Five Players Who Can Be Difference Makers for the 2021 Packers

The Green Bay Packers are set to open the 2021 NFL season on Sunday in Jacksonville when they face the New Orleans Saints. The Packers are coming off back-to-back 13-3 seasons under Matt LaFleur and consecutive appearances in the NFC Championship Game. Most experts have projected the Packers to be contenders again in the coming season.

While even casual football fans are familiar with star players like Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams, here is a look at five non-star players who could make a big difference in the Packers upcoming campaign. These are players who will contribute consistently and see the field often but aren’t headline grabbers and Pro Bowl performers.

5. DL Kingsley Keke

The Packers defensive line is looking for improvement and former Pro Bowler Kenny Clark needs help. Keke is entering his third year and is healthy again after dealing with injuries that curtailed his season down the stretch in 2020.

If Keke can take a step forward this season, the former Texas A&M star can help the Packers defensive line become more effective. Clark and Keke could rush the passer from the interior while Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith and Rashan Gary come off the edge to get the quarterback.

If T.J. Slaton can help fortify the run defense, the Packers defensive line can take a significant step forward this season.

4. OL Royce Newman

The Packers have done well with rookie offensive linemen in recent years with players like Bryan Bulaga, Corey Linsley and David Bakhtiari all stepping in and starting in their first season with the team. Now, the Packers are looking for a similar performance from Royce Newman.

Newman won the starting right guard position in training camp, beating out Lucas Patrick, Jon Runyan, Jr. and Ben Braden for the stating nod.

The fourth-round pick out of Mississippi is considered a better run blocker than pass blocker at this stage of his development, but if he can be a steady and consistent pass protector, the Packers would be pleased and let him build from there.

Newman has the potential to be a long-term starter for the Packers, but if he has a strong rookie year, the Packers offensive line will be a lot less of a concern, especially until Pro Bowl left tackle David Bakhtiari returns in midseason.

3. TE Josiah Deguara

LaFleur was very excited about Deguara when the Packers drafted him in the third round of the 2020 draft. Unfortunately, a season-ending knee injury ended his rookie year after he appeared in only two games.

The Green Bay offense loves to use multiple tight ends and to have them play different roles. Expect Deguara to line up in different places in the offense this season whether it’s as a fullback, H-back or a traditional tight end.

Deguara can help the Pack disguise its formations and intentions and that is a big part of what the coaching staff is trying to do when the team has the ball.

While Deguara may not be ready for extensive duty early in the season, if the second-year University of Cincinnati product can find his groove by the end of October, he can add another dimension to the offense and give opposing defenses something more to think about.

2. LB De’Vondre Campbell

The Packers have gone through a long list of inside linebackers who never quite provided them with the type of play they needed on a consistent basis. Last year it was Christian Kirksey and Kamal Martin. The year before Blake Martinez and B.J. Goodson had a shot at it while Antonio Morrison was acquired just before the 2018 season started.

Now, the Pack has signed Campbell who they hope can solidify the position along with returning second-year man Krys Barnes.

Campbell has been a starter in each of his five NFL seasons. He has more speed and the ability to cover receivers, something the Packers have lacked at the position for quite some time.

The Packers are hoping Campbell can deliver some consistency at the position which will help the defense take a step forward in 2021.

1. C Josh Myers

Josh Myers has a tall order in his rookie season. The former Ohio State star will replace Pro Bowler Corey Linsley in the middle of the Packers offensive line.

Like Linsley, Myers will also be responsible for calling the signals for the offensive linemen, which gives the rookie another thing to worry about as he adjusts to life in the NFL.

If Myers can provide the Packers with steady and consistent play at center, the offensive line should be good enough to keep the offense playing at a high level. If he stumbles, Aaron Rodgers will not have the time he needs to make plays and runs the risk of injury while the running game may falter.

Myers play will be a pivotal part of the Packers success this season.

You can follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

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8 points

Comments (15)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
splitpea1's picture

September 11, 2021 at 12:23 pm

Good list, but I'd definitely add Stokes because we very well might need him to be a difference maker. Also maybe Amari or K. Hill because it would be nice to finally find a competent kick returner, as well as being useful on offense if (or if not) an injury occurs.

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Bear's picture

September 11, 2021 at 05:51 pm

I like Stokes but I fear we may be overestimating him. He and the the rest of the Georgia DBs were exposed by Alabama last year. Two Bama receivers had over 160 yards each in that game. It may take Stokes a bit longer to get acclimated to the pro game.

