Whenever one does a list of the most important players for the Packers, let's face it, Aaron Rodgers is going to be on it. And probably Jordy Nelson. And Clay Matthews. But sometimes, a player without a substantial role in the game plan makes all the difference on Sunday (or Monday … or Thursday). With that in mind, FOX Sports Wisconsin lists some behind-the-scenes players that could have a large impact on the Packers' success in 2017.
Health of entire offensive line
The backup offensive linemen for the Packers was already short on experience, and that was before Don Barclay was placed on injured reserve. Now, Jason Spriggs has the most playing time of any backup. He's in his second year and appeared in just 238 offensive snaps (21.8 percent) in 2016. Fellow second-year tackle Kyle Murphy is next with eight offensive snaps. Yes, eight. Justin McCray, who has never played in the NFL and last played in the Arena league after leaving Central Florida in 2013, and Lucas Patrick, who spent 2016 on Green Bay's practice squad, are the other backups. So, yeah, injuries are not something wanted to be seen along that offensive front five (such as Bryan Bulaga and his ankle).
USA TODAY SportsBrett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
WR Trevor Davis
Davis outlasted several others in training camp, including a couple of late draft picks, mainly to his ability on special teams. Namely, punt return. While Randall Cobb began camp listed as the No. 1 punt returner, Davis is the one at the top of the depth chart entering the regular season. He definitely flashed in the preseason, averaging 24.4 yards on five returns. No one expects Davis to keep up (the NFL record is 21.5 yards/return and one has had better than 18.7 in five years), but if he can help flip the field for Green Bay and keep them out of bad field position, and perhaps take one to the house, he could really make a big impact on the team even if he never has a reception.
RB Ty Montgomery
OK, so maybe Montgomery doesn't qualify as an under-the-radar type player. However, if Montgomery isn't the running back the Packers think he can be and/or he can't handle blocking assignments (something he needed to work on), Green Bay will have to rely on untested rookies. And while no one mind Aaron Rodgers passing the ball, the Packers don't want to be a one-dimensional offense. Montgomery thriving in his new role is key.
USA TODAY SportsJim Matthews
P Justin Vogel
We've mentioned Vogel before because it’s not often you have an undrafted rookie as the only punter in training camp. But Vogel did well in the preseason, with decent hangtimes and a 45.7-yard average on 24 punts, with only one touchback. That's all well and good, but now the game's count and there aren't 90 players on the opposing team, most of which will never play in an NFL game. The bright lights are on. Let's see if Vogel can keep it up under real conditions.
LB Jake Ryan
In his two years at inside linebacker Ryan has been … adequate. He's put up some numbers (87 tackles in 2016) and is a good run defender, but has been sketchy in pass defense. The Packers have used Clay Matthews inside the past couple of seasons but would like to avoid that in 2017. Heck, Matthews would like to avoid that. Backup Joe Thomas is a fine backup, but not someone you want starting for a long stretch. Green Bay could slide more safeties into a hybrid linebacker role as well … but then what's the point of playing Ryan? Many players experience a nice jump in production in their third year in the NFL, so perhaps this is also in store for Ryan. Or could it be the beginning of the end?