The Green Bay Packers will cut their roster to 53 players on Saturday. Usually, their initial 53 isn’t the 53 they take into Week 1 but given the COVID-19 protocols for adding players, this could be the roster they bring to Minnesota for the season opener against the Vikings on Sept. 13.
Boyle has been fantastic throughout training camp, meaning the Packers won’t even need Love to be their backup. Meanwhile, Love has looked like a rookie who had no in-person offseason program and a truncated training camp.
For a little bit on Saturday morning, it felt like things were a little bit more back to normal. The Green Bay Packers were back on the practice field, working for the first time in training camp.
To be sure, this is no normal training camp. There are no bicycle rides with fans, and no fans in the seats surrounding Ray Nitschke Field. But there were media present at the opening practice, giving fans a secondhand look at the first on-field work for the 2020 season.
There were a few notable storylines to come out of the first practice, most notably on the right side of the offensive line. For the first team reps of practice, the Packers rolled out a new look on that side of the line with Lane Taylor at right guard and Billy Turner at tackle. After a few plays, Turner then shifted inside to guard with new Packer Rick Wagner lining up on the outside at tackle.
This is a clear sign that head coach Matt LaFleur is serious about fostering competition at those two positions, and he confirmed that in his post-practice Zoom press conference. LaFleur said that it would be a “daily competition” between the three players at those two spots. All three of those players have been solid starters for lengthy stretches at times over their careers, and the Packers appear to be looking for the best combination up front. Turner’s versatility — his ability to play both the guard and tackle spots — appears to be the X-factor here, and it’s possible that whichever position he plays at a higher level might be his landing spot for week one.
Meanwhile, the Packers seem to have a new role for return specialist Tyler Ervin. Ervin has spent his entire professional and collegiate football careers as a running back, but his speed and quickness caught LaFleur’s eye last season. The Packers used Ervin as a downfield receiver a handful of times late in 2019, particularly on wheel routes, while also getting him involved with some jet sweeps.
Now, Ervin appears to be getting a different positional designation. Instead of working with the running backs, Ervin spent the opening practice of the year among the wide receivers, where he brings a very different build and skill set to that of the majority of that group. The 5-foot-10, 192-pound Ervin has a similar build to Randall Cobb, suggesting a potential role as a slot receiver in 2020. Ervin’s 4.41-second speed also brings a different dimension , as only one other receiver on the Packers’ roster — Marquez Valdes-Scantling — ran a faster 40 at the NFL Combine.
Additionally, the Packers got kicker Mason Crosby back at practice. He had spent the early part of training camp on the reserve/COVID-19 list, but after practice the transaction report revealed that the team activated him. Crosby participated in practice and went 8-for-9 on his first field goal session of the summer. Reserve tackle John Leglue was the long snapper, however, with Hunter Bradley still on the COVID list.
Finally, we at APC would be remiss if we did not mention this absurd photo of rookie running back AJ Dillon. Saquon Barkley who?
“Aaron is a pro, and he’s the leader of our football team, and I anticipate that for a really long time,” LaFleur said Saturday after the draft concluded. “I have so much respect for him not only as a player but the person, and some of the stuff that nobody sees. So I can’t tell you how much I like working with him.”
“We have one of the best to ever lace them up, and we’re shooting for championships for as long as he’s here, and we expect him to be here for quite a while,” Gutekunst said on Saturday.
Rapoport explained that trading up and drafting 21-year-old Love with the No. 26 pick was a calculated decision, not a matter of “opportunity,” as Gutekunst had implied earlier.
“They were adamant about getting a quarterback. It wasn’t just like, ‘oh, Love fell them’ — no,” he said. “This was the Packers just making sure that whatever happened, they got their guy.”
LaFleur added that the team plans to take things “week to week,” but hopes to let his veteran signal-caller play “until he decides he doesn’t want to play anymore.”
It is all setting up for a passing of the torch similar to the one Rodgers was involved in with Brett Favre in 2005.
“The reason that back when we moved from Brett to Aaron was because of what Aaron had done his first three years here, and that’s got to happen with Jordan,” Gutekunst said. “Jordan’s got to learn, he’s got a lot to go. I’m not going to lie, we took him in the first round, if we didn’t like him a lot, we wouldn’t have done that. But again, the importance of that position to our franchise is just something to me that can’t be overlooked.”
Rodgers was drafted in the first round of the 2005 NFL Draft. He played behind Favre for three seasons before squeezing him out of the starting role in 2008, which eventually led to a messy divorce between Favre and the Packers.
“The reason the organization in its entirety has confidence in this is because they’ve seen it before. This is the same thing that happened to Aaron Rodgers,” Rapoport said on Sunday. “[Love is] clearly a developmental quarterback. The skills are there. Everybody unanimously loved how he threw the football, loved the athleticism, loved the potential. He’s just not really going to able to play for a year or two. That’s why he’s so perfect for Green Bay.”
Rodgers has spent all of his 15 NFL seasons with the Packers. He is under contract through 2023, but the team has a potential out after the 2021 season. He carries a dead cap hit of $51.15 million this year, which drops to $31.56 million in 2021, $17.2 million in 2022, and $2.85 million in 2023, according to Spotrac.
“Aaron is by far the best quarterback I’ve ever been around,” LaFleur said. “He is the one that leads us out there. I know he’s going to be a great mentor and I’m excited to get back to work with all these guys.”