GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – As the Green Bay Packers gear up to host its first preseason game at home against Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots, Local 5 Sports Director Burke Griffin answers five big questions.
Carrington Valentine had a pretty solid game against Cincinnati on the road in week one of the preseason. Still, everyone needs to remember that Joe Burrow wasn’t throwing the football against the Packers defense.
The converted wide receiver out of Kentucky spent his last two seasons as a cornerback in college and had an impressive senior year that included nine pass breakups and an interception.
Valentine had four solo tackles, three pass breakups, and a fantastic interception off a tipped pass that showed just how athletic he truly is.
Nobody knows how long Eric Stokes will still be out as he returns from a pair of injuries, but you could never have enough depth in the secondary.
Finding a Way at Wide Receiver
Last year, eight different wide receivers caught passes during the regular season. Three of those guys were nonexistent for the entire year. Sammy Watkins, Amari Rodgers, Juwann Winfrey, and Randall Cobb had only eight catches over the past five games of the year.
If Matt LaFleur decides to keep six wide receivers this year, look for Malik Heath to make the team. He isn’t as big as Allen Lazard, but much like him, he has that dog in him in the blocking game, as evidenced by his play in Cincinnati.
Matt LaFleur said, “That was exciting for us as coaches. Just the play style that we are looking for. And he did it all game. I thought he was very aggressive, and I thought the team’s play style was excellent, particularly at the wide receiver position.”
General Manager Brian Gutekunst added today, “It’s just taking advantage of the opportunities that are presented to him. Certainly, he’s done that. This go-around, there’s just been more opportunities for some of these younger players than there have been in the past. But it’s tough for any of these young players, specifically the undrafted free agents, you may only get so many opportunities per day, and when you do, you got to capitalize on them to earn more opportunities, and I think that’s why you’ve seen his opportunities increase. Whenever you come in as a late draft pick or an undrafted free agent, those opportunities that are given to you, if you don’t capitalize on them, you’re not going to get more.”
From Fort Hays State to RB3?
A handful of players are battling for the backup job behind Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon.
After his performance in Cincinnati, you can add Emanuel Wilson to the short list of candidates. The former junior college and D2 running back has bounced around quite a bit since his high school days in North Carolina, but with six rushes for 111 yards, and two touchdowns (one being an 80-yarder), Wilson was impressive in the second half last Friday night.
Patrick Taylor and Tyler Goodson have the experience in Green Bay and special teams ability to grab that third spot but expect Wilson to push for it again tomorrow night.
Not the next “Gunslinger”
Any comparisons to Brett Favre or Aaron Rodgers are just simply unfair. That said, Sean Clifford again showed why it was straightforward to make him Jordan Love’s backup, at least for now.
The rookie from Penn State got most of the reps during the first preseason game going 20-26 for 208 yards and a touchdown.
He also completed two passes to the other team, and that’s never good. Especially when it’s a pick-six, but Clifford does have a flare for making plays with his feet, and he can read and react after seeing him throw a tracer to Dontayvion Wicks that was good for 47 yards against the Bengals.
It will be interesting to see Clifford in his encore performance, depending on how Jordan Love and the first-team offense does.
Big Bill and the Patriots
If there is anything to be learned from joint practices, tempers can flare anytime.
Wednesday’s workout against New England was pretty tame by most measures, but that was not the case on Thursday, where multiple scuffles had to be broken up between the Patriots defense and the Packers offense.
Why was that? Because New England took it to Green Bay, and in the heat of the battle, skirmishes took place. There were over 150 alpha males doing battle, and almost half of them were fighting for their jobs.
Competition: best and worst in athletes, but overall, I would bet that everyone will look back and say this entire week worked positively for everyone involved. Now it’s time to see someone else shine under the lights at Lambeau Field Saturday night.