Welcome to Rookie Report – a weekly article keeping you up to date with everything that’s going on with the newest class of Green Bay Packers rookies! This weekly series will run throughout the entire season, with new articles every Tuesday.
The Packers selected nine total players in the 2021 NFL Draft along with seven more undrafted free agents who are vying to be the next Krys Barnes and secure a 53-man roster spot this August. We’ll be running through each of the nine draftees individually along with a quick review of the UDFAs at the end. Without further ado, let’s get going:
CB Eric Stokes
Stokes received what can only be described as a trial by fire in his first week of training camp. Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams baptized the 22 year old with more than his fair share of “Welcome to the league, Rook” moments as the two veterans were firing on all cylinders all week long.
To the surprise of nobody, Kevin King was out for Week 1 of camp, nursing a hamstring injury. This gave Stokes the opportunity to start at outside CB for the first team.
While Jaire Alexander took the brunt of the matchups with Adams throughout the week, he battled cramps which kept him sidelined for team drills as a precautionary measure on Friday and Saturday. Joe Barry instead sent Stokes out like a lamb for slaughter versus Davante Adams. No shocker here, Adams beat Stokes for 3 touchdowns over the course of the week.
What can we take away from this? Not much at all. You could put an All-Pro caliber DB on Adams and you’d get a pretty similar outcome. Davante is currently on a level that arguably no Packers receiver in history has ever been on before.
Stokes wasn’t noticeably bad at any stage during his first week. Nor did he stand out as a star in the making. So far, he looks like everything we expected when his name was called in April, a great athlete who should be solid from the jump and could hopefully develop into a Pro Bowl player down the line.
C Josh Myers
Without doubt the strongest start to training camp of anyone in this Packers rookie class goes to the big man from Miamisburg, Ohio.
The Packers have a very versatile offensive line and the injury to David Bakhtiari could result in a lot of moving pieces to kick off this season. One piece that certainly doesn’t seem to be moving though is Josh Myers.
Myers has held down the Center position for every single rep of Minicamp, OTAs and the first week of Training Camp. He’s been steady as a rock there too. Most notably, Myers appears to have all the checks carried out by the Center down pat already.
It is incredible how comfortable Josh Myers looks at center making checks and calls at the line. Training camp 4 and he’s absolutely the guy at center. Impressive start.
— Andy Herman (@AndyHermanNFL) July 31, 2021
In an interview with James Jones, QB Aaron Rodgers was quick to sing the praises of his new center saying, “For a guy to come in as a draft pick, as a rookie, and to be that comfortable, it’s pretty impressive.”
The Packers awesome track record for drafting offensive linemen has taken the tiniest of knocks in the last couple of years but so far Myers looks like he’s perfectly capable of picking up where Corey Linsley left off last season, which is excellent news for every Packers fan.
WR Amari Rodgers
It’s been an eventful week for Amari Rodgers. Not only did he go through his first week of camp but he also witnessed the return of his longtime friend and mentor Randall Cobb to the Green Bay Packers. In his first training camp press conference, Amari described Cobb as “like a big brother.” There were plenty more awesome quotes on this story that I’m sure you’ve already seen.
As cool as that whole situation was in press conferences, Amari Rodgers was completely on his game when he took to the field, proving himself to be a reliable pass catcher, even catching a few compliments from #12 after making plays.
Amari received his share of first team reps despite the crowded receiver room, and he made good use of them too. Matt LaFleur also mixed in some jet motion plays for Rodgers, no doubt we’ll see that plenty of times over the course of the next season.
Rodgers also fulfilled the duties of punt returner during special teams drills, a role he carried out while at Clemson. With Tyler Ervin gone, and no other true returner on the team, I’d say Amari looks set to take that job in year one. Anyone fancy a kickoff returned to the house in his NFL debut? I’m sure his mentor knows a thing or two about that.
G/C Royce Newman
A quiet but consistent start to camp for the Packers first day three pick in the 2021 Draft, Newman has been playing on the 2nd team where he’s demonstrated some impressive run blocking for Dexter Williams & Co.
Royce Newman once again showing off his great first step off the line. Able to seal Jack Heflin and open a hole for Dexter Williams who is having a very nice start to camp.
