Tough decisions loom for the Packers after a productive summer

GREEN BAY — The Packers have a lot to think about on the eve of the mandatory NFL roster cut at 3 p.m. ET on Tuesday.

As much as the training camp headlines seem to center on Green Bay’s move to the quarterback position, Jordan Love’s summer has also seen fierce competition in nearly every position group on the roster.

Over the next 24 hours, General Manager Brian Gutekunst and his personnel department must sort out the 53-man preliminary roster for the Packers and the 16-man coaching staff that will soon follow.

Gutekunst always says tough decisions are welcome this time of year, and a combination of talented veterans, stellar recruiting picks, and hungry undrafted free agents has made sure that judging this year won’t be easy.

Meanwhile, players in the bubble of all 32 teams are waiting to find out their footballing futures. Freshman running back Emmanuel Wilson said he plans to disappear for the next couple of days while still writing in his daily diary as if he’s finished all of camp.

“I write whatever goes into my head,” said Wilson, who led the NFL with 223 yards this season. “There is a small river near the hotel, and I will walk around there and sit there and pray, and let God take care of everything.”

Training camp is a tough process for every NFL player, but it’s especially true for rookies who spend late nights at the hotel absorbing the playbook and learning the fixings for the next training day.

In the case of Grant DuBose, three months of mental repetition kept him going while a back injury prevented him from practicing until August 7.

The 6-foot-1, 201-pound receiver rose to finish with three catches for 35 yards in the preseason while being impressive in practice. DuBose said he has family in town to keep him company until Tuesday afternoon.

In fact, Saturday’s season finale against Seattle marked the first time DuBose’s mother, Jacqueline, had visited Green Bay.

“I’ve got my family here, so I’m going out with them,” DuBose said. “For the next couple of days, I can’t really worry about it. Worrying is a dead idea, you know what I mean? You have to let the chips fall where possible.”

Then there’s the undrafted rookie Malik Heath.

A darling of camp, the former Ole Miss receiver has been running late with the No. 1 offense and started alongside Christian Watson and second-round rookie pick Jaden Reed on Saturday.

Heath finished the pre-season as Green Bay’s leading receiver with 12 catches for 146 yards. His 15-yard catch through the middle from Love on Saturday was key to a 15-play, 80-yard drive for the Packers’ primary offense.

“Getting in with those, it was amazing coming from unpolished,” said Heath, who led Ole Miss last year with 60 catches for 971 yards (16.2 avg.) and five TDs. “Starting with those things, so you know I did a lot of great things and stayed down. And stayed humble.”

Saturday’s preseason game came to a fitting end as third-string quarterback Alex McGough and a slew of draped free agents helped the Packers to a 19-15 win over the Seahawks.

McGough first hit rookie receiver Jadakis Bonds on a 52-yard pass that set up Nate McCrary’s 1-yard TD run to take the lead with just over four minutes remaining.

Uncut safety Benny Sapp III then iced it for Green Bay when he picked off Seattle quarterback Holton Ehlers in the end zone.

A former seventh round pick by Seattle in 2018, McGough had two separate stints with the Seahawks before making a comeback with the NFL’s Birmingham Stallions.

He got his ticket back into the NFL after leading the Stallions to their second straight USFL championship while earning MVP honors and leading the league in most major passing categories.

The 27-year-old quarterback will wait patiently to see if Green Bay retains the third QB spot on their 53-man roster for the first time since 2020, but whatever happens, Saturday was an exciting way to end the pre-season for himself and for many. The aspirants are on the list.

“That’s what the pre-season is for,” said McGough. “It’s for players who might not get a chance to play in a 17-week regular season. It’s great that people like Benny and Malik and all those people are making plays that have game-winning implications. I’m really happy for all of them and I couldn’t.” Don’t be over enthusiastic.”

Hovering in the balance is the Packers’ streak of 19 consecutive years of having at least one rookie undrafted on the Week 1 roster. Seventeen players are vying for the honor this summer, including Wilson, Heath and Sapp.

Sapp’s path to the NFL closely mirrors that of his father, whose career spanned eight seasons. Like his name, Sapp starred at Northern Iowa before going undrafted in April.

He hopes, like everyone else in the bubble, that his phone will be on silent on Tuesday.

“I know I’ve proven that I can play in the NFL, no matter what circumstances I’ve been through in the past,” Sapp said. “I walk by faith. I really don’t care what happens in front of me, I’m going to keep pushing. I’m going to keep piling up the days.”

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