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Second-Year Players to Watch Entering Training Camp

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Second-Year Players to Watch Entering Training Camp

Last week I wrote about some of the undrafted rookies to keep an eye on heading into training camp. Today, I bring you a list of second-year, supplementary players to also watch for during training camp and the preseason. 

What do I mean by supplementary? Well, these are the undrafted players (normally in their second or third years in the NFL) that fill out a roster in addition to draft picks and free agent signings each season. 

Players like Raven Greene, Tony Brown, and Justin McCray immediately come to mind in recent years. Jarrett Bush is another example from the Super Bowl XLV team of an undrafted guy who made important contributions during his tenure on the 53-man roster. (Tramon Williams and Sam Shields are about the biggest names to ever exist for a list like this, but I’m more focused on under-the-radar contributors who maybe won’t be impact starters on the roster.)

This year, there are plenty of worthy candidates to keep tabs on. These are players that were talented enough to latch onto an NFL roster last season, and have a likely chance to do the same in 2019, whether that’s with the Green Bay Packers or elsewhere in the league. 

First up? James Crawford. Crawford, nephew of Charles Woodson, came to the Packers midway through training camp last season (August 8th) and impressed enough to still find a spot on the roster right out of the preseason. An undrafted player out of Illinois, Crawford spent time learning both inside and outside linebacker positions before honing in on inside linebacker specifically. 

Inside linebacker is one of the current positions lacking roster depth, and with Crawford leading the team in special teams tackles in 2018 with nine, he seems like one of the most likely candidates to find himself on the 53 once again. Behind Blake Martinez and second-year draft pick Oren Burks, the competition is pretty wide open. Crawford will have a leg up on seventh-round draft pick Ty Summers and the other rookies in the locker room given his existing NFL experience and his familiarity with defensive coordinator Mike Pettine’s scheme. 

Next up is Natrell Jamerson. Jamerson is an intriguing prospect that has the versatility to play either cornerback or safety, similar to former Packer Micah Hyde. The Wisconsin Badger was picked up off waivers in December of 2018 and played in two games for Green Bay.

Jamerson came on strong his senior season at Wisconsin tallying 51 total tackles and two interceptions with one returned for a touchdown. He also had 10 passes defensed. If the Packers do potentially move on from Josh Jones or refrain from adding additional talent to the safety room (someone like Ibraheim Campbell), Jamerson has enough talent to take snaps at safety or corner. He provides nice rotational depth for the CBs, too, behind Jaire Alexander, Josh Jackson, Tramon Williams, Kevin King, and Tony Brown. It’s not a foregone conclusion that any of the players listed will remain healthy all season, and because of that, Jamerson is great insurance. 

One of the trickiest players to keep an eye on during training camp and the preseason will be Fadol Brown. The defensive end out of Mississippi finds himself in a crowded locker room, with defensive line being one of the most talented, deepest positions on the roster. In his limited action in 2018, Brown did impress, though, and that could be enough to keep him on the squad as a rotational player. 

Brown played in four games for Green Bay after the Packers picked him up off waivers in December from Oakland, and his biggest game came against the Chicago Bears. He had three tackles in that game, including two vital stops with one coming on a fourth down attempt. Brown also notched two quarterback hits in his four appearances. The athleticism and drive is there for Brown to force the Packers to make a tough decision on cutdown day. He could be the 53rd player selected, or he could just miss out on a spot. 

The final player on this list is Mike Tyson, and he’s one of the most intriguing names considering he didn’t play in a single game for Green Bay in 2018. Tyson was activated off the Houston Texans’ practice squad in October, starting two games for the team. In his 10 games played, he had one pass defensed and five combined tackles. In January, though, he was placed on injured reserve before being waived by the team in May. 

Tyson measures in at 6-1 and profiles as both a corner and a safety, though the Packers have him officially listed as a safety on the team website. Similar to Jamerson, Tyson finds himself at a position lacking depth. That said, it’s possible the Packers only keep one of the two safeties and not both, so if Tyson makes the 53, Jamerson could be the odd man out. 

Of course, these are just a few of the second-year players hoping to stick on the 2019 Packers roster. They’ll be names to keep an eye on once training camp kicks off on July 25th, and during preseason action beginning August 8th against the Houston Texans. 

Maggie Loney is a writer for Cheesehead TV and a podcaster for the Pack-A-Day Podcast. Find her on Twitter at @MaggieLawler.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (23) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Coldworld's picture

Crawford is certainly one that I will be watching. A former safety, he flashed some skills and awareness in coverage that could make him really interesting if they continue to manifest with pads on.

A couple of others that seldom get media attention that I will be watching in addition to those referenced in the article are LB Brady Sheldon and DB Will Redmond.

Redmond had real talent in college, being seen as a potential first rounder before an ACL late in his final season: does he still have that after some significant injuries?

