Michael Cohen and Aaron Nagler discuss the Packers' initial cutdown to the 53 man roster heading into the 2017 regular season. (Sept. 2, 2017)
GREEN BAY - Although they lost Taysom Hill to New Orleans, the Green Bay Packers were able to bring back another No. 3 quarterback to their 10-man practice squad Sunday. They also brought back two of their young wide receivers.
Here's a look at how the practice squad shapes up:
Joe Callahan, QB
The Packers weren’t sure if either of the two quarterbacks they waived would get claimed, but if one did they planned on signing the other to the practice squad.
That’s exactly what happened.
The Saints claimed Hill off waivers and the Packers convinced Callahan to sign to their practice squad despite offers from two other NFL teams to sign to theirs.
Callahan had a rough summer, completing 13 of 21 passes for 112 yards (75.9 rating), and fell behind Hill in the race for the No. 3 spot. But the Packers had a strong body of work with which to judge him from the 2016 camp and pressed hard to get him back.
If he hadn’t signed to the practice squad, the Packers would have been in search of a new quarterback to fill a spot. It likely would have meant starting from scratch with someone who didn’t know the system.
DeAngelo Yancey, WR
Yancey, a 6-foot-2, 205-pound receiver who had a four-year career at Purdue in which he caught 141 passes for 2,344 yards and 20 touchdowns, was the Packers' fifth-round draft selection in April. While he had a pretty nondescript start to training camp and lost valuable time dealing with a groin injury, he improved as camp went on, showing big-play ability both in practice and in preseason games. His lack of major contributions on special teams most likely cost him a roster spot, but his impressive combination of size and athletic ability is undoubtedly a big reason he's back on the practice squad.
Michael Clark, WR
In terms of overall growth, Clark may have progressed more than any player on the 90-man roster since the beginning of training camp. The former Division I basketball player arrived in Green Bay with minimal knowledge of the receiver position and relied only on his athletic gifts. By the end of camp, Clark had worked his way into the discussion for a spot on the 53-man roster as a long shot. Still, at 6-5 ½ and 215 pounds Clark proved to be the kind of weapon that was unguardable in certain situations. He made highlight-reel catches in almost every practice and dominated the best cornerbacks with the ball in the air. Clark will be a fun project for wide receivers coach Luke Getsy.
Reggie Gilbert, OLB
It was a roller-coaster weekend for Gilbert, who might have been the first player left off the 53-man roster. Gilbert finished the exhibition season with possibly his best performance of training camp Thursday against the Los Angeles Rams. He generated consistent pressure on the quarterback, including three hits in a quarter and a half, and was stout against the run as well. Though he went unclaimed, Gilbert had played well enough in the exhibition games to warrant consideration on the waiver wire. He wound up with four practice squad offers, one of which was from the Packers and had his choice of destinations to start the season. But Gilbert enjoys living in Green Bay and recognizes the potential for playing time later this year, especially with the injury histories of Clay Matthews and Nick Perry. He would be the next man up off the practice squad.
Kofi Amichia, OL
The Packers drafted Amichia in the sixth round due in large part to the athleticism flashed at his pro day. Amichia posted a vertical leap of 33½ inches, a broad jump of 9-6 and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.98 seconds. At 6-3½ and 308 pounds, Amichia was, essentially, a height/weight/speed prospect inasmuch as those exist for offensive linemen. The Packers shuffled Amichia through a number of positions during the early weeks of training camp, including center and both guard spots. He settled in at left guard on the second-string offensive line but struggled against the level of competition. The Packers like his potential, and that makes Amichia a perfect project on the practice squad.
Donatello Brown, CB
Brown, who signed with Green Bay in April after three years as a starter for Division II Valdosta State, made a strong bid for the 53-man roster. In the final preseason game against the Rams, Brown read a throw by Dan Orlovsky perfectly in the second quarter for an impressive interception.
Ultimately falling short of the goal of making the roster, he undoubtedly will relish the opportunity to continue pursuing his dream of playing in the NFL. Three years ago, Brown was toiling at dead-end jobs, flipping burgers and working on cars. Now, he has a chance to practice with the team every week and has a chance to be called up should injuries hit the cornerback group, much like receiver Geronimo Allison did last season.
Adam Pankey, OL
It seems the Packers made up their minds about Pankey fairly quickly because they stashed him in the third exhibition game. Pankey, who was healthy throughout training camp, did not play a single snap against the Denver Broncos and then returned to the field for all 68 snaps against the Los Angeles Rams. Pankey played left guard and left tackle during his career at West Virginia and was slotted everywhere except center during the course of training camp. He looked his best at left guard, which was the final position he played Thursday night and gives the Packers someone to bring along if backups Lucas Patrick and Justin McCray don’t pan out on the 53-man roster.
Derrick Mathews, ILB
Mathews, a second-year player who stands 5-11½ and weighs 232 pounds, was one of the biggest hitters in camp for the Packers this summer. He spent 2016 on the Packers practice squad, after entering the league as an undrafted free agent and signing with the Washington Redskins. He played collegiately at Houston, where he finished fifth in school history with 400 career tackles. He posted three straight seasons with 100 or more tackles and entered his senior year as a captain.
Izaah Lunsford, DL
Lunsford signed with the Packers one week after the draft. The 6-3, 310-pound defensive lineman finished his college career at Bowling Green State with 5.5 sacks and 12 tackles for loss.
As is often the case with undrafted players who end up in Green Bay, the team used one of its 30 pre-draft visits on Lunsford. While his training camp could best be described as nondescript, it was clear throughout that defensive line coach Mike Trgovac saw potential in the 24-year-old rookie.
Jermaine Whitehead, S
Originally signed as a free agent in May of last year, Whitehead spent time with the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers before landing with the Packers.
A native of Mississippi, the 5-11, 195-pound Whitehead played at Auburn. He entered the league as an undrafted free agent after a college career that saw him start 33 of 48 games, finishing with 218 tackles, a sack, 15 pass breakups, nine interceptions and two fumble recoveries.
Whitehead dealt with a hip injury early in camp and couldn't make up the ground necessary to compete at one of the deepest spots on the Packers roster, but the second year safety played well enough in his preseason appearances to warrant keeping around for another stint on the practice squad.