Tough decisions loom in Packers’ final week of camp

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BALTIMORE, MD – AUGUST 15: Darrius Shepherd #10 of the Green Bay Packers makes a touchdown catch during the second half of a preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on August 15, 2019 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images)

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The Packers have reached the final week of training camp, and as always tough decisions loom with roster cuts coming.

The first moves have already been made. Safety Josh Jones was released on Sunday. The 2017 second round pick out of North Carolina State reportedly requested a trade during the offseason, and missed workouts and optional team activities.

Jones was present for mandatory minicamp and the start of training camp as well. Over the past week Jones watched from the sidelines, and the Packers used the non-football illness designation when they parted ways with the safety.

In corresponding roster moves Green Bay signed a pair of rookies, outside linebacker James Folston and cornerback Jocquez Kalili. They also claimed inside linebacker Nicholas Grigsby off waivers from the Ravens, according to a report by ESPN.

As for the rest of the roster, getting back on the field is key ahead of cuts. Fullback Danny Vitale returned to practice on Sunday after missing time due to a calf injury.

“It felt great. Just trying to work myself back in. Slowly kind of get back into the mix of things. It’s been going good. So, I think I’ll definitely be ready to go,” said Danny Vitale.

“I think just showing them I’m back to where I was. The level I was playing at right before the injury. I’d love to do that and get the opportunity to do that.”

There were a total of 15 players missing from practice on Sunday for a variety of reasons.

  • David Bakhtiari
  • Jimmy Graham (finger)
  • Allen Lazard (concussion protocol)
  • Equaineous St. Brown (ankle)
  • Rashan Gary
  • Reggie Gilbert (knee)
  • Curtis Bolton (knee)
  • Cole Madison
  • Kevin King (hamstring)
  • Mike Tylson
  • Ibraheim Campbell (knee)
  • Oren Burks (pectoral)
  • Malcolm Jenkins
  • Kabion Ento (hamstring)
  • Greg Roberts (abdomen)

The competition at the inside linebackers position has in a way become survival of the fittest. Curtis Bolton, a rookie out of Oklahoma, saw plenty of reps with the first string in Oren Burks’ absence.

Bolton left last Thursday’s game against the Raiders early due to a knee injury. He told reporters on Sunday he did not suffer a torn ACL and doctors are still reviewing scans of his knee. Possibly leaving the door open for Bolton to make the final cut.

“Any time you put in that much work for something and you start seeing things swing your way, and then it’s something that you can’t control happens. I got rolled up on and left the game. I have no idea if I’m going to be back soon or not. So, of course it’s frustrating going through that. I have faith in my resiliance, and I have faith in the lord. I’m right where I need to be,” said Curtis Bolton.

“I think so, but for the past three years now I’ve kind of gotten new guys in there every other play. It’s a thing I’ve kind of worked into my training, understanding what every guy needs to do. Whether we’re in base, nickel, dime, whatever kind of personnel we’re in that I can help those guys get aligned. I pride myself in being able to help them,” said Blake Martinez.

One of the toughest decisions to come for general manager Brian Gutekunst will be at the wide receiver position. That of course includes how many wide outs to keep, and which ones will stay.

Last year the Packers stuck with seven receivers out of camp. That means someone from the group of Trevor Davis, Jake Kumerow, J’Mon Moore, Darrius Shepherd, and Allen Lazard will be shown the door come Saturday.

Kumerow was the star of training camp last year and found his way on the 53-man roster. This year he’s put together another solid camp, and had a touchdown against Oakland.

Despite all of that Kumerow knows that nothing is guaranteed in the final week.

“Including myself, that nobody is safe out here. To the group, you’ve got to take it a day at a time, and just expect the worst and hope for the best so there’s no surprises,” said Jake Kumerow.

Kumerow also pointed to how important special teams means for those on the bubble. That will be key at the wide receiver position with players like Davis and Shepherd fighting for time as the Packers return man. It also includes players like Kumerow, Moore, and Lazard who can make an impact on special teams in other ways.

“You’ve just got to keep doing what you’ve been doing. You can’t let anything change. Just because it’s the last week of the preseason doesn’t mean you get to come in here after practice and go easy. So you’ve got to come in here and go hard, and go out there compete every day,” said Kumerow.

Who throws the ball to the wide receivers on the second team is also something to watch in the final week. Quarterback Tim Boyle got the start against Oakland for the first time.

“Yeah that was nice, especially in the first half we were definitely getting the ball moving. I think the important thing was the run game, we got the run game going, but you know took the shots when they were there. We were able to move the ball, but you know three scores in the first half is definitely good,” said Tim Boyle.

Boyle threw for 191 yards and two touchdowns against the Raiders. His best performance of the preseason.

“The plays that were there to be made, he made an that was encouraging. The operation was solid. There was one play in particular that you know I kind of got them all messed up. Called it one way, flipped the play. He did a good job of communicating to our other 10 guys on the field and made the play work. It was a good job by him of making it right, even though it wasn’t perfect,” said head coach Matt LaFleur.

In the end though Deshone Kizer will get a chance to show what he can do against the Chiefs. So far in 2019 the back-up quarterback has thrown for 192 yards and a touchdown, but saw his opportunities limited in the last game.

Only time will tell how that position battle, and others around the roster shake out in the final week.

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