Packers: Offensive players worth retaining on the practice squad
By Dillon Graff
With camp and pre-season coming to a close, the Green Bay Packers are going to be forced to make some tough decisions during final cut-downs. We’ve already seen GM Brian Gutekunst swing deals that sent players who were unlikely to make the roster packing in exchange for late-round picks.
As we all know, the Packers’ most recent Super Bowl team went “77 deep” referring to the number of players that made an appearance and contributed to the team that season. Thus making the 16 practice-squad slots a valuable way to add quality depth to the roster that you’re likely to rely on at some point in the season.
There are a few players on the offensive side of the ball that the Packers would love to bring back onto the practice squad. I fully acknowledge some of the players named still have a chance to make this roster, but if they don’t, these are the offensive players I’d love to see remain in house to continue their development.
Quarterback: Kurt Benkert
Fan favorite Kurt Benkert has absolutely taken advantage of his opportunity since arriving in Green Bay. Benkert has shown that he can really spin it, and has shown he’s good enough to be on an NFL roster. However, if you’re Green Bay you can’t justify keeping three quarterbacks on your initial 53-man roster, especially given the state of the Packers’ retched special teams.
If the Packers were to suffer an injury at the position, they’d be more than comfortable with someone like Benkert being elevated to be the backup due to his knowledge of the system.
Should the Packers find themselves in position to retain his services after final cut-downs around the league, he would be a great option to have on the practice squad, potentially being groomed to be QB2 in 2022. Most teams would be happy to have two quarterbacks that appeared to be worthy of a spot on an NFL roster. As it stands, the Packers appear to have three.
Running back: Patrick Taylor
Memphis running back Patrick Taylor is someone the Packers should hold in high regard. Taylor possesses the talent and skill-set worth continued development in the Packers system. He’s another player the team should feel comfortable giving live game reps to in the event of an injury to one of the top three backs.
Taylor’s odds of making the initial 53 appear to be diminishing due to the strength of the running back room, but he still holds strong value in the eye of the front office. Unless another team tries to swoop in and secure his services, the Packers will absolutely be retaining Patrick Taylor who will be a great insurance policy for the franchise.
Wide receiver: Malik Taylor/Juwann Winfree
The Packers’ wide receiver room is likely going to keep six wide receivers come week one. With Devin Funchess no longer in the fold, it likely comes down to Malik Taylor and Juwann Winfree for that final spot. That’s not to say Taylor and Winfree couldn’t both make the team, it just seems unlikely. Both have shown significant improvements as receivers and already bring useful skill-sets to special teams.
The arrow is trending up on both players right now and whichever player doesn’t make the initial 53 deserves to continue their development in house. The team has very few pass catchers under contract next season, so it would be nice to have some options familiar with the system, not to mention the added depth.
Tight end: Dominique Dafney
Dominique Dafney has a good chance to make the team due to Jace Sternberger’s two-game suspension. However, he showed enough last year as a versatile H-back to provide the team value even if Sternberger wasn’t suspended.
He’s someone the team would love to have as added depth as a plug-and-play option off the practice squad. If the Packers fear they would lose him, they may just opt to keep him on the opening-day roster altogether.
Offensive line: Cole Van Lanen
The hometown hero, Cole Van Lanen is living every Wisconsinite’s dream playing for the green and gold. He’s shown enough to make the team due to his talent alone, and he’s played well at both guard and tackle in the pre-season.
He has what it takes to develop into the team’s swing tackle of the future. Roster cut-downs will show us where the Packers currently feel he is in terms of development. I don’t think he’s ready to stop a team’s starting pass rusher just yet, but one thing I do know is the Packers are going to be retaining his services.