1 Player to Watch at Each Position Group vs. the Jets

The Green Bay Packers will face the New York Jets in their second preseason game. Here is one player from each position group to keep your eyes on.

The Green Bay Packers will face the New York Jets at Lambeau Field on Saturday for their second preseason game. As always, there are plenty of players to keep our eyes on as some battle for playing time and others just a spot on the 53-man roster. 
 
So in an attempt to keep this list from getting out of hand while also making it somewhat easy to follow as we all watch the game, I've picked one player from each position group -- minus the special teams unit -- to focus on as the game unfolds. 

 

Quarterback: Kurt Benkert

Unfortunately, Jordan Love has already been ruled out for Saturday's game, which means Kurt Benkert gets the start. I have my doubts that the Green Bay Packers are going to keep three quarterbacks on the active roster, but the team will need a practice squad quarterback for the season, and that job is Benkert's for the taking.
 
Last Saturday, Benkert came out slinging the football, completing his first few passes, and looking really good while doing so--especially when you consider that he doesn't take a lot of 11-on-11 reps during practice. Unfortunately, an interception and a fumble would follow, but overall, he finished 8/12 for 88 yards, and quarterbacks coach Luke Getsy liked what he saw:
 
“I thought Kurt did a nice job," said Getsy via Sports Illustrated. "The limited number of reps he gets on a daily (basis), I thought he handled going in there in the second half and having a big menu in front of him, I thought he handled it pretty well. He came out in that second half, that first drive, and did a really nice job on the keeper. Then we had the dropback, and then he had the play-action throw down the field, throwing the in-breaker to Malik (Taylor), he handled it really well. There’s some things he’s got to clean up. His pocket presence wasn’t the greatest as that game went on, kind of got himself hit a little bit. So, we’ve got to clean that stuff up, but I thought he did a nice job.”

 

Running Back: Patrick Taylor

The Green Bay Packers' coaching staff isn't going to call Kylin Hill RB3 at this point, but running backs coach Ben Sirmans told reporters that he's in a "great position" and that Hill has "put himself in good standing." I think that speaks for itself.
 
So for that reason, as fun as Hill is to watch -- and he's a lot of fun -- my real question at the running back position is, will the Packers keep three or four? For reference, they did keep four in 2020.
 
At this point, we still need to see more from Patrick Taylor, who missed all of 2020 recovering from foot surgery and began this year's training camp on the NFI list. However, with two preseason games remaining, there still is time. Not to mention that with his ability as a pass-catcher and a blocker, he's a good fit for Matt LaFleur's offense.
 
"He's extremely intelligent," Head Coach Matt LaFleur said via Packers.com. "You should see his notebook, it's as good as some of our quarterbacks'. He does such a great job and he's really in tuned to what we're trying to get accomplished and the why's behind it."

 

Wide Reciever: Devin Funchess and Malik Taylor

I'm going to cheat here and list the two receivers who had the best showing during the first preseason game. Devin Funchess caught six of his eight targets for 70 yards, while Malik Taylor caught all five of his passes for 50 yards, and he was also the gunner on special teams and made two key blocks on receiver screens--an important aspect for receivers in the LaFleur offense.
 
Based on last week's performance, if the Green Bay Packers are going to keep six receivers, my guess is that these two are the front-runners for that roster spot. We will see this week if either player can duplicate last week's performance.
 
It's also important to note that Funchess left Wednesday's practice, and he did not participate on Thursday. His status for Saturday is unknown at this time.

 

Tight End: Jace Sternberger

Jace Sternberger came up with one of the big plays from Saturday's game, hauling in a 34-yard completion from Love down the middle of the field. However, it's been a very up and down camp for the third-year tight end, and if he's going to earn more playing time -- and some would even say a roster spot -- he's going to have to be much more consistent moving forward.
 
“That one play doesn’t really describe the player,” Outten said via Sports Illustrated. “It’s more consistently what you’re putting in day in and day out. With his consistency, it’s kind of been sporadic. Whether it’s still getting used to the playbook or feeling around the line of scrimmage, he’s still having some up-and-down days. With the extra reps that he’s getting, he’s got a handle it a little bit better in a sense of more video and doing the extra things outside. But that’s all fixable. Those things can come along. This is a huge preseason for him with these three games and being the guy and getting as much reps as possible in these live settings. He can grow from some lessons that he learned last night and then moving forward.”
 
