GREEN BAY – Look up and down the stat sheet from the Packers’ Monday night win, and the list of contributions from the team’s youngest players goes on and on.
Receiver Ty Montgomery got his first NFL touchdown catch, running back Alonzo Harris gained 16 yards on his first pro carry, Damarious Randall had three tackles and broke up a pass and Jake Ryan had a tackle on special teams.
And that’s just the rookies.
Throw in two linebackers in second-year pro Jayrone Elliott and former practice-squadder Joe Thomas getting their first NFL sacks, plus Elliott and second-year receiver Jeff Janis recording two special teams tackles each, and Green Bay’s latest victory has the seeds of player development growing all over it.
“Our young players, there’s a reason why they’re on the 53, and there’s a reason why we have the other 10 on the practice squad,” Head Coach Mike McCarthy said on Tuesday. “We’ve always focused on our team as developing the 63. It’s something we’ve done from day one.”
Elliott has made an impact in two straight games now, following his fourth-quarter interception in Week 2. Recalling the player Elliott was in college at Toledo (nine sacks, 14 tackles for loss and five forced fumbles as a senior in 2013) and his five-sack preseason as a rookie last year, McCarthy expressed no surprise at his progress.
Harris was one of the last players to make the 53-man roster out of training camp after a close battle for the No. 3 running back job, while Thomas (pictured) was one of the last to be released before finding his way back to Green Bay after a brief stint on the Cowboys’ practice squad.
McCarthy said this year’s final roster reduction was his and GM Ted Thompson’s most challenging yet, but a young player’s departure from Green Bay isn’t always final, as it turned out with Thomas, who had three total tackles against the Chiefs.
“There was a lot of conversation those last couple days,” McCarthy said of the cut to 53. “I’m just glad Joe’s back. It’s great to have him back.”
On offense, it helps to have a veteran quarterback like Aaron Rodgers to help get young players acclimated as quickly as possible, while McCarthy also credited the coaching staff for digging in as soon as new players arrive in the spring.
“That’s really how we get to this point,” he said. “We’re going to need a lot of guys again this week.”
One spot to watch is tight end, where McCarthy all but ruled out Andrew Quarless (knee sprain) for Week 4. That could create an opportunity for rookie Kennard Backman or Justin Perillo, should he be signed to the active roster from the practice squad.
McCarthy didn’t have any other injury updates following the in-game departures of receiver Davante Adams (ankle), Ryan (hamstring) and defensive end Datone Jones (evaluated for concussion).
Defensive lineman Letroy Guion is eligible to be reinstated to the roster now that he has served his three-game suspension, and McCarthy suggested a roster move would be made later in the week as the team prepares to travel to San Francisco.
“Short week, long trip, it’s going to be hot,” McCarthy said, listing off some of the logistical challenges facing his team this week. “The majority of our football team was here today, getting treatment and getting ready.”