The Green Bay Packers have added another running back to their room in the wake of rookie Kylin Hill’s season-ending ACL injury.
On Wednesday, November 3, Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst signed former Jacksonville Jaguars backup Ryquell Armstead and defensive lineman Auzoyah Alufohai to fill the two openings on the team’s 16-man practice squad. Armstead, a 2019 fifth-round pick, had been in Green Bay two days earlier for a workout with the team.
The Packers also announced that both starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers and backup cornerback Isaac Yiadom had been placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Head coach Matt LaFleur had already confirmed earlier on Wednesday that Rodgers was in COVID-19 protocol and would be out for Week 9’s home game against the Kansas City Chiefs, but Yiadom was an unexpected addition to the reserve list.
The Packers are now without Rodgers, Yiadom, third-string quarterback Kurt Benkert, star wide receiver Davante Adams and defensive coordinator Joe Barry due to the league’s COVID-19 protocol; though, LaFleur said the team was “hoping” both Adams and Barry would be able to rejoin the team on Thursday, November 4.
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Armstead Had Promise Before COVID-19 Issues
Armstead has a good amount to prove coming to the Packers after being unable to make things work with three other teams in the past six months. It is important to remember, though, that he might still be with the Jaguars if not for his complications with the coronavirus during the 2020 season.
Armstead showed promise as both a rusher and pass-catcher during his 2019 rookie season in Jacksonville, gaining 3.1 rushing yards on 35 careers and catching 14 of his 24 targets for 144 yards and two touchdowns in a limited role behind Leonard Fournette. Coming into his second season, with Fournette on his way out with the team, it was thought Armstead would have a good shot at taking over the starting job, but he landed on the reserve/COVID-19 list twice before the season and had such an ordeal with the virus that he never even ended up playing a snap in 2020.
At this point, Armstead is presumed to be clear from all of those health issues, but he has tried — and failed — to make it work with both the New York Giants and New Orleans Saints since the Jaguars released him in May. It remains to be seen whether the Packers view him simply as a practice-squad depth piece or someone who can eventually contribute for their active roster.
Will Packers Promote Taylor or Armstead?
It had expected the Packers would look to add more depth to their backfield after being forced to deduct the rookie Hill from the equation. Hill, who had been the team’s primary kickoff return and third-string running back, is done for the year after tearing his ACL in Week 8’s win over the Arizona Cardinals. He was officially placed on injured reserve on November 1, leaving a void behind Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon.
Now that Armstead is on the practice squad, though, the Packers would seem to have a choice to make heading into this weekend’s matchup with the Chiefs — specifically about whether they should promote Armstead or Patrick Taylor.
Taylor has been a developmental project for the Packers since May 2020, signing him as an undrafted free agent after he ran for 2,884 yards and 36 touchdowns over his four seasons at Memphis. The catch was that Taylor had suffered a Lisfranc injury in his foot during his final collegiate season and had to spend his entire rookie season recovering on the team’s non-football injury list, giving them little opportunity to see what he could do until 2021’s training camp rolled around.
When Taylor finally did get on the field, the results were mixed. He had a decent preseason for the Packers with 23 carries for 89 yards and an average of 2.74 yards after contact per attempt, according to Pro Football Focus, but he also fumbled once and was only able to secure two of the five passes thrown his way as a receiver.
Still, the Packers seem more likely to trust the back they know over the one who will have to learn the ins and outs of their offense before getting to contribute much. Whether that will materialize into an active-roster contract for Taylor or simply see him elevated from the practice squad on game-day remains to be seen.
Technically, the Packers could always elevate both Armstead and Taylor and keep them both on hand against the Chiefs as a precaution. They could also get a freebie on promoting them if they designate them as COVID-19 replacements instead of traditional game-day elevations, saving each back’s two allotted promotion opportunities for later in the season.