Ted Thompson’s roster is filled with the football equivalent of sports cars. Nonetheless, he can’t help but stare at the shiny new 2015 models.
“Yeah, you probably pay attention to that a little bit more just because you want to be right,” the Green Bay Packers’ general manager said last week.
It looks like Thompson might be right again.
Thompson’s 2014 draft class produced four starters. It’s obviously very early, but his 2015 draft haul might provide the same kind of instant impact.
While impressive first-round pick Damarious Randall was kept in Green Bay to rehab a groin injury, cornerback Quinten Rollins, receiver Ty Montgomery and inside linebacker Jake Ryan made solid contributions during the Packers’ 22-11 preseason victory over New England.
Rollins, a second-round pick, was the star of the show. New England’s Jimmy Garoppolo, the presumptive starting quarterback to open the season, went at Rollins on back-to-back plays midway through the second quarter. On the first, Josh Boyce appeared poised to make the catch before Rollins knocked the ball free. On the second, a deep ball to Boyce, Rollins almost made a leaping interception.
On the next series, Rollins showed uncommon awareness for someone who was getting ready for his senior season of college basketball just two years ago. On second-and-1, Garoppolo threw a quick swing pass to running back James White. Rollins saw it coming, left his man and delivered a hard hit that prevented the completion and first down. A couple plays later, Rollins against went step for step with Boyce and almost made a leaping interception. He missed one tackle but made two impressive open-field stops to prevent any run-after-catch yardage.
“I got that a lot going through the process of the draft – that I was a basketball player that was known to be soft,” Rollins said. “But growing up, I was a physical kid. I was always physical on the court doing all the little things. I don’t mind the physical part.”
Montgomery, the third-round pick who’s been a training camp sensation, had a relatively quiet night with two catches for 28 yards. He was flawless in his two opportunities fielding punts —impressive, considering he hadn’t been used as a returner in a live period during training camp. On his first return, he gained 14 yards.
“I just wanted a chance to return it, and I figured I would because they were backed up and they brought their gunners in,” Montgomery said. “I just peaked up at the ball and peaked back down to make sure nobody was there and I just took my shot.”
Ryan, a fourth-round pick, did nothing to hurt his bid to be the inside linebacker who steps in for Clay Matthews when Matthews moves to the line of scrimmage. Among his six tackles were a sack and two stops for losses. He also was in on the fourth-and-4 stop of Garoppolo.
“I’m just learning,” Ryan said. “Especially for us rookies, it is about getting in and getting our feet wet. I think that is what happened in this game and it is one of four. The No. 1 goal is to make the team. Everyone is working hard and trying to show what they got.”
If fifth-round quarterback Brett Hundley has to contribute this season, then the Packers’ ship is sunk. However, he continued his upward trajectory by going 4-of-6 for 60 yards and a touchdown. Hundley, who got on the field before Matt Blanchard, missed Larry Pinkard for what should have been a 26-yard touchdown but got the team into the end zone, anyway, when he hit running back John Crockett for a 10-yard touchdown on third-and-7.
“It feels awesome,” Hundley said. ”First NFL touchdown pass and to put together a drive like that against New England was an awesome experience. I’m blessed and happy to be in this kind of atmosphere. These teammates – they’re awesome. I just can’t say enough.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.