Shark Bites

Packers RB Aaron Jones returned to the field Saturday, according to beat writer Jason Wilde. Jones missed about a week with hamstring trouble, but the fact that he's back at this still early stage in the preseason leaves us unworried. We'll see if Jones can avoid recurrences of an issue that also cost him time last summer. He jumped right back in with the 1st team upon his return.

Packers RB Aaron Jones has been sidelined for almost a week now with what was originally described as hamstring "tightness." We haven't heard anything on the issue since. Jones missed a couple weeks of camp with a hammy issue last summer and has suffered 3 MCL injuries — 2 to the right knee, 1 to the left — over the past 2 seasons. Durability is a fair concern. We'll see when Jones is able to get back on the field.

Packers ST coach Shawn Mennenga said Mason Crosby will battle Sam Ficken for the kicking job, adding “we’ll see who the best man will be.” A calf injury has kept Crosby -- Green Bay's kicker since 2007 -- out of training camp. Ficken, though, is just 3 for 6 on FG attempts through 2 seasons. A healthy Crosby should earn a roster spot, but his current status makes him someone to avoid in early drafts.

Packers RB Aaron Jones focused on improving his pass-catching skills this offseason, working out with high school QBs in his hometown of El Paso, Texas and putting in extra time on the JUGS machine. “I’ve done a lot of work,” Jones said. “I’m confident in my hands. I’m going to continue to work them and be ready for when my number’s called." As good as Jones has been as a runner over the past 2 seasons, he's posted a mediocre 66% catch rate and 6.5 yards per catch. He averaged 9.1 yards per catch at UTEP, though, and expects to be more involved in the passing game in new HC Matt LaFleur's offense.

Packers insider Ryan Wood confirms that Aaron Jones was the team's clear #1 RB this spring. "That's how it's gonna be this fall," Wood adds. This shouldn't come as a surprise after Jones operated as Green Bay's clear lead back over the 2nd half of the season and finished his sophomore campaign with a big 5.5 yards per carry. But it's nice confirmation with a new coaching staff in town. "If he stays healthy, he's gonna have a big year," Wood says of Jones. We agree.

ESPN's Rob Demovsky says minicamp revealed that 2nd-year Packers WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling "is a starter" and "probably is the No. 2 receiver behind [Davante Adams]." MVS has reportedly been in constantly for 2- and 3-WR sets, with Geronimo Allison looking likely to play the slot in 3-wide sets. Adams said, "I think this offense is really catered for a guy like [MVS]." Valdes-Scantling already delivered 6 weeks of top-36 PPR production as a rookie. He could carry upside into WR2 range in 2019.

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers likes what he's seen from WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling this offseason. “I think Marquez has had a fantastic spring and really stepped up as a guy who can be an every-down player," Rodgers said. It's particularly noteworthy after a story from Bleacher Report earlier this offseason mentioned that Rodgers didn't trust MVS last year. Even so, Valdes-Scantling flashed with 15.3 yards per catch as a rookie. He's reportedly been running with the 1st-team offense this offseason and is in the mix to finish 2nd on the 2019 Packers in targets.

The Packers nabbed Notre Dame RB Dexter Williams in the 6th round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Williams’ first 3 years on campus brought just 99 total carries and a 2016 arrest for marijuana possession. Then he was suspended for the first 4 games of last season for an undisclosed violation of team rules. But he flashed over the final 9 contests, averaging 6.3 yards and scoring 12 times on 158 totes. He added 12 catches for 133 yards and another TD. He boosted his stock at the Combine by registering a 70th percentile SPARQ score at 5’11 and 212 pounds. Williams joins a Packers backfield behind Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams.

The Packers added Texas A&M TE Jace Sternberger in the 3rd round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Sternberger bounced from Kansas to Northeastern Oklahoma A&M before finally arriving at A&M this past year. His lone season as an Aggie was a big one. Sternberger led his team with 48 catches, 832 yards and 10 TDs, averaging a massive 17.3 yards per catch. He ranked 8th in this TE class in yards per route run and earned Pro Football Focus’ highest receiving grade among TEs in 2018. Sternberger disappointed at the Combine with a 22nd percentile SPARQ score. But the 6’4, 251-pounder looks much more athletic than that on tape. He drew a Travis Kelce comparison from the great Greg Cosell. Sternberger will open his career behind Jimmy Graham in Green Bay but could emerge as the Packers’ lead pass-catching TE as early as 2020.

Check out Jace Sternberger's scouting report.

The Packers traded up in the 1st round of the NFL Draft to select Maryland DB Darnell Savage. Listed as a safety, Savage figures to play there primarily but has also been lauded for his ability to cover receivers in the slot. He profiles as an upside IDP option, albeit at 1 of fantasy's most fungible positions.

