With training camp quickly approaching in a little over a week, we examine 5 Green Bay Packers who could potentially stake a claim for more playing time starting in training camp. To make this list, a player has to be in the first (1-4) years of their career and not already a starter at their position. Feel free to comment and give your list below.
By: Mark Prott
1.) Quinten Rollins
Admittingly, I’ve been on the Rollins Bandwagon ever since I heard his name called in the 2nd round on draft day 2015. His story and background are fascinating. From playing point guard for 4 years at Miami (Ohio) to being named the Mid-American Conference Defensive Player of the Year in 2014, his lone year of College football. There’s just something about this kid that screams future impact player. The ball skills and instincts to be in the right place at the right time were evident early on as a rookie. The coaching he’s receiving from Cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt is likely second to none in the NFL leading me to believe Packers fans are in store for an exciting 2nd year jump from Rollins. Expect him to challenge fellow 2nd year Damarious Randall for a starting outside cornerback job opposite Sam Shields but ultimately I believe Rollins will be the starting Nickel week one in the slot, where the Packers can get him closer to the ball and his play making ability can truly shine.
2.) Datone Jones
With only 8 sacks in his 3 year career with the Packers, the 2013 first round pick Datone Jones might qualify as a disappointment to many Packers fans. But let’s hold on because there’s still a glimmer of hope. It’s been well documented that the Packers plan to move Jones from defensive line to the elephant outside linebacker position, occupied by Julius Peppers and formerly unsigned free agent Mike Neal. I think it might be just what the doctor ordered. A similar move helped Mike Neal become a consistent contributor on defense after a slow start to his career. To prepare for the full time move Jones has cut fat and added speed according to an interview with Wes Hodkiewicz on packers.com. Jones just never seemed suited to play in the line full time and with a contract on the line I expect more impact plays with him on the edge where he can display his size, length and athleticism.
3.) Aaron Ripkowski
While local media provided conflicting reports about the Packers’ plans on whether or not to bring back John Kuhn, I am of the belief the Packers are moving forward without the long time fan favorite. In effect 2nd year full back Aaron Ripkowski served a year apprenticeship under Kuhn and his tutelage. Listed by the Packers at 6-1 246 and known as a blocker coming out of Oklahoma, Ripkowski offers the running game more pop and power. While currently listed atop the depth chart at fullback, he can’t be penciled in as the starter yet. John Kuhn is out there if Ripkowski shows he’s not ready. And many teams are getting away from the fullback altogether. However, Mike McCarthy loves the fullback in his offense and the eye test says Eddie Lacy is at his best with a lead blocker in front of him. He also looked comfortable with the ball in his hands, running over Carolina Panthers like a Mack truck in this video.
4.) Jeff Janis
The People’s Champ. Jokes aside, all Packers fans know that Jeff Janis is the most gifted receiver on the Packers depth chart when evaluating size/speed ratios. Mike McCarthy hinted that the Packers need more big targets to make plays in the middle of the field. Look no further than the Arizona Cardinals playoff game. Call it a fluke if you want but what I saw was a freak wide receiver out jumping possibly the best corner in the game with the game on the line and coming up with the ball. With the top two spots locked down, it would seem the number 3 and 4 spots are up for grabs. Davante Adams is likely the front runner but after a bad 2015 he doesn’t have anything locked up. Ty Montgomery’s status is still up in the air after coming off a bad ankle injury meaning significant playing time is still to be determined. Janis needs to work on route running but if he finally gets the playbook down and earns A-rod’s trust, watch out.
5.) Christian Ringo
Okay, I know this is a bit of a shot in the dark but hear me out on this Packers fans. First and foremost the 2nd year defensive lineman Ringo has already earned the respect of his teammates with All-Pro guard Josh Sitton describing him as a “good player” who is “young and full of energy.” Packers linebacker Jayrone Elliot also describes Ringo as the “captain of the scout team” in an interview with Michael Cohen of the Journal Sentinel. Despite being on the Packers practice squad in 2015, the team raised his weekly salary in November to the rookie minimum for fear of losing him to another team’s 53. And then there’s the obvious Mike Daniels comparisons. Coach Mike McCarthy started the comparison with Daniels shortly after Ringo was drafted in regards to their similarities. The size/structure of both players are similar. Ringo is listed 6-1 298 while Daniels is 6-0 310. Both players are known for their quick twitch and explosive first step. I’m not here to say Ringo is the next Daniels but the talent is intriguing. With Mike Pennel scheduled to be suspended 4 games to start the year, reserve snaps on the defensive line are likely up for grabs and Ringo should be in the mix. Oh and did I mention, this guy saves lives too!