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dobber's picture

September 11, 2021 at 08:20 pm

There's a reason why those two 'Bama guys went in the top 10 in the draft.

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Bear's picture

September 11, 2021 at 11:07 pm

True dobber but there’s more of same quality WRs already playing in the league.

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stockholder's picture

September 11, 2021 at 02:21 pm

This first game is Big. I mean really big. Too many players have been moved around on the OL. Myers and Newman scare the hell out of me. Not to mention Patrick. If they can make a difference. This would be the greatest Packers draft of all-Time. I'm not sold on KE KE. I believe the packers need to " go big " or they will go Home. When you say TJ Slaton. I believe he and Clark; are the only ones who will get this DL going in the right direction. Yes; I'm for the 4 Front. Not a three. You point to Campbell. Good Call. But if we just stay with 1 ILB. I wouldn't object to it. You have a good list. They better make a difference.

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Oppy's picture

September 11, 2021 at 08:45 pm

We don't have the personnel at the Linebacker position to run a 4-3 defense, though.

Our OLBs are all 3-4 types- basically undersized DE's.

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NickPerry's picture

September 11, 2021 at 10:05 pm

I love Kingsley Keke and believe this kid is going to be a big part of this defense moving forward this year and next. Packers fans knew he was going to take a little time and he was showing flashes last year, especially rushing the passer.

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stockholder's picture

September 12, 2021 at 07:36 am

If they stay with the 3 front. //// But don't expect them to "win it all" with KeKe in that front. Until the packers go 4 front. Ke Ke will never be good enough. If not injured. ///. Clark will always be double teamed. /// Try- Ke Ke , Slayton, Clark, Z. Smith . // P. Smith and Gary @ OLB./// Until they go 4 front. They will never stop the run. Because this 3 front gets worn down. The longer the defense is on the field. You'll see why I'm right.

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Oppy's picture

September 12, 2021 at 03:17 pm

If the nose tackle in a 3-4 defense ISN'T getting double teamed, the 3-4 defense isn't working.

The NT is supposed to demand doubles, that's what creates one on ones and hopefully a free rusher on the edges. That's the way it's supposed to work.

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jhtobias's picture

September 11, 2021 at 02:55 pm

Never understood this josiah love he is just an overdrafted h back .. packer fans need to sober up with this guy he is just a JAG .. not his fault he was overdrafted and overhyped

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NickPerry's picture

September 12, 2021 at 05:41 am

Have you watched his college tape? I don't know what it takes to impress you buy one way you can sure in the hell impress me is to give 100% on EVERY play ALL the time and that's what this kid gives.

This kid was a MLF pick. MLF felt this was the guy who HAD to play that position in his offense. Hell we got a glimpse of it quickly when he took out TWO Vikings on a single block around the right end IIRC.

Why don't you give the kid a chance before calling him a bust and over-hyped. I think A LOT of Packers fans are going to love this kid before the end of the season. He's MLF's Kyle Juszczyk who I think will be a huge asset to this offense in many ways, not just stats.

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BradHTX's picture

September 12, 2021 at 08:32 am

Nick, your responses are always well thought out, and you’re absolutely correct. But you can’t use logic to counter an opinion that isn’t based on logic.

There are homers who can never see a team or player’s flaws, but there are also haters who just get off on believing every player who wasn’t the guy THEY would have drafted sucks. They’d never heard the talking heads of the Draft Industrial Complex speak of Deguara, so therefore he was automatically a reach and will never amount to anything. And even if he turns out to be the second coming of Juszczyk, they will still begrudgingly whine, “Well, OK, he’s pretty good, but they could have had him in the 6th…”

Really better to just read the comment, roll your eyes, and move along. Nothing to see here.

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NickPerry's picture

September 13, 2021 at 06:04 am

Thanks Brad, great advice and much of the time I don't bite. Glad to see you back now that the season is starting. I always enjoy your comments!

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dobber's picture

September 11, 2021 at 04:14 pm

Darnell Savage. Good defenses usually have good safety play. His taking that next step toward becoming a high-end safety would go a long way toward elevating this defense.

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SpikeHyzer's picture

September 11, 2021 at 09:07 pm

To these guys I would add Stokes, Hill, and Slaton to the list and say that if half of those 8 are surprisingly good, we're in for a very good season (and I expect the O Line guys to be, so it could be more than half).

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