Football is finally here. After months of hot takes, speculation, overanalysis and (not so) patient waiting, the NFL season is upon us. For the Green Bay Packers, predictions for 2019 reach both ends of the spectrum and ambiguity looms over the team. With training camp now in full force, here are three players that have been standouts so far during camp.
3. Manny Wilkins, QB
Manny Wilkins was never supposed to make Green Bay’s roster when they signed him back on May 3rd. The Packers took a flyer on him because of the success he found at Arizona State, but realistically he is too small and lacks NFL talent to make it to the league — or so we thought.
Opportunities are few and far between when you are the fourth quarterback buried on the depth chart, but so far Wilkins has taken advantage of his and has forced Matt LaFleur into giving him more looks.
For Wilkins, his first opportunity came on the team’s third practice of training camp. With current third-string QB Tim Boyle absent with a personal matter, Wilkins was elevated to third-team quarterback for the practice. During an 11-on-11 drill, he manufactured two touchdowns on three drives against the third-team defense. The performance didn’t go unnoticed by head coach Matt LaFleur, who said to the Madison State Journal, “I think he is, quite frankly, earning himself some more reps as well.”
He added to that performance with another during the team’s family night practice on Friday. During another 11-11 full-team drill, Wilkins hit receiver Trevor Davis (more on him in a moment) perfectly in stride for a 70-yard touchdown strike.
Expecting Wilkins to come out of camp as the Packers’ backup QB is far too unrealistic. But with his continued growth and DeShone Kizer’s constant struggles, it wouldn’t be a shock to see the team ditch Kizer and keep Wilkins as a third QB on the roster.
2. Trevor Davis, WR
It was a tough choice between picking Trevor Davis or fellow receiver Jake Kumerow for this list. Both guys have balled out and made lasting impressions so far during camp, but Davis gets the slight nod because of the versatility he brings. Most Packers fans will recognize Davis for his role on special teams returning kicks. That’s mainly why the team drafted him in the fifth round in 2016 and so far has been the only real impact he has had on the team.
Not only has Davis put an emphasis on his return game during camp (spending time before and after practice fielding punts) it’s evident he has put the time in this offseason to become a more polished receiver. With near 4.40 speed, Davis can become a big playmaker in LaFleur’s new offense.
Davis put his potential on full display during the Packers’ family night practice on Friday. As mentioned earlier, he took the top off the defense and connected with Manny Wilkins for a 70-yard touchdown strike during one of the full team 11-on-11 drills. He also made arguably the play of the night, going up and over defender Nydair Rouse to make a circus catch near the sideline later in that practice.
Inconsistency has been one of the biggest knocks on him throughout his career. After a strong showing during OTAs and a strong start during training camp, Davis is starting to show signs that he’s putting it all together.
1. Rashan Gary, EDGE
Every year, coaches and fans alike fall in love with players during training camp for all the wrong reasons. Limited in the amount of contact and “real” reps a team can have, training camp favors those players with raw, uber athleticism and untapped potential. Much like how a prospect tearing up the NFL combine far from guarantees a productive career, an impressive training camp means nothing until it is translated to the field. Still, we fall for guys every single year.
Rashan Gary could very well be another example of this, but good lord has he been impressive so far. During one-on-one drills with the O-line and D-line, Gary has routinely beaten guys like David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga. We aren’t just talking one or two times — he has continuously been a problem in these kinds of drills.
He has shined even brighter in 11-on-11 team drills, making several splash plays and single-handedly disrupting what the offense has been trying to do. Of course, practice has limited his ability to get after the quarterback, but he will be given plenty of opportunities during the preseason to showcase those abilities.
Expectations should be tempered for Gary heading into the regular season considering his track record of inconsistent and unproductive play, but it’s impossible not to acknowledge his performance so far this training camp.