— Andy Herman (@AndyHermanNFL) July 30, 2021
With the depth the Packers already have along the line, it was going to be difficult for Newman to set the world on fire with the opportunities available to him, but so far, nothing out of the ordinary for the former Ole Miss Rebel.
DT TJ Slaton
So this is getting pretty interesting. One thing that we heard all throughout OTAs and minicamp is that TJ Slaton is a rather large human being. Now at training camp we continue to hear that but along with the additional info that he is rather difficult to move. Slaton is having a terrific start to camp, and no matter what is thrown at him, he continues to clog up running lanes in dominant fashion.
TJ Slaton is a completely immovable object.
— Ross Uglem (@RossUglem) July 29, 2021
He’s had no trouble standing up against double teams, and the way it’s going right now, Slaton has the potential to be a staple of the defensive line on early downs in his rookie season.
A trash can full of dirt is one of the best ways I’ve seen Slaton described. He’s just a mammoth anchor at nose tackle. Obviously it’s early days right now, but fingers crossed the Packers have found a gem in the 5th round of the draft who can come in and make an immediate impact on this ‘all-in’ season.
CB Shemar Jean-Charles
With everything going on this week, it’s understandable that any news on SJC (which is what we’re calling him now) has been very few and far between. What I can tell you is that when Alexander and King were both sitting out of team drills, it was Josh Jackson that filled in alongside Stokes, appearing to be the teams choice at 4th outside cornerback. SJC has only been covering the likes of Bailey Gaither so far at camp.
Of the rookies, I’ve really noticed a quick twitch from DB Shemar Jean-Charles (@AppState_FB). Unique skill set that stands out in a crowded secondary.
— Matt Reynoldson (@Matt_Reynoldson) July 31, 2021
Corner is always one of the trickier positions for getting acclimated as a rookie, as we’re seeing with Stokes right now, so we’ll give Shemar some time and he should make the 53-man roster after cut downs in a few weeks time.
OL Cole Van Lanen
The Green Bay native is undoubtedly one of the fan favorites at camp where the fan population is predominantly locals. Van Lanen got some reps at LT for the 2nd string, the same position he played in college for the Badgers.
The only other mention of Van Lanen this past week was from Josh Myers in his press conference. The two rookie linemen appear to have struck up a nice friendship, with Van Lanen giving Myers a tour around Green Bay during OTAs.
LB Isaiah McDuffie
McDuffie found himself on the non-football injury list to start camp. The former Boston College LB is listed with a hamstring injury. He is the only rookie on the list and Brian Gutekunst has confirmed that none of the players on the list have anything more than minor injuries, which of course is good news. Although I’m sure it’s not the start to his NFL career that McDuffie was hoping for.
RB Kylin Hill
We were all pretty excited and quietly optimistic when the Packers took Kylin Hill with their last pick of the 2021 Draft. Through one week of camp, Hill has done everything he could to further fuel our hype.
He has displayed terrifically elusive running, with his vision and fluidity in space on show every day. Hill has been sufficient catching the ball as well, but it’s the twitch and wiggle in space that has Hill in the drivers seat for RB3 on the roster.
Dexter Williams is somehow still in Green Bay, and to his credit, has had a great start to camp, but this is a battle that will be won and lost in preseason action. Hill will get his time to shine. So to will Dexter, and Patrick Taylor.
I’m excited to see Kylin Hill when the pads come on. #Quick
— Marques Eversoll (@MarquesEversoll) July 28, 2021
Undrafted Free Agents
Many of these players are just looking at a shot to stick on the Packers practice squad, or any practice squad for that matter. Obviously we don’t hear or see much of these guys until preseason games kick off.
The one name we heard a lot through the first week of camp was Bailey Gaither. The former San Diego State wide receiver made a few notable plays including a deep TD reception from Kurt Benkert. But to the surprise of everyone, news emerged on Tuesday morning that the 24 year old Gaither has retired from football. He appeared to be a lock to make the practice squad, but for reasons that have not yet been confirmed, Gaither has left both the roster and the sport this morning.
As for the others, we’ve heard some occasional nice remarks about LB Carlo Kemp. Meanwhile the most well known UDFA of the group, safety Christian Uphoff, hasn’t seen much notable action through the first week.