Mandatory minicamp (and Aaron Rodgers) arrives in Green Bay this week
Mandatory minicamp arrives in Green Bay this week, bringing Aaron Rodgers and the Packers' new-look receiving corps together for the first time in 2022.
Mandatory minicamp begins this week for the Green Bay Packers, providing the first shared on-field work between the rookies and the veterans. That also means Aaron Rodgers will begin throwing passes to the cadre of new receivers the team has collected this offseason. But while the process of building those relationships will take center stage, the Packers will closely monitor developments elsewhere on the roster.
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With mandatory minicamp set to take place this week, what answers are you most hoping to get in this first brief glimpse at something close to the full squad?
Jason B. Hirschhorn: Which part of the depth chart will Quay Walker and Devonte Wyatt occupy? The rookie receivers will almost certainly garner most of the attention given Aaron Rodgers' presence, and for good reason. However, given where the Packers selected Walker and Wyatt, the duo needs to deliver sooner and at a higher level than others in the draft class to help justify the first-round investment.
That, of course, doesn't necessarily mean Walker and Wyatt can't develop into field-tilters if they run exclusively with the backups during minicamp. But seeing either or both receive some time with the starters would provide an early indication that the coaching staff sees them playing significant roles in 2022.
Peter Bukowski: The obvious answer is Aaron Rodgers throwing to these rookie receivers with Christian Watson and Romeo Doubbs needing to step into meaningful roles early on for this offense. But that’s not actually my answer.
The defensive configurations intrigue me the most. Are they actually going to play more nickel and if so, does that mean Quay Walker has to be playing over Krys Barnes? Who is in the star spot? These sorts of personnel questions will offer us some insight as we head toward training camp as we start to extrapolate what it might mean for the team’s intentions for the season.
We are still almost two months from training camp opening in Green Bay. What player or players are you most excited to see when the pads finally come on?
JBH: I made the case for the first-rounders in the previous prompt, but the answer here seems more obvious. Rookie wideouts Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs will help determine how much they ultimately play in 2022 when they don the pads and practice with Rodgers. Even if the Packers don't require huge contributions from them right away, one or both will likely need to take on a major role by the end of the season. As you'll hear repeated ad nauseam, that can only happen by building on-field chemistry and trust with the reigning MVP.
Also, we probably need to include David Bakhtiari in this conversation. A healthy Bakhtiari has nothing to prove, but the Packers haven't seen him fully healthy in well over a year. Matt LaFleur said the team always planned to hold him out of the offseason program with an eye on training camp. Well, if training camp rolls around and the five-time All-Pro remains sidelined with no clear answer from the coaching staff on a return, alarms will go off across the league.
PB: Devonte Wyatt. I don’t think we’ll learn that much about the receivers in camp or preseason. In fact, we’ve seen player after player impress in the spring and summer only to get cut or make a marginal impact in the regular season. Someone has to catch the preseason passes and offenses will have the advantage against the defense where communication and continuity are vital.
But Wyatt will go up against some high-quality young players in practice every day, likely players with either less experience or less talent/pedigree than the ones he’ll see in exhibition games. If he’s winning one-on-ones versus Jon Runyan Jr., Sean Rhyan, and Josh Myers, blowing up plays in group sessions and creating havoc, the Packers will feel confident they have a real dude.
What player is most at risk of either losing his starting job or seeing his playing time decline significantly this season either because of the draft, free agency, or other reason?
JBH: Peter will handle one of the big candidates for this question, so I'll take the other. With the offseason additions of Jarran Reed and the aforementioned Wyatt, Dean Lowry's grip on a starting job looks weakened. Though true that Lowry comes off one of his better seasons where he set a career-high in sacks (five) and quarterback hits (nine), he also enters the de facto final year of his contract (the final three seasons void). With Reed providing a more stout presence and Wyatt expected to take over as a starter at some point in the not-too-distant future, Lowry could realistically find himself in a reserve role before the end of 2022.
Even if Lowry ends up starting every game, his snap count will probably fall as the Packers have more higher-end defensive linemen to deploy. Already, second-year pro TJ Slaton has seen extensive work at nose tackle during OTAs with Kenny Clark shifting out to play over the guard. While not directly affecting Lowry's primary role, that development could produce a domino effect that sees the other D-linemen absorbing more work at five-tech. That, of course, would limit Lowry's output.
PB: If Royce Newman can’t see the writing on the wall, we should check his college transcripts or check his eyesight. Sean Rhyan is a tackle who can play guard. Zach Tom is a tackle who can play guard or center. And if Tom is playing center, it’s worth wondering if Myers would slide over to compete at guard.
That many interior offensive linemen telegraphs the Packers’ intentions, or at the very least their preferences. They want to get better at that spot and we already knew that after they benched Newman late in the year for Lucas Patrick (who himself lost his starting job to Jon Runyan Jr.).
This may be the obvious answer, but it speaks to how solidified this roster is that there aren’t actually that many spots up for grabs.
PB: Baltimore Ravens receiver Rashod Bateman thought he was going to a Packer. And to hear Bateman tell it, maybe the Packers did too. On teammate Marlon Humphrey’s podcast, the former Minnesota standout said he figured he’d be off the board at pick 29 to the Packers who he said he’d been talking to all day.
Green Bay’s interest in Bateman was hardly a secret and a league source outside the team told The Leap before the draft of the Packers’ sincere interest in Bateman.
Packers fans interested in a receiver, especially on the same night we found out about Aaron Rodgers’ discontent with the team, coveted Bateman, but he wound up going off the board two picks before Gutey had a chance to draft him. Considering how well Eric Stokes played last season, it doesn’t appear anyone will be shedding a tear about this, but it’s a fascinating sliding door moment nonetheless.