Sheldon ran a 4.52 40-yard dash at the Central Michigan pro day with a low of 4.47. That 4.52 40-time would have been the second best at the combine behind Jabrill Peppers. Even bumping it up a bit, that’s good speed. Ty Summers recorded 4.51 this year. Sheldon’s vertical of 37.0 would have been tied for second at the combine among linebackers and his 10’5” broad jump and 4.24 short shuttle would have both been top five.

Sheldon went undrafted as an OLB, signing with the Raiders and making the PS and then roster late in the season. A late physical developer, he lacked a particularly deep college resume as a result. He may project in the Fackrell mold at OLB or as a ILB behind Burks. If he can harness that athleticism he could show strongly in camp.

Packer Dave's picture

Agree on Crawford. It's especially promising to hear about him picking off passes. I am curious to know what's going on with Donnerson. It would be interesting to see him inside as outside snaps will be few and far between this year.

Safety #4 will be fun to see play out, probably Jameson as you suggest - whoever Pettine can slide around.

Lastly, I'd hate to be a new guy on the DL. How many do we keep? Clark, Daniels, Lowery, Adams, Keke and Lancaster are my picks. In fact, I think Lancaster will surprise this year and show he's more than a pure run stopper.

Lare's picture

It will be interesting to see if a high-priced veteran is released in final cutdowns this year. I know most of us were surprised when Sitton was let go a few years ago. Graham ($12.7 million), Daniels ($10.7 million), Williams ($6.4 million), Taylor ($5.5 million) and Crosby ($4.8 million) are a few possibilities.

Bure9620's picture

No mention of Tyler Lancaster????? He was one of the bright spots that made this team borderline watchable late last year. I see a second year jump from him, terrific against the run. Pettine even said he was at times dominant. Lancaster could get to a level, snap wise, as a rotational player where he can give Kenny Clark a breather and keep him fresh.

Coldworld's picture

In responding, I took the view with Lancaster and equally Tony Brown that they had already emerged through performance over significant playing time. I interpreted the writer as having looked at it that way too.

If not, I wholeheartedly agree that Lancaster and Brown will likely contribute more in future.

Bure9620's picture

True they have a emerged and I may have interpreted this incorrectly, yet Lancaster and Brown were still UDFA rookies that when they got on the field, made significant contributions and impacted the game. They were not JAGS. This is not common with any rookies, let alone UDFAs. My concern with Kenny Clark is his snap counts have been a bit too high for my liking, I notice him to be less effective later in games because of it. If Lancaster can play a series or 2, this will help Kenny Clark stay fresh and play at a high level in those crucial 4th Q drives.

Coldworld's picture

Agree on Clark’s snaps and Lancaster. I think the same will be true for Daniels. More from less snaps.

stockholder's picture

Nobody has a leg up on anybody this year. I like the chances of Summers, better then Crawford or Burks. And looking at some odds of the Packers draft picks for Rookie of the year? It's Time we don't judge Rookies on their draft status. Also, isn't it time we see some nice jumps for Gute's picks.( in the second year.) The clouds must disappear. It's not about sticking anymore. It's about the jump. Jackson, Brown , the Wrs. And Mr. Kizer,Etc.. We knew the holes. The thinking shouldn't be persuasive. Players must give of more. We now have more then just Mathews. It's Time! It's Time to get the ball back! It's Time for new stars!

Coldworld's picture

I see Summers as a back up to Martinez. His anticipation and reactions made him a liability in coverage type role and one off season won’t correct that. Athleticism only matters if the brain can keep up.

The reason I am intrigued by Crawford is partly that he cane out of the blue and I had never seen him as potentially more than a ST type. Then he started to flash ability in space an I realized that he is an ex safety who grew late and too much. If he has those skills, he is potentially a real option for the Burks role. That would be a great find since we know that he can and will tackle.

stockholder's picture

I don't. I saw him play with an injury. Your wrong. This guy is Bishop and he plays like a Captain. Leadership is what the others don't have. It's why you like Martinez. Count on me. Burks and Crawford will never be that back-up they need. Their splash players. Bread and Butter sir. Summers has it. It's called Back Bone!

Coldworld's picture

I’ve watched film and I know people who watched a lot of him live. I’ve also researched him. I’m not wrong in the consensus of opinions on him. I ended up being less excited in terms of short term potential than when I started after he was picked. I do note that the feedback suggested that due to injury and the fact that he started as a QB, he is a player who has a good chance of developing recognition, rather than one who just doesn’t have that ability.

I hope I’m wrong when he puts pads on. If he proves them all wrong, and all the teams that let him drop to the seventh, that’s the definition of a major steal. We would be much better off at ILB if your expectations are met.