Every practice and every game for Sternberger is incredibly important. 

 

Offensive Line: Royce Newman

As Nathaniel Hackett told reporters last Sunday, the offensive line's performance -- particularly against the run -- was "very bad," as the Packer running backs averaged just 2.3 yards per rush. When offensive line coach Adam Stenavich was asked about the battle for the two guard openings, he would go on to say that "nobody has really stepped up and risen above the rest.”
 
So at Monday's practice and for the rest of the week, rookie Royce Newman was added to the starting guard rotation with Lucas Patrick, Ben Braden, and Jon Runyan. During Thursday's press conference, LaFleur would mention that Newman was going to get the start on Saturday after a good week of practices.
 
As we all know, LaFleur always preaches putting the best five offensive linemen on the field, and Newman will now have the opportunity to show that he is one of those five. 

 

Interior Defensive Line: Willington Previlon

One under-the-radar name that we've been hearing and seeing a lot more of over the last week or so of practices is that of Willington Previlon--a 2020 UDFA who spent last season on the practice squad.
 
He was on the field for 59 snaps last week -- which shows that the coaching staff wants to take a good look at him -- and he forced one pressure and made three tackles against Houston, according to PFF. In practice, he is starting to flash with more consistency, and he is making plays on special teams as well. 
 
Previlon is an intriguing player to watch in this week's game against the Jets. Is he someone who could compete with Tyler Lancaster for a roster spot?

 

Edge Rusher: Chauncey Rivers

Let's stick with the under-the-radar name for this position as well. While many are focused on Jonathan Garvin and Tip Galeai for the fourth edge rusher role -- and understandably so -- Chauncey Rivers has seemingly made a play or two every practice since he arrived in Green Bay after being claimed off waivers.
 
Against Houston, Rivers played 41 snaps, logging two pressures, four tackles, and two stops, per PFF. He was also on the field for nine special teams snaps. Like Previlon, is Rivers someone who could push for a roster spot? These final preseason games will be telling. 

 

Linebacker: Oren Burks

Oren Burks is coming off a highly impressive performance against Houston, registering seven tackles, with an additional tackle on special teams, two pressures, a sack, and Joe Barry sent him on countless blitzes--a role that uses his speed, and he looks well suited for. 
 
According to Burks, this early success comes down to two things: confidence and trusting what he sees--both of which allows him to play fast.
 
"(I'm) feeling extremely confident in this camp," Burks said via Packers.com. "Focus for me this offseason has been trusting my training and believing what I see and playing fast. I felt like that came to fruition in this game."
 
However, the key for Burks at this stage of his career is proving that the preseason opener wasn't a fluke. As someone that I'd still consider on the roster bubble, he needs to continue putting together strong performances in both practices and games. 

 

Cornerback: Eric Stokes

We didn't see much of Eric Stokes last Saturday as he was on the field for only 13 snaps and was targeted only once for a four-yard gain. He also came away with two tackles. 
 
As the Green Bay Packers' first-round pick and someone who is likely going to play a big role for the team this season, I just simply want to see him in action more. While Stokes has taken his lumps going up against Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams in practice -- and who wouldn't? -- he has certainly improved over the last few weeks as well and received a very high compliment from Adams on Thursday:
 
"He's the closest thing to Jaire as far as mentality and ability from what I've seen so far. The kid is fast as hell. He can get beat and recover, kind of like how Sam Shields would do." 

 

Safety: Henry Black 

When I made my pre-training camp roster prediction, I did have Henry Black as one of the final 53. But after last week's game against Houston, he not only looks like someone deserving of a roster spot but someone who could see some decent playing time this season as well. 
 
Black was on the field for 41 snaps and was flying around, making plays all over, including at the line of scrimmage while tallying five tackles. He spent most of his night lined up at free safety or down in the box, but he also saw some snaps in the slot. Black was targeted twice, allowing one reception for -1 yard.
 
