Analyzing Packers’ 2021 rookie class at the bye week

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The Green Bay Packers are 12 games into the 2021 season and currently enjoying the bye week. The stretch before the bye was a grind, but the 12 games provided a terrific look at the rookie class entering the final five games.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the rookie class at the bye week:

CB Eric Stokes

(AP Photo/Jeff Lewis)

Snaps: 623
PFF grade:
58.3

Stokes has lived up to his first-round status. He’s played a ton thanks to injuries to both Jaire Alexander and Kevin King, but he’s rarely looked overwhelmed despite some difficult individual matchups, especially as the defense’s No. 1 corner in several games. According to Pro Football Focus, Stokes has been targeted 68 times but allowed only 35 catches, and opposing quarterbacks have a passer rating of just 82.5 when throwing into his coverage. His speed has proved to be a huge asset, and there’s a confidence and calmness to his game, especially when he’s initially beat. His biggest weakness appears to be finding the ball in the air downfield, but he’s also committed only three penalties, so he’s not panicking. The Packers look like they’ve found a good one in Stokes, who leads the team with 11 passes defended.

C Josh Myers

Snaps: 261
PFF grade: 60.9

Myers won the job as the starting center coming out of training camp and was excellent as a pass protector over his first five games. Availability has been the problem. He missed a game with a finger injury and then went down with a knee injury that required surgery, limiting him to just 261 snaps. The Packers are still hoping to get him back at some point this season. He looks like a long-term starter at center.

WR Amari Rodgers

(AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)

Snaps: 62
PFF grade: 65.1

Rodgers has gained 51 yards on four touches on offense, including an 11-yard run. Opportunities have been limited, and he’s been a decoy on the majority of his offensive snaps. Maybe Matt LaFleur will get him more involved after the bye, especially if Randall Cobb misses games with a groin injury. The Packers have used him as the primary punt returner all season, but he’s really struggled in the role, fumbling twice and averaging just 6.6 yards per return. Rodgers has also assumed the kick returner job, but his four returns have produced just 41 yards, with a long return of just 14 yards. His lack of decisiveness and explosiveness as a returner has been disappointing. He also had a drop on a target in Arizona.

RG Royce Newman

(AP Photo/Peter Aiken)

Snaps: 787
PFF grade: 50.3

Newman has started all 12 games at right guard. There have been issues blocking in the run and pass game, but the Packers are hoping he becomes more consistent with experience. He’s allowed 25 total pressures and a team-high five sacks, per Pro Football Focus. He’s also committed five penalties, and his struggles against interior defenders have been part of the reason why the run game has sometimes stalled out. The Packers still see a high-potential player with room to grow as a starter. With Elgton Jenkins out for the season, Newman will be a likely starter even when David Bakhtiari returns.

DL TJ Slaton

(AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

Snaps: 145
PFF grade: 52.1

Slaton has certainly flashed ability as an interior disruptor. He can beat single blocks and blow up plays both as a run defender and pass-rusher, but he’s still developing the down-to-down consistency needed to survive along the defensive line. The Packers did play him on 45 snaps in Kansas City and he held his own just fine. Slaton also blocked a field goal against the Steelers and produced three hurries in a game against the Seahawks. He appears to have starting-level ability if he continues to develop, especially against the run. His size and athleticism combo is rare.

CB Shemar Jean-Charles

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Snaps: 23
PFF grade: 46.9

Jean-Charles has hardly played on defense, but the Packers have made him active in 10 straight games because he’s developed into a key member of the special teams. Overall, the rookie has played almost 150 total snaps on special teams, mostly covering kick returns, blocking on punt returns and on the field goal block team. According to Pro Football Focus, he has two tackles and three missed tackles on special teams. Jean-Charles is fifth on the team in total special teams snaps. Playing a lot in the third phase is a great way for a young player to buy himself time to develop at a tough position like cornerback.

OL Cole Van Lanen

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Snaps: 0
PFF grade: N/A

Van Lanen was released during final roster cutdowns but immediately signed back to the Packers practice squad, where he’s remained all season. The Packers have not elevated him to the gameday roster. Van Lanen played both right tackle and left guard during the preseason, and the team is still trying to figure out his best position moving forward.

LB Isaiah McDuffie

Green Bay Packers linebacker Isaiah McDuffie.

Snaps: 0 (defense)
PFF grade: N/A

McDuffie hasn’t played a snap on defense, but he’s been on the field in nine games as a special teamer. Over 113 special teams snaps, he has two assisted tackles and two penalties. The majority of his snaps have come on kickoff return and kickoff cover.

RB Kylin Hill

(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Snaps: 26
PFF grade: 55.4

Hill won the job as the primary kickoff return to open the season and also saw action on offense in four games before suffering a season-ending knee injury in Week 8. His 11 touches on offense gained 29 yards. He also returned 10 kickoffs for 199 yards, with a long of 41. The Packers love his explosiveness and versatility and see big things in his future, both as a returner and running back. He’ll return at some point in 2022.

DL Jack Heflin

(AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)

Snaps: 13
PFF grade: 47.3

He’s been active in only three games. The undrafted rookie played a season-high 10 snaps against the Chiefs, tallying one assisted tackle. Barring an injury up front on defense, he’ll continue to learn and develop from the sideline.

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