The Packers spent the 12th pick of the NFL Draft on OLB Rashan Gary. The Michigan product tallied just 9.5 total sacks across 3 seasons with the Wolverines and managed only 23 total tackles for loss. He tested wonderfully at the Scouting Combine, including the 2nd-best speed score among edge players. Gary will be blocked on the edge in Green Bay early, after the Packers signed both Preston Smith and Za'Darius Smith in free agency. It's hard to like Gary's IDP outlook.

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers revealed this week that he suffered a tibial plateau fracture and MCL sprain in his left knee in last season's opener. Rodgers told ESPN Wisconsin that the "indent" fracture to the top of the shin bone was "very painful." Rodgers re-injured the MCL in Week 5 on a hit by Lions LB Christian Jones. Rodgers said the injuries limited his mobility "for a good part of the season." Rodgers previously had the ACL repaired in that knee (in high school) and had arthroscopic surgery on the joint after the 2015 season. This time around, he avoided surgery. Instead, Rodgers said he had "a series of shots" this offseason and that the knee now feels fine. Barring any offseason setbacks, Rodgers should be a 2019 bounce-back candidate.

The Packers have reached a new 1-year deal with exclusive-rights free agent WR Geronimo Allison. The contract will reportedly pay him more than the ERFA tender, but it's interesting to see the team not commit to the 25-year-old beyond that. Green Bay, of course, added WRs Marquez Valdes-Scantling, J'Mon Moore and Equanimeous St. Brown in last year's draft. We'll see where Allison settles on this year's depth chart after losing 11 games to multiple injuries in 2018.

The Packers have reached a 4-year agreement with OLB Preston Smith that includes $16 million guaranteed at signing (full value: $52 million), according to ESPN's Josina Anderson. That gives Green Bay a pair of expensive new edge defenders, after the team also reached a deal with Za'Darius Smith. Green Bay will also release OLB Nick Perry, and Clay Matthews would seem to be done as well -- given the signings. (He's an unrestricted free agent.) The new guys should help revamp a pass rush that needed upgrades, but neither Smith has exceeded 8.5 sacks in a season to date. Neither looks like a forthcoming IDP stud, but each has matchup-starter potential for fantasy football purposes.

NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reports that the Packers expect to sign S Adrian Amos when free agency opens. Amos' fantasy points per game fell way off last season from a breakthrough 2017, but he has finished 2 straight campaigns among the top 8 safeties overall in Pro Football Focus grading. Amos will join a Green Bay secondary that didn't get much fantasy wise from safeties after trading away Ha Ha Clinton-Dix early last season. No Packers safety eclipsed 51 total tackles. Amos will clearly lock down 1 of the starting spots. Tramon Williams, Kentrell Brice, Josh Jones and Eddie Pleasant are current candidates for the other. Expect Amos to land in low-DB2 range when our IDP projections hit the site this summer.

NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reports that the Packers are expected to sign OLB Za'Darius Smith when free agency opens Wednesday. Smith delivered a career-high 8.5 sacks in 2018 with the largest playing-time share of his career. He also tied for 14th in pass-rushing grade among all edge players on Pro Football Focus (though Smith graded much lower in run D). Smith's certain to grab a starting role with Green Bay, which has options for how to treat the other outside spot. Remaining a LB for fantasy purposes will limit Smith's IDP upside.

The Packers have hired Matt LaFleur as their new HC. The 39-year-old was a hot name as an OC candidate around this time last year after working under Sean McVay in Los Angeles in 2017. LaFleur's 1 season in Tennessee was underwhelming on paper, with the Titans finishing 25th in total yards and 27th in points. But he was dealt a bad hand at QB between an injured Marcus Mariota and Blaine Gabbert. That likely also played a part in Tennessee being the 2nd run-heaviest offense in the league and 10th slowest in situation-neutral pace. Hopefully LaFleur brings a more aggressive, up-tempo attack to Green Bay. Consider the hire a risk/reward proposition for Aaron Rodgers and Co.

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers exited in the 1st half of Sunday's game against the Lions to be checked for a concussion. We'll update his status when we learn more. QB DeShone Kizer is in for Green Bay.

Update: Rodgers has been diagnosed with a concussion and is done for the day. It's his 3rd documented concussion.

Packers CB Jaire Alexander is inactive for today's game against the Lions. It's no surprise after his groin injury kept him out of practice all week, but Alexander hit the day questionable.

11:12am EST 12/30/18

Packers WR Davante Adams (knee) is inactive for today’s finale against the Lions. WR Equanimeous St. Brown (concussion) is also inactive. That leaves Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Jake Kumerow as Green Bay’s outside receivers, with Randall Cobb in the slot.

 
 
 

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