With training camp set to begin on Wednesday, many Green Bay Packers players find themselves at a pivotal juncture in their careers. For some, they will be stepping into new roles, possibly assuming more snaps and a greater opportunity to contribute.
Others find themselves looking over their shoulders, knowing that one slip and they could lose their spot to a new up-and-comer.
Today we’ll take a look at players on both ends of that spectrum as they look to make their mark on the 2021 Green Bay Packers.
The presumed number two edge rusher was highly productive in limited pass rush attempts, and has shown improvement each season. Physically he looks the part, and I would be shocked if Preston Smith logged more snaps than Gary.
Gary has put in the work, and has all of the athletic tools you could want in an edge rusher. This could be a breakout campaign. All signs are pointing up in year three for the former first-round pick.
Coach LaFleur requested his presence in mini-camp because he intends to feature him more in the offense this year. It’s also easy to understand why. Tonyan was highly efficient last season, seemingly catching everything thrown his way.
Tonyan enters the season in a contract year, and the Packers need time to evaluate his ceiling. It won’t take long to find out whether he was a product of the system he was in, or if he’s someone worthy of a long-term commitment from the franchise.
Dillon will step into all of Jamaal Williams’ vacated touches, which was roughly 40 percent of the total carries a year ago. Dillon also offers a higher ceiling than Jamaal, and might be worthy of more playing time.
Dillon gives the Packers a true smash and dash with Dillon/Aaron Jones sharing a backfield. In the event Jones were to get injured, Dillon can be a true bell-cow for the Packers. It wouldn’t be inconceivable to see the team lighten Jones’ load to keep his legs fresh and run the Boston College product more often. I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of seeing both of them on the field at the same time.
King had a forgettable end to the 2020 season. And while that’s in the past, he finds himself back in Green Bay on a one-year prove-it deal in the same season the Packers selected Eric Stokes in Round 1. King is expected to be the starter in Week 1, but if he falters at all early, don’t be surprised to see Stokes take his starting job and never give it back.
Another member of the Packers secondary finds himself on this list entering the 2021 season. This has less to do with his play, which was adequate in 2020. And more to do with the fact the Packers selected Shemar Jean-Charles in the fifth round specifically to play slot corner.
This might not affect Sullivan’s playing time much this upcoming season, but the prospect of playing in Green Bay beyond this season seems highly unlikely at this point. If Jean-Charles gets up to speed early, the team will undoubtedly want to see more of the rookie in that role.
Another victim of circumstance, Patrick filled in admirably last season and his versatility proved to be a real asset. The Packers added several linemen in the draft, most notably Josh Myers and Royce Newman, who will get every opportunity to earn a spot on the offensive line.
Not to mention Jon Runyan Jr. is still in the mix for playing time and Ben Braden has received praise from his position coach as someone who has taken big steps. It’s safe to assume Myers will be the day-one starter at center, which leaves several players vying for one starting spot.
There are only so many roster spots available and the cap-strapped Packers may look to take the cap savings if they like the depth they already have on the roster. I’d like to see Patrick remain on the roster this season, if injuries pile up it pays dividends to have someone like Patrick on the interior.
No matter which way you slice it, this isn’t a positive thing for Patrick’s long-term future in Green Bay.