The Packers are set to open training camp in a few days now. Like any NFL team, Green Bay has several players who are returning from serious injuries that either prematurely ended or even caused them to miss all of the 2020 campaign.
Here is a look at five players set to return from injury this season. Wide receiver Devin Funchess, who opted out of the 2020 season because of the Covid-19 pandemic, is not included on this list even though a broken collarbone ended his 2019 campaign after Week 1.
Here is a discussion of these players, where they are with their injuries and where they fit in to the Packers depth chart entering training camp this season.
5. RB Patrick Taylor
Taylor sat out the 2020 season due to a foot injury that dated back to his college days. The former Memphis star has good size for a running back (6’3”, 223 pounds) and has the best receiving skills of any running back fighting for the RB3 spot in training camp.
Taylor is an undrafted free agent and he has a different skill set than the competition which consists of Dexter Williams and Kylin Hill.
How well Taylor can protect the quarterback may play a key role in whether he makes the roster or the practice squad.
4. G Simon Stepaniak
Stepaniak also missed all his rookie season because of a serious knee injury suffered in college. Stepaniak was selected in the sixth round of the 2020 draft by the Packers out of Indiana last year.
Stepaniak has elite strength and operates well in a phone booth. He must show he can get outside and move in space to make blocks on the second level to excel as an NFL guard.
Stepaniak has a lot of competition at guard. The Packers drafted two other interior linemen in 2020 and three players who can line up at guard in 2021 to go along with veterans Lucas Patrick, Elgton Jenkins and Ben Braden and Jon Runyan, Jr.
3. CB Kabion Ento
Ento is a converted college receiver who showed potential and raw athletic ability in training camp in 2019 before spending 2020 on the injured reserve with a foot injury.
The Packers are deep at cornerback so Ento will have an uphill fight to make the roster in his third year with the organization.
The former Colorado star has good speed but lacks extensive experience at cornerback and needs to show he has good enough technique to contribute on defense at the NFL level.
His speed and ability to contribute on special teams may help earn him a roster spot as he continues to learn how to effectively play corner.
2. TE Josiah Deguara
Head coach Matt LaFleur was excited to add Deguara to the offense last season after the Packers selected him in the third round of the draft, but unfortunately, the former University of Cincinnati star was suffered a knee injury early in the season and was lost for the rest of the year after appearing in only two games.
The Packers view Deguara as a mixture of an H-back, tight end and fullback. He will probably line up in several different places on the field to keep opposing defenses off balance. We still don’t know how often the Packers will look to throw the ball to Deguara, but if he’s healthy and makes progress in his second NFL season, he should be a bigger part of the offense in 2021.
It is not clear whether Deguara will be ready to go 100 percent when training camp opens next week. There are a lot of players fighting for roster spots at tight end and while Deguara’s almost certain to make the final 53 if he’s healthy, other players may get an opportunity to make an impression on the coaching staff if Deguara isn’t ready to participate in full drills when camp opens.
This will be an important camp for Deguara as he hopes to establish himself as an integral part of the Green Bay offense.
1. OT David Bakhtiari
Bakhtiari is the anchor of the Packers offensive line. He has been protecting Aaron Rodgers’ blind side since his rookie year in 2013 and remains one of the best pass-blocking tackles in the NFL today.
Unfortunately, Bakhtiari suffered a major knee injury late last season that required surgery. He was seen at OTAs working on and rehabbing on his own and most observers were pleased with what they saw but participating in solo drills is a long way off from being ready to play in an NFL game.
The Packers are likely to be cautious with Bakhtiari, especially on. They would rather he miss a few games early in the season than have him unavailable long term if he aggravates his knee and needs to return to the IR.
The combination of Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins would give the Packers one of the best left sides in the NFL. Expect Bakhtiari to be a little rusty at first but eventually, he is expected to return to form and make a full recovery.
Bakhtiari’s return is important for the skill level and continuity along the offensive line. He is also a leader in the locker room and an important veteran presence on this team.
You can follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers