I sat down with Zone Madison reporter Danny Cunningham and discussed the Notre Dame alumni on the Packers roster for 2018.
Former Notre Dame players DeShone Kizer and Equanimeous St. Brown survived camp and the preseason and found themselves on the Packers 53-man roster. Greer Martini was not as fortunate. The undrafted rookie was impressive during his first training camp, but was waived by Green Bay after their last preseason game. However, he went unclaimed on waivers and the Packers re-signed him to their practice squad to start the season.
Kizer’s spot seemed safe after an offseason trade sending fan favorite Damarious Randall to Cleveland in return. His backup role to Aaron Rodgers was all but assured when the Packers sent Brett Hundley packing earlier last week. As for St. Brown, he wasn’t a standout in camp, but as a 6th round pick back in April, it was hard to see a scenario in which he was cut.
With Martini, it was always going to be an uphill battle to make the club. When he signed with the Packers back in April as a UDFA, I predicted he would surprise people in the NFL. That chance could come this season.
I had the pleasure of interviewing friend and former colleague Danny Cunningham of Zone Madison a few days ago. Danny currently reports on all University of Wisconsin athletics, as well as the state’s professional clubs. He followed the Packers closely all training camp and preseason, and agreed to answer a few questions for Slap The Sign.
Nathan: First things first, what were your impressions of Kizer, St. Brown and Martini throughout camp and preseason?
Danny: I thought DeShone Kizer showed flashes that were there last year in Cleveland once again, but he still has a ways to go before he’s a complete product. The Packers are essentially treating him like a rookie in terms of development. Last year was a wasted year for the former Irish signal caller, having spent it with the Browns. The Packers are trying their best to eliminate the bad habits that he’s had since his days in South Bend and worsened last year. Obviously, they are hoping he doesn’t play this year, but they still have a belief that he can be a good NFL quarterback.
In terms of Equanimeous St. Brown, he didn’t have the most impressive preseason out there. Green Bay drafted three receivers in the fourth round or later, and all three made the Packers initial roster, as the Packers kept a NFL-high eight receivers (I have’t fact checked this, but there’s not anyone kept more than eight). There were more times in practice where I thought St. Brown shined than during the exhibition games themselves.
As for Greer Martini, I was surprised he was waived. He played well in both the practices I watched up close as well as the preseason games. I viewed him as someone that could contribute on special teams at the very least. I still think he can have a productive NFL career and showed he definitely belongs at the NFL level.
Nathan: So you kinda answered this question with Kizer, but what’s the confidence level in him by the Packers staff if he needs to step in at some point this year and/or in the coming years?
Danny: Green Bay can’t feel entirely comfortable with him heading out their right now. With Aaron Rodgers at the helm, the Packers are a team with Super Bowl aspirations, and Kizer being out there would change that. The Packers are treating him as a project — which he is. In the coming years, they certainly hope to feel differently, but they won’t be hoping he plays for quite some time. But with Rodgers running the show, it would be foolish to want anyone else out there.
Nathan: Switching things to St. Brown…at Notre Dame, he always had more potential than production. His height/weight combo is elite, but he often times seemed skittish during jump ball situations and he shied away from contact. At some points, it even felt as though he wasn’t putting out 100 percent effort. Did you see anything during his first training camp and preseason to suggest that has changed?
Danny: I didn’t see many jump ball situations involving him, but the effort was there during camp for the most part. There was one instance where he was called out (along with the other rookie receivers) for not having great practice habits, but there were no complaints after that. If that would have been prevalent, he wouldn’t have made the roster.
Nathan: Obviously, the Packers have some nice offensive weapons in Adams, Graham, Cobb and Montgomery out of the backfield to eat up most of the targets, but can you see a scenario where St. Brown becomes the third receiving option behind Adams and Cobb?
Danny: The Packers are expecting a jump forward out of receiver Geronimo Allison this season, but if he fails to make that leap and St. Brown continues to improve during practice and with the opportunities presented in games, then yes. So I would deem it possible, but unlikely in 2018.
Nathan: Do you see Martini on the active roster at any point this season? Or even possibly an option for other teams trying to poach him from the practice squad?
Danny: I think he’s definitely an option for a team — the Packers or someone else — to pick up when an injury at that spot occurs. He put up enough good film on tape for someone to give him a shot at some point.
I want to thank Danny for taking the time to answer some questions regarding some recent Notre Dame alumni. It seems as though the Packers have a plan for all three guys, and their futures could be bright. Check them out in action tonight on NBC Sunday Night Football against their rival, the Chicago Bears. Make sure to follow Danny on twitter @RealDCunningham! He provides awesome work that all sports fan can enjoy.