Packers Season Snap Counts: Rookies shouldered a brunt of the load
The Green Bay Packers used the 2018 NFL draft in large part to bolster a weakened defense and add some depth to their wide receiver position.
The Packers used their first three picks on defense — the first two on cornerbacks — and on Day 3 selected three wide receivers.
Top pick Jaire Alexander ended up playing the third-most snaps on defense, 760 (71.43 percent). But keep in mind the rookie cornerback missed three games and exited his final game in Week 15 after playing only one-third of the snaps. Alexander played every snap from Week 8-14 with the exception of one game, against Miami in Week 9 when he was in on 86.8 percent of the plays. Alexander finished second on the team in tackles with 66 and led in passes defensed with 11.
Second-round pick Josh Jackson was sixth in defensive snaps, but only played every snap in a game one time — against the Dolphins. Playing in all 16 games, Jackson finished sixth on the team in tackles while ending up second in passes defensed, with 10.
On the flip side, third-round pick Oren Burks was supposed to be a part of Green Bay’s linebacker rotation, however he had more than double the amount of special teams snaps than on defense (254 to 122). Injuries slowed Burks’ start to the season, but in Weeks 4-6 he played 20, 25 and 28 snaps on defense. Thereafter, the linebacker out of Vanderbilt had double-digit snaps on defense just once (15 in Week 8 at New England) and four times didn’t even see the field with that unit.
On offense, Green Bay’s trio of rookie wide receivers were supposed to just provide depth … and then that depth was needed. With Geronimo Allison (241 snaps, 22.44 percent) and Randall Cobb (466, 43.39 percent) suffering injuries, the newcomers had to be called on.
Surprisingly, the top pick among the three — fourth-round pick J’Mon Moore — played the least, by far. Moore got some early playing time receiving a combined 42 snaps on offense in Weeks 4-6, but had just 74 offensive snaps on the season (16 of those coming in the regular-season finale).
Instead it was fifth-round pick Marquez Valdes-Scantling, chosen 39 picks after Moore, who had the second-most offensive snaps among the wide receivers (691, 64.34 percent). His 38 catches tied for third-highest on the Packers while his 581 receiving yards were third. Valdes-Scantling averaged 15.3 yards per catch, second on the team among those with at least five receptions.
First on that list was sixth-round pick Equanimeous St. Brown at 15.6 yards per catch. Despite missing four games, the rookie from Notre Dame appeared in one-third of Green Bay’s offensive plays this season. He had 21 receptions for 328 yards.
Other notes from the 2018 season’s snap counts:
— For the second straight season, center Corey Linsley was the only Packer to appear in every snap, either on offense or defense.
— The Packers made two big splashes in free agency in the offseason. Tight end Jimmy Graham played 795 offensive snaps (74.02 percent). He had just 55 catches — his lowest total since his rookie season in 2010 — for 636 yards while tying a career-low with two touchdowns. Defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson was injured early in the season and appeared in just 115 defensive snaps (10.81 percent).
— Besides the rookies mentioned above, two other first-year players got a lot of playing time late in the season. Defensive tackle Tyler Lancaster, an undrafted free agent, played in at least half the defensive snaps in every game but one over the final five games. Overall, Lancaster played in 25.47 percent of Green Bay’s defensive snaps on the season and had 25 tackles (or, two more than Burks). Wide receiver Jake Kumerow played in 11 snaps combined on offense in Weeks 13 and 14, then 21 (30.9 percent) at Chicago in Week 15, 57 (63.3 percent) at the New York Jets in Week 16 and 47 snaps (83.9 percent) in the final game vs. Detroit. Kumerow finished with eight catches on 11 targets for 103 yards and a TD.
— 35-year-old cornerback/safety Tramon Williams led the defense in snaps. This was probably not ideal.
— Linebacker Antonio Morrison was acquired from Indianapolis for defensive back Lenzy Pipkins. Morrison played in 299 defensive snaps (28.10 percent). Pipkins played in just one game for the Colts before being waived and claimed by Detroit.
— Sidelined by injuries again, last year’s top pick (in the second round) cornerback Kevin King played in just six games and had 304 defensive snaps (28.57 percent).