Cutdown day has come and gone for the Green Bay Packers, but there is still much roster work to be done before next Sunday’s season opener at the Minnesota Vikings, including deciding which 16 players to bring back for their enhanced practice squad.
Now, just a refresher: The NFL and NFLPA agreed to increase the size of each team’s practice squad from 12 to 16 players in addition to lifting some of the restrictions on how players can be moved to and from the active roster, all intended to assist with playing a season during the COVID-19 pandemic. The new rules also present teams with the unique opportunity to make better and more regular use of their talent stashed on the practice squad.
In other words, the players the Packers choose for their reserve squad this season could end up being more important than in past years.
Here’s a prediction of what the Packers’ 16-man practice squad could look like when it is finalized before Sunday’s 5 p.m. CT deadline:
Reggie Begelton, WR
Begelton wasn’t given a true offseason or preseason to showcase how his standout CFL career could translate to the NFL, but he is technically a first-year player who would be easy and affordable for the Packers to keep for the long-term future, even if his first season was spent developing with the reserves. He wouldn’t be the only wide receiver for the Packers to keep on their practice squad, but maybe he should be the first.
Stanford Samuels III, CB
Samuels had a few impressive camp performances that allowed spectators to believe he could push for a bottom roster spot, but the room was ultimately too crowded for the UDFA signee to beat out Josh Jackson, Ka’dar Hollman and Kabion Ento. The fortunate part for Samuels is that Ento, who underwent surgery to repair a Jones fracture in his foot, is a likely candidate for IR and could soon need someone to fill his spot as the No. 6 corner. Stashing Samuels on the practice squad allows the Packers to have a backup plan if something falters with the other five.
Darrius Shepherd, WR
Shepherd parlayed a strong rookie preseason into spot on the active roster with the Packers in 2019, playing in six games before … well, a bad game happened. Shepherd was more of a special teams component than a receiving threat, but he managed to botch both responsibilities in a single disastrous performance against the Detroit Lions in Week 6. Fortunately, Shepherd came back for camp in 2020 looking ready to atone and came into Saturday on the bubble. He would be more practical to retain than someone like the 28-year-old Kumerow.
Alex Light, OT
Light wasn’t necessarily a surprise cut on Saturday; though, it was a little strange for the Packers to abandon some of the only experienced depth they have at tackle. While Yosh Nijman got the nod for the active roster, it would make sense for the Packers to try bringing back Light for the practice squad. There were shortcomings evident in his game during the 2019 season, but another opportunity with the reserves would allow him to attempt to iron out the wrinkles in his game while they proceed with a new backup. If Nijman succeeds, great. If not, Light could be right within reach.
Dexter Williams, RB
Williams became the first member of the Packers’ 2019 draft class to no longer be affiliated with the team, but that could change quickly if the second-year running back is brought back to the reserves behind their stout four-man rotation. The Packers have both of their top two rushers — Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams — entering contract years with a rough financial future to navigate during the 2021 offseason. Stashing rushers who are learning but not quite there could be in their best interest long-term, much like their decision to keep undrafted rookie rusher Patrick Taylor on the reserve/non-football injury list.
Henry Black, S
Black was a stout, consistent safety during his final season at Baylor and was the only safety who was left off the active roster this year. The position is on solid ground with Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage Jr. at the top of the depth chart, but the Packers are also familiar with the struggles of depleted safety depth after last year and could benefit from putting another youngster in the development pipeline.
Evan Baylis, TE
Baylis was the team’s practice-squad tight end in 2019 and there’s not much reason to think he won’t earn that distinction again in 2020. The Packers do now have installed three young tight ends into their system, including two third-round picks, but veteran Marcedes Lewis figures to only stick around for another year. After that, the future of the position will entirely depend on a trio that carries promise but has not yet delivered on much of it. In the meantime, Baylis can give the Packers a project in case things don’t go as planned.
Tipa Galea’i, OLB
The Packers would seem to be true to their word about getting Za’Darius and Preston Smith more rest in games after working them silly in 2019. Rashan Gary will be a huge part of providing the relief, but keeping both Randy Ramsey and seventh-round pick Jonathan Garvin for the active roster signals they are committed to a rotation that can keep their stars fresh. If that’s the approach, as would be justified, it would stand to reason the Packers would bring back their next-best option who miss the cut. The alternatives are Greg Roberts, who has been injured most of his career, and veteran discard Tim Williams.
Willington Previlon, DL
The Packers did not add much to their defensive line during the offseason with Treyvon Hester marking their only free-agent addition at the position. By the time the roster cuts were finished on Saturday, the Packers were left with a five-man unit that was nearly identical to the one they sported in 2019 — minus one Fadol Brown. If the Packers get the improvements they expected from their returners, it will work. Stocking up on the practice squad, though? That’s just good game planning. Previlon should be at the top of that list after a solid camp showing.
Delontae Scott, DL
Another route that could be taken for DL depth is Scott, who moved inside after playing edge rusher in college and has his own versatile skill set to offer the team. The Packers might even find the justification to bring back both Prevlion and Scott for the practice squad if Montravius Adams (sprained toe) is placed on IR to begin the season.
Krys Barnes, ILB
In Kirksey the Packers trust, but the depth behind him at inside linebacker is looking more like 2019 than the team would probably care to admit. Promising rookie Kamal Martin, a fifth-round pick, is expected to miss serious time with a knee injury, leaving the positional depth to just Oren Burks and Ty Summers. The Packers believe in those two; although, adding another to the reserve — even if only during Martin’s time away — would seem a wise choice.
John Lovett, FB
LaFleur’s fixation with odd-talent players could help the former Ivy League quarterback-turned-fullback earn a spot with the reserves, especially with no other fullback options to consider. The appeal of Lovett is he can wear many hats in an offensive system that likes to get creative whether it be running back, fullback, H-back or even tight end. To borrow from LaFleur, “he’s a moveable piece” and finding players like that can be difficult (and expensive).
Jake Hanson, C
Given the Packers may have to replace their starting center this offseason, the Packers could be tempted to bring back Hanson for the practice squad. The 2020 sixth-round pick was the only drafted rookie to lose his roster spot, but it would be a stretch to think he disappointed so much in his first camp that the Packers have completely lost faith. Even with Lucas Patrick capable of being an immediate backup for Linsley, an extra body with some raw talent couldn’t hurt to mold during an unpredictable upcoming season.
Jalen Morton, QB
Following the 2020 NFL draft, the Packers released Manny Wilkins and picked up Morton as an undrafted free agent out of Prairie View A&M, carrying him through the offseason as their fourth quarterback behind Aaron Rodgers, Tim Boyle and Jordan Love. There wasn’t much room or reason for him once training camp began and roster sizes decreased by 10, but the Packers have remained interested in Morton and even brought him back in for a workout last Sunday. Even with three better options available, what’s the harm in a practice-squad passer?
Two Players From Other Rosters
Don’t ask me to try predicting who because any answers I give will probably be wrong, but here’s the way I see this working: The Packers will refer back to the draft board they used in April to scan the league’s roster cuts for rookies, undrafted or not, who they already got some scouting information on. The ideal target would be someone who impressed with their camp team but was surplus at the cut deadline. It’s been a weird year, so why not roll the dice on some more first-years with a few additional reserve spots available?
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