early in training camp although again, the drills the team has run thus far have been non-contact and without pads. He has been getting extra reps in the absence of the injured Kingsley Keke and he’s been taking advantage of the opportunity thus far.
One beat reporter noted that even a double team wasn’t stopping Slaton from penetrating and getting near the ball carrier.
The Packers are impressed with what they’ve seen from Slaton so far as he has outstanding size and increased mobility after taking off a few pounds since the draft. He should fight for playing time in the defensive line rotation this season.
- CB Shemar Jean-Charles
Jean-Charles is making a big jump from Appalachian State to the NFL. He was a natural ball hawk in college and led the NCAA in passes defensed last year.
Early in training camp, Jean-Charles has been working with a separate group of players who are lower on the depth chart. He has a lot to learn before he gets significant reps with the first or second string defense.
The preseason will be a test for Jean-Charles and will provide the team an early indicator of where he is and how far he still needs to go.
- OL Cole Van Lanen
Like Jean-Charles, Van Lanen has been working with the separate group of players who are lower on the depth chart. The former Wisconsin star can play both tackle and guard, something the Packers coaching staff likes from their linemen.
Van Lanen is working hard but the Packers have a lot of offensive linemen on the roster and he is fighting a numbers game to make the final 53. The retirement of 2020 draft choice Simon Stepaniak can only help Van Lanen’s chances to make the roster or practice squad.
- LB Isaiah McDuffie
McDuffie has yet to participate in practice due to what the team has called a “minor hamstring strain” and is presently on the Non-Football-Injury List. He can be activated at any time but it’s unclear how much time he will miss.
McDuffie is missing valuable practice time right now and the longer he remains out of action, the tougher it will be for him to claim a role on defense or special teams.
- RB Kylin Hill
Early indications are that Hill is looking good whenever he’s given the football. He is showing good elusiveness in practice and clearly has talent running the football.
Hill is battling for the third running back spot with Dexter Williams and Patrick Taylor (who is injured and on the PUP list). The key for Hill will be whether he can catch passes and block for Aaron Rodgers on passing plays. Williams has looked better in those areas early in camp which may give him a leg up on Hill early on in this competition.
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