As to Crawford. As I said, I expected nothing until he started to show off ball skills in shorts and surprise people. Showing in shorts doesn’t mean much typically, but that kind of anticipation is one thing that can translate. It will be interesting to see during camp.

holmesmd's picture

Based on what? Dude you appear to have a crush without justification. The guy has been a MASH unit of injuries and was drafted in the 7th rd for a reason. Calm down and let’s see how it all plays out.

stockholder's picture

40 yrd dash 4.51/ bps 27, vertical 36, Broad 123.0 Height: 6-1. Weight: 241. Arm: 31.50. Hand: 10.00
High-motor player who makes all the calls for the defense
Heavy tackler with compact strike zone. Low pad level and sturdy base to anchor in his gap against blocker

His tackle total surprisingly fell off from early in his career. Prior to 46 tackles as a senior and 64 in 2017, he had 121 tackles as a junior and 85 as a freshman. But Injuries and the 4-2-5 defense is what slowed him down from his sophomore year.
Team Captain - Has the quickness to knife into the backfield to make plays as well. ( And this is what will push him ahead of Burks or Crawford. ) Sideline to sideline ability by some scouts. Stayed with Hakiem Butler from Iowa state. So he can cover! And TCU was one of the best defenses while he was there. Comparison? Dallas Cowboys Vander Esch.

Coldworld's picture

To balance that unattributed analysis I am simply going to give one of the most favorable draft analyst reviews of Summers:

“ Draft Analyst's Tony Pauline projects TCU LB Ty Summers to be drafted in Round 4.
Summers (6'1/241) had a "terrific" pro day and stood on his 4.51-second 40-yard dash time from the NFL Scouting Combine. Pauline, who calls Summers a potential steal, reports that the linebacker met with the Vikings, Titans, Dolphins, Seahawks, and Saints after his workout ended. The primary reason why Summers is expected to be a Day 3 selection is his struggles in pass defense, which has become arguably the most important skill for NFL linebackers.”


I could pull a lot less favorable comments about his coverage skills. The point here is that one analysis in isolation is not much support if it is out of step with even the most optimistic of the mainstream assessments.

Pauline himself admits there is development necessary:

“Summers ... must pick up his production on the field. He possesses the instincts and intensity for the next level and is a late-round pick who could eventually develop into a Sunday starter.”

Pauline does not rate him as having the potential to start as a rookie.

stockholder's picture

I'm sure. But just as many said he could cover and there wasn't a lot of separation. Hakiem Butler? Thats pretty good coverage. A ILB on a WR. TCU won that game 17-14.

Coldworld's picture

I hope you are right, and I see some of your language came from Walter, but the fact is most didn’t think he can reliably cover. Pauline believed that he has the tools to learn to do so but has never consistently been able to turn those into production, and that’s from one of his biggest backers. He eventually put a 4 to 5 tag on Summers, while Walter had a 5 to 7. Others were a lot less complementary.

I personally think Summers could prove to be a great pick up, but that will likely not be achieved this season. He is a prospect not the finished article.

Bearmeat's picture

I really think the only room on the team for a not-drafted -in-rounds-1-4 rookie and/or second-year player is going to be deep on the bench at ILB, CB and RB. Possibly Tonyan and backup QB...

Coldworld's picture

Every year camp has a tendency to throw up a surprise. I think that Gute has made a difference in that some of the players could have upside beyond the last on the roster depth chart or at least raise the bar at back up considerably.

ILB will be interesting behind Martinez both at starter and for depth I think. Safety could be interesting behind Savage and Amos and CB usually is, which is significant these days given how many are used.

I’m hopeful that this camp will be more interesting in many ways than has been the case in recent years. In addition to the chance that a Donnerson type raises his play there are a number of in season pick ups that are dark horses with more than JAG upside on paper. There are also a number of players entering year two: who will make a jump and how high? In addition we have new coaches, new ideas and new schemes. How will players be used? It’s going to be fun!

I really want some one to step up and show real positional roster merit and return capability who isn’t a key starter. That’s my baseless hope/wish for this off season.

TheKanataThrilla's picture

I am interested in what Darrius Shepherd is going to show us. I think that he might provide more value than Trevor Davis as he can play slot receiver.

The Silent One's picture

Does this article say "defensive second year players"?
If not, the writer forgot to highlight how Allen Lazard is going to replace Geronimo Allison on the wide receiver roster.

Coldworld's picture

Really, what leads you to predict that? I am curious.

Since '61's picture

If the league had more practices and more scrimmages during the preseason these UDFAs would have more of an opportunity to demonstrate their ability and possibly a better shot at making the team.

Instead we have fewer practices and 2 meaningless preseason games. I would like to see more practice and more scrimmages come out of the new CBA with only 2 preseason games. But I'm sure that greed will prevail as usual and at best the league will remain where it is in terms of practice and young players will lose opportunities and the level of play will continue to decline. Thanks, Since '61

Coldworld's picture

I agree that the NFL needs to do more to help young players to expand the pool of competent players. Too many aren’t ready but could be. I think each team should have to run a spring league for players who were not in the league last year or did not play a certain number of snaps. In other words the back end of the 90 plus more for depth.

Do it that way and you could cut the preseason. Players would earn a little more money, vets would get more rest. Two practice games with a smaller pool of players than the current 90 (perhaps 75).

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