GREEN BAY, Wis. (WLAX/WEUX) – The roster cutdown to the NFL-mandated 53 on Saturday will be especially challenging for Brian Gutekunst this year.
Like every other NFL general manager, that task got exponentially more difficult with the elimination of the league’s schedule four preseason games due to the COVID-19 epidemic.
It’s been an August like none other.
With the film from basically 12 training camp practices and intra-squad scrimmage last Sunday in Lambeau Field under as game-like conditions and tempo as possible, Gutekunst will trim his approximately 80-man roster in the next 24 hours. There have been just a handful of “live” tackling sessions to evaluate the talent of rookies or young players the Green Bay coaching staff is less familiar with.
Last year’s Packers training camp had a plethora of position battles in head coach Matt LaFleur’s first year at the helm, highlighted by Tim Boyle beating out veteran DeShone Kizer for the back-up quarterback spot behind starter Aaron Rodgers.
This year, in the second season in LaFleur’s system, the veterans return to camp with a year of experience and familiarity. For rookies, it’s all new.
Green Bay’s #1 draft pick, quarterback Jordan Love, is acclimating to the NFL and learning behind Rodgers and Boyle. Boyle has had an outstanding camp, along with receivers Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Malik Taylor, an undrafted Ferris State product in 2019.
After throwing four interceptions—much to the delight of the Packers defensive unit—Rodgers has played at a high level after off-season reflection and finding “my center” personally. The 36-year-old Rodgers also reviewed film of himself from throughout his career. Two weeks ago he implement an insight from 2010 film that he implemented in camp and produced immediate results.
“I know it was 10 years ago,” Rodgers told the Wisconsin media in a Zoom meeting. “It’s just a good reminder for all of us the tape of yourself can often be the most important to watch, because you can always pick things up.”
LaFleur is happy with where his veteran quarterback is at. “I think he’s done an outstanding job throughout the entire camp,” LaFleur said Wednesday. “I couldn’t be more pleased with how he’s playing right now.”
Rookie running back A.J. Dillon has displayed his blend of speed and power, but is learning the ropes on route-running and especially blitz pick-up in the Packers offense. Fellow rookie Kamal Martin from the University of Minnesota has turned heads in camp, as has veteran linebacker Christian Kirksey.
Green Bay comes off a 13-3 season and opens 2020 with rival Minnesota at U.S. Bank Stadium next Sunday. Rodgers, entering his 16th season, and the Packers are ready to defend their NFC North title and go one step further than the NFC Championship. The goal is the Super Bowl in Tampa in February.
“It’s been a great run to get to this point,” he said. “I’ve had so much fun and we’ve accomplished some pretty awesome things—and hopefully we’ve got another couple rides.”