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Packers increasingly relying on younger players as they approach the midway point of their season

Packers increasingly relying on younger players as they approach the midway point of their season


GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — The Green Bay Packers are doubling down on their youth movement.

Green Bay had the NFL’s youngest roster at the start of the season, well before it lost 32-year-old offensive tackle David Bakhtiari to a knee injury and sent 29-year-old cornerback Rasul Douglas to the Buffalo Bills at the trade deadline.

The oldest players on the Packers’ active roster are outside linebacker Preston Smith, who turns 31 on Nov. 17, and 30-year-old inside linebacker De’Vondre Campbell. While the Packers (3-5) avoid using the word “rebuild,” their decision to trade Douglas last week indicated they’re looking to the future.

But that doesn’t mean they’re merely playing for draft position as their season approaches its halfway point. The Packers’ 20-3 victory Sunday over the Los Angeles Rams snapped a four-game skid and showed they could play winning football while showcasing their younger players.

The Packers started four rookies against the Rams, with injuries causing them to turn to two seventh-round picks in the secondary. Carrington Valentine responded with three passes defended and Anthony Johnson Jr. got his first career interception.

“Man, I’m super proud of those guys,” said cornerback Jaire Alexander, who tipped the pass that Johnson picked off. “It’s so fun to watch them come into practice and work and just perfect they’re craft, and it’s only going to get better from here because that’s their standard now.”

While those two rookie defenders stepped up Sunday, Green Bay’s youth has been most evident on offense following the offseason trade of four-time MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers to the New York Jets. That offense has struggled for much of the season with first-year quarterback Jordan Love throwing primarily to rookies and second-year players.

Love threw six touchdown passes without an interception in Green Bay’s first two games and then hit a wall. The Packers went five straight games without scoring a first-half touchdown.

The Packers are hoping the win over the Rams can spark a surge. Love had one of his most efficient performances, going 20 for 26 for 228 yards. He didn’t throw an interception in a game for the first time since Sept. 17. Rookie tight end and second-round pick Luke Musgrave scored his first touchdown.

“It’s not easy in the NFL to get a win,” Love said. “So any time we get one, we’re going to cherish it. But that’s the thing that, going forward, we’ve got to just keep building on, keep growing and keep finding ways to win those tough games. We’ve been put in positions where we haven’t got the outcome we wanted, and there’s a lot we can learn and grow from.

“And I think we’re going to have to keep doing that, keep building.”


The rookie class is showing progress. Jayden Reed has a team-high 333 yards receiving. Anders Carlson has gone 11 of 13 on field goals and 15 of 15 on extra points. Musgrave has been the Packers’ main tight end all season. Karl Brooks and Lukas Van Ness have joined Johnson and Valentine in making contributions on defense.


The offense finally ended its first-half touchdown drought Sunday, but still needs plenty of work. The Packers haven’t exceeded 20 points in any of their last six games. Green Bay ranks at the bottom of the league in first-half scoring. … The Packers are committing 7.5 penalties per game to match the Dallas Cowboys for the highest average in the league.


OT Zach Tom has emerged as a reliable starter in his second season. … OLB Rashan Gary has made a successful return from a torn anterior cruciate ligament and remains an exceptional pass rusher.


WR Christian Watson has 12 catches for 213 yards and one touchdown in five games this season. He had 41 catches for 611 yards and nine total touchdowns (seven receiving, two rushing) as a rookie last year. … OT Rasheed Walker took over for the injured Bakhtiari at left tackle, but struggled enough to lose his starting spot to Yosh Nijman. … RB James Robinson, who rushed for 1,070 yards as a rookie with Jacksonville in 2020, was released from the Packers’ practice squad Monday.


CB Eric Stokes (hamstring) and S Darnell Savage (calf) are on injured reserve and must miss at least two more games. … Bakhtiari (knee) was lost for the season after playing just one game. … DT Kenny Clark (shoulder) and Watson (back/chest) left the game vs. the Rams with injuries. Packers coach Matt LaFleur said Sunday that Clark’s injury doesn’t look like a long-term issue and also expressed optimism Monday about Watson.


28 – Forty-seven of the 52 players on the Packers’ roster as of Sunday were 28 years old or younger. The exceptions were Smith, Campbell, S Rudy Ford (29), S Dallin Leavitt (29) and LB Eric Wilson (29). RB Aaron Jones will turn 29 on Dec. 2.


The Packers are entering arguably the toughest four-game stretch of their schedule. They visit the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, host the Los Angeles Chargers on Nov. 19, play at Detroit on Thanksgiving and welcome the Kansas City Chiefs to Lambeau Field on Dec. 3.

TOP PHOTO: FILE – Green Bay Packers helmets lay on the ground during a practice session at their NFL minicamp Wednesday, June 13, 2018, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

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