Green Bay Packers: 5 Players headed for breakout seasons in 2017
If the Green Bay Packers are going to make another deep playoff run in 2017, they’ll need these breakout candidates to kick it into high gear this season.
Despite a lackluster offseason, the Green Bay Packers still have a loaded roster. They may have lost a number of standout players via free agency, but that just means there are now more opportunities for the team’s up-and-coming talent to capitalize.
Speaking of Green Bay’s young talent, there are a number of players who could be headed for big years in 2017. While not all of them have as bright of outlooks as others, I think of a few who have the pieces in place needed to help keep the Packers into the NFL’s “contender” tier.
Let’s keep in mind that most of these players have only been in the league for a year or two. As a result, they’re still honing their skills, growing into their roles and refining the abilities that have held them back up to this point. Whatever the case may be, I see significant improvement in their immediate futures.
Instead of continuing to ramble on, though, let’s take a look at the five Packers I believe will enjoy breakout seasons in 2017. There are no guarantees obviously, but the signs seem to indicate that some serious production/impact play is on the the horizon.
Get your popcorn ready, because these players are primed to put on a show.
5. Damarious Randall, CB
The Packers’ 2015 first-round pick, Damarious Randall looked like a star in the making as a rookie. And then, he suffered a rather ugly sophomore campaign (largely due to injuries) that brought expectations for the young cornerback back down to Earth.
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However, as we head into 2017, it appears things are going in the right direction for Randall. He’s expected to serve in the slot role, which was held by Micah Hyde before he departed for Buffalo this offseason. That’ll be a terrific opportunity for him to carve out a role, proving once again that his future is bright.
Here’s what Mike McCarthy had to say about Randall’s progress (via ESPN’s Rob Demovsky):
Damarious Randall has had an outstanding offseason. He’s played well in the nickel or the ‘Star’ position as we call it.
Now that’s not exactly a guarantee he’s going to have a breakout season. And yet, the signs seem to point in that direction, especially with what he saw from him in Year 1. Randall has the tools to be a quality starter in Green Bay, but needs to refine his technique and build more confidence in his coverage skills.
Randall appears to be healthy heading into training camp. If he can stay that way and continue to hone his abilities in the slot, I see big things on the horizon for the Arizona State product.
4. Geronimo Allison, WR
This makes little sense, right? How is a former undrafted free agent going to break out when he’s slated to be, at best, the Packers’ No. 4 receiver? Well, based on what we saw from Geronimo Allison in 2016, the potential is absolutely there.
Allison may have gone undrafted, but he was a standout talent at Illinois. When injuries forced him into action for the Green Bay offense, he showed well, making several standout plays in limited snaps. He even put together a solid performance during the Packers’ postseason showdown with the Dallas Cowboys.
Chances are injuries are going to be a factor again in 2017. The three receivers projected to land ahead of him on the depth chart aren’t exactly durable, which will likely open a door for Allison at some point. When that time comes, he’ll jump at the chance to provide Aaron Rodgers with a reliable target.
Although he lacks straight-line speed, Allison wins with a big frame and impressive catch radius. He also battled drops during college, but appears to have overcome that issue enough to stick around in the NFL. I’d anticipate him taking another step forward in his development in 2017.
As long as Allison can stay out of trouble (he recently settled a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge, via AP), he should have a breakout season of sorts in Green Bay.
3. Kenny Clark, DT
Big things were expected from Kenny Clark when the Packers spent their 2016 first-round pick on the UCLA defensive tackle. While he wasn’t a disappointment as a rookie, I don’t think he quite lived up to expectations either.
It could be a different story in 2017, though. Clark gave us glimpses of his true potential last season, making a sizable impact through 410 snaps as a rotational defensive tackle. With a big roll on the horizon, this is looking like a breakout season for the sophomore interior presence.
It certainly helps when Clark receives noteworthy praise from his own head coach:
“Kenny Clark may be our most improved second-year guy,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said.
— Rob Demovsky (@RobDemovsky) June 15, 2017
There’s a very good chance Letroy Guion is gone, especially after his latest run-in with the law (via Khon2.com). With him out of the picture, there will be more snaps to go around for the Packers’ defensive tackles. My guess is Clark will absorb a big share of the workload.
Either way, this is going to be an exciting 2017 campaign for Clark. With a full offseason as a starter under his belt, the former Bruin should take his game to the next level. Look for him to step up his production, maybe even notching a sack or two along the way after failing to do so in 2016.
2. Blake Martinez, ILB
If you watched Blake Martinez play at Stanford, it didn’t take long to realize he was something special. While he isn’t an elite athlete or an intimidating enforcer like some inside linebackers, he wins with uncanny instincts, football IQ and a nose for the football.
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That’s why it came as no surprise when Martinez started seeing significant snaps as a rookie. Before his first NFL campaign was over, he had nine starts, 69 tackles, one sack, one interception and four passes defended to his credit. It was an impressive showing, especially for a fourth-round rookie.
Luckily for the Packers, it’s going to get even better in 2017.
Martinez is just scratching the surface of his potential. Now that he has a year of NFL experience, I would anticipate another big step forward being taken by the young linebacker. Although he struggled at times as a rookie, Martinez is a plus run defender who also excels in coverage due to his intelligence and awareness.
With no real competition for one of the two starting jobs, Martinez should again sit atop the depth chart this season. And based on what we saw last year, there’s little reason to assume we won’t see a breakout season from the former Cardinal.
1. Ty Montgomery, RB
Ty Montgomery has been handed a golden opportunity here. The Packers had a hole, he filled it as a temporary solution, and he’s now being given the chance to prove he can be the permanent answer at running back.
That, however, doesn’t mean he won’t be given a run for his money. Green Bay added a handful of rookie running backs this offseason. While I’m confident Aaron Jones will earn snaps during training camp, I’m putting my money on Montgomery taking the opportunity and running with it–both figuratively and literally.
It’s not like Montgomery doesn’t have the natural talent. A former wide receiver with the prototypical mix of size and speed, he also offers the elusiveness and vision needed to make an impact in the ground game. Remember: the Stanford product is a star return man as well, so his skills with finding gaps and blasting his way through them are well polished.
Montgomery will get a push or two during training camp. The Packers will give their rookies several shots to steal carries from the incumbent. However, when all is said and done, the veteran will be the one sitting alone atop the depth chart come Week 1.
When that time comes, sparks will fly. Montgomery has been patiently waiting for his opportunity to shine bright in Green Bay. Well this is it. Don’t think for a moment that he will let it pass him. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him come close to 1,200 total offensive yards this season.