The Green Bay Packers’ stars have been bright through the first four games, but some lesser-known players have also been making their presence felt.
The Green Bay Packers are entering their bye week with a record of 4-0 and, once again, look like Super Bowl contenders. Aaron Rodgers has been off to a red hot start, throwing 13 touchdowns and zero interceptions. Likewise, Aaron Jones has spent plenty of time in the endzone, reaching paydirt six times while totaling over 500 yards of offense. On the other side of the ball, Jaire Alexander has been emerging as a bonafide star, while Za’Darius Smith has been making himself right at home on the laps of opposing quarterbacks with five sacks.
While it’s no surprise that the aforementioned Green Bay Packers have been key to the team’s success to this point, there have been a few players that have emerged from under the radar. The roster has seen its fair share of injuries, which has allowed several players to see significant time most weren’t expecting. There has been no shortage of players stepping up and making a play so far this year, but a few have stood out above the rest.
Second-year defensive lineman Kingsley Keke was ready for a breakout season with the, and the absence of Kenny Clark, due to injury, has given him just the opportunity he was needing. After a quiet first week against Minnesota, Kingsley has been making noise. His standout performance came in Week 3 against the New Orleans Saints, in which he had two sacks and a forced fumble. While the Green Bay Packers were hoping Keke would take a step forward throughout this season, it looks as if he made the step early and is poised to take more as the season goes on.
Undrafted rookie free agents making an impact for the Green Bay Packers seems like a story as old as time. Krys Barnes was initially cut by the Packers and signed to the practice squad before Week 1. However, Barnes was called up on game day and hasn’t looked back. Since then, he has been a tackling machine, ranking second on the team in tackles and has made some solid plays in pass defense. With injuries to Christian Kirksey and Kamal Martin, the emergence of Krys Barnes could very well be the difference between this team being undefeated or not.
Speaking of undrafted free agents, Robert Tonyan is starting to show the world what it was the Green Bay Packers’ front office saw him the last couple of years. Tonyan was on many people’s radar coming out of camp this year. However, very few predicted he’d be tied for the league lead in receiving touchdowns at this point in the season. After grabbing a touchdown against the Lions and the Saints, “Big Bob” Tonyan introduced himself to the world on Monday Night Football, securing six catches for 98 yards and three touchdowns. With injuries to Marcedes Lewis and Josiah Deguara, and a slow start from Jace Sternberger, Tonyan is poised to be a steady contributor throughout the season.
With abbreviated training camps and no preseason games, it seems as if injuries are up throughout the league this season. While some teams have been able to go the full seasons without crucial injuries, it’s typically the teams with enough depth to survive and play with a “next man up” mentality that ultimately succeeds.
The Green Bay Packers have had critical injuries to their defensive line, inside linebackers, tight ends, offensive line, and wide receivers through the first four weeks of the season. Yet they have continued to win, in large part, to the emergence of guys like Keke, Barnes, and Tonyan.
While this team has been exciting, scoring at a pace, it’s worth noting that they haven’t played a game with everyone healthy since Week 1. If the young players can continue to play well, it should make for a very dominant Green Bay Packers team when players are able to return from their injuries.