GREEN BAY, Wis. – In a tradition that stretches more than a decade, here is our annual ranking of the 90 players on the Green Bay Packers’ roster ahead of July 28, the first practice of training camp. This isn’t merely a look at the best players. Rather, it’s a formula that combines talent, salary, importance of the position, depth at the position and, for young players, draft positioning. More than the ranking, we hope you learn a little something about every player on the roster.
No. 38: P JK Scott (6-6, 208; 25; fourth year; Alabama)
To use a draft pick on a punter, he better be good. To use a fifth-round pick on a punter, he better be darned good.
Scott, a fifth-round pick in 2018, hasn’t been good enough often enough.
Of 32 qualifying punters during his rookie season, Scott ranked 26th in net average. Of 31 qualifying punters in 2019, he ranked 24th. Of 30 qualifying punters in 2020, he ranked 28th.
“I call our room where we are the ‘Truth Room,’” new special teams coordinator Maurice Drayton said of Scott and long snapper Hunter Bradley, a seventh-round pick in 2018. “We’re going to tell the truth. Some things I cannot say here but they both know that they have to be more consistent in the things that we need them to do to be successful. They have a prescription that we’ve written for them to work on. They also have their own personal what I call kick doctors or specialist doctors that they’re working with who I’ve fostered a relationship with. They’re getting better and they will be better, and they understand that their backs are against the wall.”
There are a few positives as Scott gets ready to battle Ryan Winslow in camp. First, his 45.5-yard gross average last season just missed Tim Masthay’s franchise-record mark of 45.6. Second, Scott’s net average of 42.4 in the playoffs ranked fourth in the 14-team playoff field. Third, after allowing a 73-yard touchdown against Philadelphia, his 15 punts over the final six games (including playoffs) yielded only 30 yards in punt returns.
No. 39: CB Josh Jackson (6-0, 196; 25; fourth year; Iowa)
In his third and final season at Iowa, Jackson intercepted a nation’s-best eight passes and broke up 10 others to finish with 18 passes defensed. In his third season in Green Bay, Jackson had zero interceptions and two passes defensed. With his career trending the wrong way and the addition of first-round pick Eric Stokes, it’s possible that third season will be Jackson’s last.
A second-round pick in 2018, Jackson had a productive rookie season. In 16 games that included 10 starts and 718 snaps from scrimmage, Jackson tallied 10 passes defensed. However, he had zero passes defensed in merely 103 snaps in 2019 and the two PBUs in 331 snaps in 2020. Almost all those snaps last season came when Kevin King missed five games due to injury.
After playing 60 snaps at Indianapolis in Week 11, King returned to the lineup in Week 12. During the final six weeks of the regular season, King played zero snaps from scrimmage in three games and was inactive for the other three games. Then, he was inactive for both playoff games, having fallen behind KeiVarae Russell. The Packers thought so little of Russell that they released him after the draft.
Perhaps the change in defensive coordinator, with Joe Barry replacing Mike Pettine, will help Jackson revive his career. With King’s obvious injury history and Stokes having to prove himself, there’s still opportunity for Jackson, who has a base salary of $1.33 million and a cap number of almost $2 million.
Gray’s right about that. Even in limited playing time, he was flagged four times for defensive pass interference. Every other member of the Green Bay defensed was penalized three times for PI. It’s what former NFL coach Jim Mora calls “DB panic mode.”
“Sometimes you can’t force guys to do certain things,” Gray said. “I think Josh is going to be fine. There’s a lot of good football players here. It’s going to be competing. We’re going to compete every play. Even in practice, we’re going to compete, and we’ve got to make sure those guys are ready to go when they get a chance. I wouldn’t discount Josh.”
No. 40 S Vernon Scott (6-2, 202; 23; second year; TCU)
To say Scott was an underrated prospect entering the 2020 NFL Draft would suggest that he was rated at all following his senior season at TCU.
About the only national draft analyst to give Scott a mention was The Athletic’s Dane Brugler, who ranked Scott 61st in the safety class. The Packers drafted Scott in the seventh round, making him the 22nd of 24 safeties off the board.
What did the Packers see that everyone else missed? The last three games of his senior year, when he produced four turnovers. Scott made the roster and played in 15 games. He logged 89 snaps on defense (seven tackles, one sack, two tackles for losses) and 184 snaps on special teams (six tackles).
It will be interesting to see how new defensive coordinator Joe Barry deploys his personnel. Under former coordinator Mike Pettine, no team played with six-plus defensive backs more often than Green Bay. That sixth defensive back – the dime defensive back, which really was a linebacker – was Raven Greene when he was healthy. Scott has the size and hitting ability to play that role, should Barry choose to go that route.
“I just really go out there and play my game, just make plays that come to me. That’s what (defensive backs coach Jerry) Gray preaches,” Scott said late in camp last year. “He preaches just do your job and, once the play comes to you, just make sure you make the play. I would say it’s been helping me a lot. I just don’t overthink. I just play my game.”
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