Top roster battles to watch as Packers open training camp

Training camp is almost here for Matt LaFleur and the Green Bay Packers.

Rookies report on Friday, veterans report next Tuesday and the first practice is set for next Wednesday. Football is almost back, and camp means nothing if not competition.

Here’s a breakdown of the best roster and depth chart battles likely to play out during training camp in Green Bay:

No. 3 running back

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

If Kylin Hill (ACL) is healthy for camp, this roster battle will come down to Hill, an explosive 2021 draft pick vs. Patrick Taylor, who scored a touchdown in the season finale last year. If Hill isn’t ready and needs to start the season on the PUP list, Taylor would become the front runner against undrafted rookies BJ Baylor and Tyler Goodson. There’s also a chance the Packers would keep four here, especially if one can provide special teams value. The Packers want to feature Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon, so having strong depth here is important. As always, joint practices and preseason games will be huge for figuring out the depth chart at running back. The team needs to see on-field vision and tackle-breaking ability against live opponents.

Everything wide receiver

(AP Photo/Matt Ludtke)

There’s a good chance that veterans Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb and Sammy Watkins are locked in as the top three receivers to start the year, and rookies Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs will both make the team. Wide receiver looks like a position that is unsettled in terms of play time and targets but mostly settled in terms of who is going to be on the roster. There are still question marks that need answers this summer. Is Amari Rodgers a lock after a disappointing rookie season? Can seventh-round pick Samori Toure surprise and force his way onto the team? Are Juwann Winfree or Malik Taylor capable of taking a big jump and incentivizing the team to keep more than six? Watson and Doubs could be starters if Watkins suffers another injury or isn’t good enough during camp.

Backup at outside linebacker

(AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

The Packers have veteran Preston Smith and ascending star Rashan Gary locked in at edge rusher, but everything behind them is a question mark. Jonathan Garvin, Tipa Galeai, Randy Ramsey and Ladarius Hamilton all return with a chance to be a top backup. But are the Packers ready to trust one of them as a starter if Smith or Gary gets hurt? The draft provided some help. But is fifth-round pick Kingsley Enagbare talented enough to be a rotational player right away? He played a lot of good football in the SEC and has some Za’Darius Smith-like qualities. Still, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Packers looked at signing a veteran edge rusher eventually.

No. 2 linebacker

Quay Walker

Who starts next to De’Vondre Campbell? The Packers obviously think Quay Walker has elite talent and will eventually be an impact player, but he’s a rookie learning a new defense and may need time to adjust. Krys Barnes, who has started 23 games the last two seasons, provides legitimate veteran competition. Ideally, Walker impresses during camp and wins the job, relegating Barnes into a valuable backup/special teams role. This might be the only starting job that is up for grabs on the Packers defense entering camp.

Backups at cornerback

The top three are written down in Sharpie. But who backs up Jaire Alexander, Eric Stokes and Rasul Douglas at cornerback, a premium position where depth is critical? Free-agent add Keisean Nixon and 2021 draft pick Shemar Jean-Charles look like the favorites based on the offseason workout program. Kabion Ento is going into his fourth season in Green Bay, so he can’t be discounted here. It’s now or never time for him. Rico Gafford switched back to cornerback, giving him a better chance to make the team. He’s a speedster. The rest of the competition – Kiondre Thomas and rookie Raleigh Texada – needs to have a big summer to have a chance. Maybe Gutekunst finds a trade partner for some help here later in this summer.

Backups at safety

Shawn Davis (30) is shown during Green Bay Packers minicamp Tuesday, June 7, 2022 in Green Bay, Wis.

Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage will start. The other two or three spots are very much up for grabs during camp. Vernon Scott, Shawn Davis, Innis Gaines and rookies Tariq Carpenter and Tre Sterling will all compete for the coveted roster spots behind the starters. Davis, a fifth-round pick of the Colts a year ago, looked like the early favorite this spring, but Scott and Gaines are right there, and Carpenter is probably a good bet considering his size, athleticism and hybrid position potential. Like cornerback, this is a spot where the Packers could add outside help if the depth doesn’t develop right during camp.


(AP Photo/AJ Mast)

Can veteran Mason Crosby bounce back from a disappointing 2021 season and beat out rookie Gabe Brkic, who made a nation-high five kicks over 50 yards at Oklahoma last season? Brkic has legitimate talent. But is he mentally tough enough to take out Crosby, the franchise leader in field goals and points? The Packers, a Super Bowl contender, need a kicker they can count on. Crosby is the better bet over a rookie, but there’s a reason the Packers are holding a competition.

Long snapper

It’s Steven Wirtel, the incumbent, against Jack Coco, the rookie challenger. Wirtel replaced Hunter Bradley last season but was too consistent. Coco snapped for several years at Georgia Tech but has never done it at the NFL level. Expect both to get plenty of chances this summer. If neither is good enough, the Packers will need to find one off the scrap pile before the start of the regular season.

Others to watch

Defensive line: If the Packers keep six, will it be Jonathan Ford or Jack Heflin? The top five look solid. Both Ford and Heflin are run-stuffing role players.

Offensive line: Finding depth is the key here. Jake Hanson, Cole Van Lanen and Rasheed Walker, three recent draft picks, could be battling for one spot. Where the Packers need depth the most could decide it here.

Tight end: Will a player such as Eli Wolf or Alize Mack push Dominique Dafney for a roster spot?