Tyler Goodson has earned his teammates' respect. Now he wants a roster spot
After spending his rookie season marooned on the Packers' practice squad, Tyler Goodson looks ready to push for a spot on the 53-man roster.
To an even greater degree than a year ago, the Green Bay Packers offense will rely heavily on youth in 2023. Aaron Rodgers, Randall Cobb, Allen Lazard, Robert Tonyan, and Marcedes Lewis all departed this offseason, leaving the unit with a dearth of grizzled veterans at the skill positions. Running back Aaron Jones now stands as the last one who has graduated from his rookie contract.
With the youth movement in full swing, the Packers will look to Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs, and other recently minted starters to take the leap this season. But for the offense to exceed expectations, it will need players to rise from relative obscurity and step into larger roles.
"We definitely have some playmakers in this locker room, and I think they've been showing it through these OTAs," Jones said this past week. "We have some speed. So, it isn't just going to take me. I think we have some weapons and some young guys stepping up and making plays as well."
And one teammate in particular seems to have caught his eye.
"I think Tyler Goodson will be a weapon for us," Jones added. "He's been out here balling and he's been working hard."
Goodson, a 22-year-old tailback out of Iowa, arrived in Green Bay a year ago. Though he didn't hear his name called during the 2022 NFL Draft, his versatility and impressive athletic profile made him a coveted commodity in undrafted free agency and landed him a spot on The Leap's annual Packers UDFA Prospectus. Goodson went on to lead the team in rushing during the preseason while finishing sixth in receiving yardage.
However, despite the commendable showing, Goodson couldn't manage to crack the 53-man roster. The Packers let him go during final cuts, signing him to the practice squad after the rookie cleared waivers. Goodson remained there for the remainder of the season.
The narrative around Goodson has shifted considerably in the time since. Not only has he earned Jones' praise, but he looks like a more complete player entering his second year as well. Even facing stiff competition from a running back with regular-season experience (Patrick Taylor) and another whom the team drafted this past April (Lew Nichols III), the excitement Goodson has generated to this point in the process feels palpable.
"I feel like the work I put in during the offseason before I came here definitely showed even like going through a simple drill or a play," Goodson said during mandatory minicamp. "Whatever it is, I can feel the movements in my body paying off from workouts and the stuff I worked on coming into play.
"And that's what I really want to do, just play for the coaches and for them see that I really care and I really put in the time to be the best player I can be on the field."
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In a certain sense, the job Goodson could win hasn't really existed in Green Bay for a few years. Early in Matt LaFleur's tenure as head coach, the Packers utilized a dedicated fly-motion player on offense. That role -- running behind the offensive line at the snap to create a horizontal stretch -- went to Tyler Ervin for much of 2019 and 2020. But the offense dialed up fly motion less frequently the past two seasons seemingly at Rodgers' behest. While Jones, Watson, and a few others handled the task periodically, it largely fell out of favor.
But that could change in a big way this season. With Jordan Love now installed as the starter under center, LaFleur will no longer have to find the middle ground between his vision for the offense and Rodgers' apparent preference for static formations. That could mean the Packers once again rely on fly motion to stress defenses. Should that happen, Goodson's traits make him an intriguing option for that role.
"Tyler's done a nice job, and we've used him in a variety of different ways whether it's out as a receiver or in the backfield," LaFleur said during OTAs. "He's an explosive player, and he's got really good hands. I think he's a guy that's really matured over the course of the year. He's got a much better grasp of the expectations of what it takes to be a pro."
A running back with a wide receiver's skill set offers considerable value to an offense like Green Bay's. Such a player can contribute in multiple ways and, most importantly, his presence on the field doesn't automatically tip the Packers' intentions. To that end, Goodson can realistically line up behind the quarterback as the formation sets without the defense knowing whether he'll remain there at the snap or motion out wide beforehand. Likewise, opponents can't use him as a run-pass indicator.
Does that mean Goodson will start seeing regular work on offense à la Ervin circa 2020? Not necessarily. The Packers spent a second-round pick on Michigan State wideout Jayden Reed who also appears capable of working in such a role, and some other members of the team's 90-man roster will have a crack at the job as well in the coming months.
But Goodson has gotten his 2023 off to a nice start. He looks the part and has a full year of NFL experience under his belt. His efforts this offseason have earned the respect of one of the Packers' most important and revered veterans, one who plays his position. His head coach has also taken notice. These all represent meaningful steps for a young running back still working to establish himself.
Now, Goodson needs to carry that momentum into training camp and the preseason. If he does so, the Packers will find it much harder to keep him off the roster this time around.
-- Jason B. Hirschhorn is an award-winning sports journalist and Pro Football Writers of America member. Follow him on social media: @by_JBH on Twitter / @by_jbh on Instagram / @JBH@mastodon.social on Mastodon / @email@example.com on Bluesky / @by_jbh on Threads
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