GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers are the only team in the NFL with just two running backs on their 53-man roster.
That’s not how general manager Brian Gutekunst looks at it, though. Rather, he sees four running backs among the 69 players on the roster and practice squad.
“I think with the flexibility of the elevations and stuff as we kind of started to break this up, we thought that was probably best for our football team,” Gutekunst said on Wednesday, one day after picking his initial 53. “As we get through this practice squad, having some guys on the practice squad that if we need to bring up, we can. I think also the emergence of Amari Rodgers doing some stuff back there on gameday could help us, as well. We have some flexibility there, so that was part of the decision.”
The dynamic, do-it-all duo of Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon will play huge roles in an offense adapting to life without Davante Adams. With 2021 seventh-rounder Kylin Hill opening the regular season on the physically unable to perform list, the Packers will rely on their practice squad backs, Patrick Taylor and Tyler Goodson, to provide the depth.
New this year, each player can be elevated three times from the practice squad before he must be added to the 53-man roster. That gives the Packers six opportunities to have a third back on the gameday roster. By that point, Hill might be ready to come off PUP following last year’s torn ACL.
“I think with the rules in terms of being able to bring guys up, it gives you some flexibility in terms of your roster and how you want to manage that,” coach Matt LaFleur said before practice. “There was a lot of discussion, and I think it’s going to be ongoing from here throughout the course of the season in terms of what’s best to do. When you have two guys like we have at that position, you feel very fortunate, and we’re excited about the two guys that we got back on the practice squad.”
Taylor, an undrafted free agent in 2020, isn’t flashy but he’s a physical, every-down back. When given an opportunity late last season, he carried 11 times for 53 yards and one touchdown in the finale at Detroit. Goodson, an undrafted free agent in 2022 despite his 4.42 speed and 70 catches in three seasons at Iowa, had a 24-yard touchdown run at Kansas City and a 23-yard catch at San Francisco.
Along with receiver Amari Rodgers, who carried six times for 36 yards in the preseason, the Packers believe they’ve got enough supporting pieces should something happen to Jones or Dillon.
“Having guy like Amari gives you a little bit of flexibility if you get into a bind,” LaFleur said. “That’s still kind of a work in progress. We’ll see where that goes in terms of game-to-game, but we definitely feel like we have some flexibility within our roster.”
A larger emphasis on special teams was a factor, as well. The Packers signed veteran safety Rudy Fordwho led the Eagles in tackles on special teams in 2020. Another backup safety, Dallin Leavitt, led the Raiders in tackles on special teams in 2021. Neither Goodson nor Taylor had established himself on the top kicking-game units.
“I think they’re both guys that are definitely important that could potentially be up and suited up for us on gameday,” LaFleur said of the practice-squad backs. “But I think really a lot of these decisions, which they were very difficult, a lot of this was impacted with special teams. We need to obviously get better in that area and we felt like that was the best route to go for our roster at this moment.”
Scroll to Continue