Black was also a special teams standout, coming away with two tackles and the highest special teams grade on the team by PFF's metrics. To put it simply, it was an impressive evening for the second-year UDFA. With that said, as a young and inexperienced player, I'd like to see him string together a couple of solid in-game performances along with the practice reps he's put together this summer as the team's third safety along with Vernon Scott. 

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Born and raised in Green Bay, WI and I still call it home. After my family, watching the Packers, sharing my opinions on the team through my writing and interacting with other fans is my greatest passion. You can find me on Twitter at @Paul_Bretl. 
 

12 points

Comments (18)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
porupack's picture

August 20, 2021 at 06:20 am

Excellent article Paul, and with each of your selections; very pertinent quotes to back up your picks.

This popped out to me, and if this is just Joe Barry's specialty as a linebacker-lineage coach, that is fine, but if this indicates that Joe Barry will maximize unique skills of each player, then that is the ideal coach and fit for this defense, regarding Oren Burks:

<<<< and Joe Barry sent him on countless blitzes--a role that uses his speed, and he looks well suited for. >>>>

That caught my attention aside from possibly, just possibly an improvement over the last decade of underperforming LB play; just maximizing individual strengths and putting them in best chance to succeed. Well done.

10 points
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scoonie_penn's picture

August 20, 2021 at 07:03 am

man Gute has really whiffed on his third rounders. Burks, Jace, Deguara(tbd), Rodgers(fingers crossed).

-15 points
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blacke00's picture

August 20, 2021 at 07:44 am

That's not true! Don't qualify your comments with "tbd" and "fingers crossed", that BS. You don't have anywhere near enough evidence to make that statement.

8 points
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Horrible4's picture

August 20, 2021 at 11:00 pm

Are they whiffs though? One of them hasn't even played in the regular season, and the other three have had their careers derailed by injuries. Injuries aren't really something you can control and is just bad luck.

Oren Burks has always showed a lot of promise but unfortunately has been dealing with nagging injuries (mostly back problems, which admittedly are scary and hard to recover from if there is an underlying issue there). Sternberger went down in preseason his rookie season for the year and only in 2020 did he get a season of playing time. And Deguara obviously tore his ACL week 2 in practice keeping him out for the year.

These guys are all good and highly thought of prospects, the process involving picking these guys was solid. I'm fairly critical of the front office for their moves, but none of this is on them here.

2 points
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RCPackerFan's picture

August 20, 2021 at 08:01 am

My List-

Quarterback: Kurt Benkert
Benkert has a real opportunity to force GB to keep 3 QB's. If he performs well, he could earn a spot on the 53.

Running Back: Kylin Hill
While I get that Taylor is a guy to watch, I am here to see what Hill does. Not only at RB but also at KR. Hill I believe not only is the RB3, I think he makes an impact this year. RB is a position that you need more then 2 guys to play. Hill can definitely be that 3rd guy.

WR: Equanimeous St. Brown
Funchess might be out. Winfree has yet to play in a preseason game. EQ is the guy I want to see. Right now we don't know how many WR's they will keep. I am guessing 6, and maybe 7 with Sternberger out. But the battle is strong at WR. If EQ can come up with some big plays, he may help himself earn a spot on the 53.

TE: Sternberger
He is still an intriguing player. With 3 guys essentially ahead of him right now, Sternberger definitely is needing to keep flashing in games. He is suspended for the first 2 games, but there are no guarantees he will be back after those 2 games.

OL: Newman
He is getting the opportunity to be the starting OG. If he takes it and does run with it, we could be having 2 rookies starting on the OL in the opening week. It seems like they are giving Newman every opportunity to be the starting RG. It will be great to see if he takes it and runs with it.

DL: Jack Heflin
Slaton is the main guy I want to see, but Heflin is kind of an intriguing player to me. He kind of reminds a bit of Lancaster when he came in as an UDFA. They are similar size and have similar skills. Lancaster when he came in as an udfa, he was really good. Heflin is definitely a guy to keep an eye on. We know that Clark, Lowry, Keke, Lancaster, Slaton are likely on the 53. that is 5. They could be looking for a 6h and Heflin could be that guy.

Edge: Tipa Galeai
This one honestly is a toss up between Garvin, Tipa and Rivers. Tipa is a guy I heard a lot about, and just would like to see more of him.

ILB: Burks
He was very good in game 1. How does he look in game 2. If he has another strong performance does he start forcing his way onto the field?

CB: Stokes
To me he is still the player that could completely change the look of our defense. If he is really good, what will offenses do? Alexander locks down his side of the field. If Stokes locks down his side, that gives them a lot of options in pass rushing. They could blitz more. they could focus coverages more on other weapons. Hearing Adams comments definitely intrigues me more.

S: Scott/Black
I don't know if Scott will be playing, but I really like Scott. Black is the same way. I think either one of these guys could be be the 3rd Safety, and either one could get playing time in sub packages. I hope, either Scott or Black takes over for Redmond in the defense.

0 points
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Matt Gonzales's picture

August 20, 2021 at 11:18 am

I'm cautiously eager to see what we get from Burks in the next 2 weeks. If he is asked to just get into the backfield and can do so with some consistency, I'd take it. Even if he occasionally overshoots, the disruption is worth it. Once defenses equate Burks with Blitz, it should devote enough attention his way that will open up opportunities for our DL and OLBs.

That is, if course, assuming he can stay productive when defenses know he's coming, which will be a good test.

2 points
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Roadrunner23's picture

August 20, 2021 at 08:48 am

Excellent Paul and I concur

My list is as follows

QB- Benkert - fun and likable

RB- Hill - I want to see more of this kid

WR- Amari- showed good burst when he got his touches

TE: Degura- I want to see if all the hype is warranted

OL- Hello Newman! Take the job kid!

DL- Slayton, I want to see the big guy progress

ILB - Summers, can Captain America 🇺🇸 live up to his nickname?

Edge - Rivers, I like his toughness, he makes plays

CB - Ento, kid is balling, do we have another Sam Shields?

S - Gaines, this kid is a playmaker. Will he be the latest UDFA to crack the 53?

P - Will JK shank his way off the team now or during the regular season?

K - Molson, kids got a strong leg, let him try a 60 yard FG at Lambeau. The fans would go nuts 🤩👏

We are getting down to the nitty gritty part of Camp, closed practice will start next week, jobs are on the line!

Let’s Go!

ND

8 points
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Since&#039;61's picture

August 20, 2021 at 09:48 am

Great post ND. I have very similar thoughts on many of these players. Just hope to make it through the next 2 preseason games injury free. Thanks, Since ‘61

2 points
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Roadrunner23's picture

August 20, 2021 at 10:02 am

That’s for sure Since 61
Thanks
Be Well
ND

2 points
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Alberta_Packer's picture

August 20, 2021 at 12:33 pm

Just after Gaines was signed as a UDFA - I watched his TCU highlights tape and immediately put $2 win (hypothetically) for him to make the team as a long shot. It seems the main issue with Gaines was availability - not ability. At the very least, I project him as a PS player.

5 points
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jannes bjornson's picture

August 20, 2021 at 08:12 pm

If he is the best of the rest, he's on the 53. Redmond can take a rider to Canada.

2 points
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jeremyjjbrown's picture

August 20, 2021 at 01:52 pm

If Burks could put something together that would be great. He's in a LB friendly defense now.

4 points
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Packers0808's picture

August 20, 2021 at 02:03 pm

Still think Sternberger is a goner and he is his worst own enemy! Substance abuse and he couldn't stay healthy as it was! Good bye!

-1 points
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porupack's picture

August 20, 2021 at 03:32 pm

Geez dude, what's the rush to pronounce the death sentence? Can guys turn things around in your world?

2 points
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Packers0808's picture

August 20, 2021 at 06:18 pm

Ummmm 3 years is no rush to come around I wouldn't think, dude!

-3 points
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Jonathan Spader's picture

August 21, 2021 at 01:01 am

It is at TE especially when dealing with injuries. Here's hoping Sternberger has you eating crow.

2 points
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Packers0808's picture

August 21, 2021 at 08:00 am

Here is to you eating your words! Then he should condition better and not use substances to try to help that process! Not real good thinking process for you I guess!

-1 points
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jannes bjornson's picture

August 20, 2021 at 08:13 pm

Yes, yes,How was that fifth of Popov vodka?

0 points
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