Packers Quarter-Season Player Review: Rookies

Through 4 weeks and 4 regular-season games, the Green Bay Packers sat at 2-2 and their rookies have varied in how well they’ve played, in total and on a week-by-week basis. This is a breakdown of their playstyle, statistics, improvement, and potential future after the first quarter of their first season in the league.

QB Bryce Young

Young hasn’t been what he was in the preseason. Facing better opponents, not to mention the starters, and having more pressure has led to more turnovers, a lower completion percentage, and just overall poor play and decision making. The biggest positive is his progression game by game, he has gotten better each week, and the rate he’s improving he can be the franchise guy the Packers thought he was by as early as week 8. He needs to learn Green Bay’s offense and play to its strengths, using their weapons like Aaron Jones and Davante Adams and then utilizing his other options when the attention is shifted to those bigger names. Whichever way you want to look at it, 3 passing touchdowns to 9 interceptions in 4 games is extremely bad but in the second two games is when he got all 3 of those and only had 2 picks in those games so the turnaround has been rapid. His completion percentage has also improved in recent weeks and now sits at 59.1% which is still not great along with his 935 yards through the air putting him currently on pace to finish close to 4000 yards as a rookie. His contribution on the ground isn’t as touchdown heavy as it was in the preseason but Young is still utilizing his legs as he’s gained 115 rushing yards on 16 carries for an average yards per carry of 7.2. Overall, not the hot start the Packers thought they saw coming, but an up-and-coming talent at the quarterback position that can lead Green Bay to the playoffs if he continues on the path of progression he currently has.

WR Treylon Burks

Being the third wide receiver on the depth chart is not a very flashy position to be in, especially when trying to prove yourself as a young rookie but Burks has made the most of his chances. With no real opportunity to jump up in the depth chart as he learns from Davante Adams and Tyler Boyd, the rookie out of Arkansas has shown flashes of being a quality receiver that helps Bryce Young be successful. Burks has tallied 7 receptions for 87 yards for an average of 12.4 yards per reception. He also hauled in his first career NFL touchdown in the Packers’ week 4 home game against the Kansas City Chiefs where he turned on the burners and beat the safety overtop for a pretty nice 28-yard touchdown. Treylon Burks has done his job and been what Green Bay wanted so far, but if he wants to make a name for himself and move up in the depth chart, he’ll have to become a superstar or he’ll stay where he is barring an injury to a starter.

TE Michael Mayer

The current starting tight end, Mayer has enjoyed a solid start to the season for a rookie tight end in a Packers offense that doesn’t feature targeting tight ends often. He’s been an anchor when blocking on stretch runs and a big target on 3rd down and short-yardage situations as he has a big catch radius able to haul in most throws remotely close to him. With the addition of their two rookie tight ends, Green Bay has experimented with more two-tight end sets to get them both involved in the passing game while evaluating their run blocking. Mayer is yet to score a touchdown but he’s definitely been a factor for this young, developing offense and while his starting job may be in jeopardy, his skill is not in doubt. So far he’s racked up 13 receptions for 157 yards for an average of 12.1 yards per reception and he’s blocked extremely well. He’s a fundamental player but probably doesn’t have the room for growth like others around him because of his limited athleticism.

TE Malcolm Epps

The current backup tight end who’s seen good playing time and is more of a wildcard, Epps has come back from his preseason injury and picked up right where he left off, being an actual threat in the passing game and using his athleticism to make big plays when he gets the chance. He’s an inch taller than fellow rookie Michael Mayer and a whole lot faster, Epps doesn’t block nearly as well but is a much better route runner and playmaker for this Green Bay offense that wants to pick up the pace and make a bigger splash. Even as the second-string tight end, he’s been able to haul in 4 receptions for 59 yards for an average yards per reception of 14.8 but he too has not found the endzone yet. Even with his more raw style of play, the Packers love what Epps has brought to the table and he has a good chance of taking over the starting role with his versatility, and then the coaching staff will just have to work on his blocking. Watch out for this rookie as the season continues.

CB Tyreke Johnson

An early potential candidate for defensive rookie of the year in the NFC, Tyreke Johnson has been an immediate upgrade over Kevin King in his first four games for the Packers. Playing across from the incredible lockdown corner Jaire Alexander definitely can boost a player’s performance, especially a developing rookie, but Johnson’s play on the field has been nothing short of outstanding. In his first 4 games after Green bay took him fourth overall, he has put up 14 tackles,1 tackle for loss, 1 fumble recovery, 3 interceptions, 2 of those picks he returned for touchdowns, and a league-leading 7 pass deflections. Absolutely incredible for any cornerback let alone a rookie. He has lived up to his hype as the best defensive back of this draft class and is a lockdown corner that the Packers are glad to have. He has lightning-fast reflexes and the football IQ to back it up along with an eye and nose for the football. Watch out for Tyreke Johnson as he can make a play at any time with his great coverage ability and athleticism.

SS Lannden Zanders

The wildcard, the Troy Polamalu lookalike and play-alike, The late-round draft pick who’s earned real reps after being a preseason stud has obviously not had that same huge impact as he did when playing the majority of snaps in the preseason but he’s still been great for Green Bay. A steal out of Clemson in the later rounds, Zanders has made the most of his playing time where he only sees snaps in the big nickel formation. He’s recorded tackles, 1 sack, 1 interception, and 1 pass deflection from that position. He plays equally well against the run and pass and is still decently fast and agile despite his strength. There isn’t all that much to say as there is a lot that hasn’t been seen from him but the Packers have loved everything they have seen so far. It’s safe to say Zanders can be a gamechanger if he continues to develop well and his time on the field making plays is sure to rise as he gains experience and puts more people on notice.