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Packers' rookie class making immediate impact

Green Bay fielded the NFL’s youngest team in Week 1


GREEN BAY – The NFL released its annual Week 1 superlatives on Thursday and confirmed pretty much what everyone already knew.

The Packers are indeed the league's youngest team, with an average age of 25.13 years.

During last Sunday's opener in Chicago, Green Bay's 53-man roster featured an NFL-high 17 players who were either rookies or first-year players with no previous regular-season experience.

A league-high 12 of those rookies were suited up during a 38-20 victory over the Bears. According to Elias, it was the most rookies the Packers have deployed in Week 1 since the team dressed 13 against Chicago on Sept. 28, 1952.

Overall, Green Bay's rookie class combined for 361 snaps against the Bears (170 offense, 120 defense and 71 special teams). That's more than double last year's opener in Minnesota, where seven rookies combined for 175 snaps (105 offense, 60 defense, 10 special teams).

"These guys know that there's a standard and they're all trying to live by it," seventh-year cornerback Rasul Douglas said. "We're all on the same page here. We're all the same. Everybody here is a starter. Whenever your number's called, we expect you to have that same standard."

The Packers' rookies didn't just play against the Bears. They made their presence felt throughout.

Sixth-round pick Anders Carlson made his first NFL field goal from 52 yards before halftime, while he and Daniel Whelan became the first Green Bay kicker and punter to make simultaneous NFL debuts since 1960.

Receiver Jayden Reed's 35-yard punt return in the third quarter was the longest in Week 1 by a Packers rookie in more than 40 years. Starting at the Chicago 42, Green Bay scored four plays later on a 35-yard touchdown pass to Aaron Jones.

Second-round pick Luke Musgrave caught three passes for 50 yards, the first time any NFL rookie tight end has eclipsed 50 yards in Week 1 since 2019 (T.J. Hockenson).

On defense, first-round pick Lukas Van Ness and defensive lineman Karl Brooks recorded sacks in their first game, the first time two Packers rookies have both had sacks in Week 1 since the NFL began officially tracking the statistic in 1982.

Prior to Sunday, the last Packers rookie to record a sack in Week 1 was safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix against Seattle in 2014.

As far as traditional pass rushers, the last rookie to record a Week 1 sack for Green Bay was defensive end Darius Holland, who shared his first career sack with Reggie White vs. St. Louis in 1995.

"We're young and all that but it's all about the process and how we practice and how we prepare at the end of the day," eighth-year defensive lineman Kenny Clark said. "A lot of those young guys didn't look too young (against Chicago) and that's a credit to them and how they prepared."

With the roster skewing young, the Packers went into the regular season knowing they would need their rookies to step up. It was even part of Head Coach Matt LaFleur's pregame address.

Reed heard the message loud and clear. A second-round pick last April, Reed has looked wise beyond his years so far in a Packers uniform and it carried over to Soldier Field.

The former Michigan State standout finished with 102 all-purpose yards in Chicago after catching two third-and-long passes for 48 yards to go along with his punt returns.

"I feel like when I get the playbook down, I'm confident about everything I do," Reed said. "There's not many nerves. I probably feel nerves before kickoff, but after that, take the first hit, it's gametime."

It isn't just Green Bay's youth that jumps off the page. It's the size, speed and athleticism the Packers also have infused into their roster in recent years.

The Packers boast the NFL's tallest team based on average height (6.25 feet) and the NFC's heaviest (248.89) based on listed weight. Leaguewide, Green Bay trails only New England (249.11).

The Packers only have nine players who were with the team prior to 2020, but those veterans can sense a difference on the field in terms of speed and physicality of the current team.

"When we watch our film, it's kind of eye-popping," safety Darnell Savage said. "We have a lot of big, athletic, fast dudes. We all just out there flying around, hitting other people, hitting each other. So, it's fun. As long as we keep doing that and keep playing hard, everything else will work itself out."

That challenge continues this week in Atlanta, as the Packers square off with a hungry Falcons team coming off its first Week 1 victory in six years.

Green Bay knows there will be some teachable moments with this young roster, but the potential and upside are undeniable. Best of all, it's a team determined to keep improving.

"It's obviously something to build off," Carlson said. "I think we're all excited about the win and just the excitement we had playing. It was fun to watch the guys, especially the guys on defense, but there's mistakes to fix.

"You can't mask the mistakes because of a win. We got back in the film … and talked about things we can work on this week."

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