The Green Bay Packers are going to have plenty of competition for spots on their final 53-man roster coming out of training camp and a position that could see a heated battle for the last spot or two is at tight end — one player looking to earn that spot is second-year man Kennard Backman.
Backman, who was selected by the Packers in the sixth round of the 2015 NFL Draft, essentially had a redshirt season last year for Green Bay, playing in just seven games and seeing just 11 snaps total on offense.
Yet, the Packers still have high hopes for the former UAB standout, especially due to his 4.66 time in the forty-yard-dash during the 2016 pre-draft process. Backman’s athleticism is real and so is his pass-catching ability, but will it be enough for him to make the roster in 2016?
Here is what Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy had to say on the topic earlier in the offseason:
“I think Kennard is one of those guys you look for to make that jump,” McCarthy said to ESPN.com. “Real raw his first year. Willing. Good kid. I look for him to make an impact on special teams. He really started to figure that out during the second half of the season.”
That is strong praise for Backman, who has yet to catch a pass in the NFL. Special teams are one area in which he can earn his way onto the roster, but even then, he will need to battle it out with third-year man Justin Perillo.
Perillo, who has played in 11 games over the past two seasons, has also proven to be effective on special teams and after being released at the end of camp last season, he was added to the active roster later in the season and finished 2015 with 11 catches for 102 yards.
Perillo also leap-frogged Backman in the process, which begs the question, can Backman overtake him?
The truth is that he may not need to. Even though I have been projecting just three tight ends and seven wide receivers in my recent 53-man roster projection, that doesn’t mean it’s right.
If the Packers keep four tight ends, including Jared Cook and Richard Rodgers, then Backman would appear to have a good chance to making the team along with Perillo. However, if the team decides to keep just three, then a tough choice would have to be made.
In the end, it may come down to special teams. But, the other factor could be Backman’s pass-catching prowess, if he can show any, because with his size and speed, he has the ability to threaten defenses down the middle of the field. Perillo is sure-handed, but he doesn’t have the speed or the potential that Backman does.
Speed kills in the NFL and if Backman is going to make his way onto the Packers 53-man roster for a second consecutive year, he will need to make sure his speed makes him effective, not just on offense, but on special teams too.
Otherwise, Backman will be moving hastily towards the NFL’s unemployment line.