Roster hopefuls strive to 'leave no doubt' in Packers' preseason finale

Game against Kansas City serves as final audition for many players on the bubble

CB Ka'Dar Hollman, LB James Crawford, LB Ty Summers
CB Ka'Dar Hollman, LB James Crawford, LB Ty Summers

GREEN BAY – After 36 days of training camp, all that stands between dozens of hopefuls and a spot on the Packers' 53-man roster is one final audition against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Countless hours spent in meetings, practice and studying the playbook culminate in Thursday's preseason finale at Lambeau Field, the last chance for any young player on the bubble to impress prior to this weekend's mandatory roster reduction.

While front offices must weigh the totality of camp before finalizing their rosters, Head Coach Matt LaFleur can also think of times when a player has clinched a spot based on how he's performed in the final game of the preseason.

If it's happened once, it could very well happen again.

"I think we've all been in places … where somebody just absolutely steals the stage in that last game," said LaFleur earlier this week. "They might have been on the outside looking in and they just have an unbelievable performance and they steal one of those roster spots. I think anything can happen all the way through."

Rookie sixth-round pick Ka'dar Hollman has shined during his first summer in Green Bay. He caught the Packers' first interception of the preseason against Houston earlier this month and has rotated in with the starting defense throughout camp.

Still, Hollman doesn't view himself as a lock, especially at a position with Jaire Alexander, Tramon Williams, Kevin King, Josh Jackson and Tony Brown returning from last season.

His goal against Kansas City is to "prove why they drafted me and prove that I'm the player they brought here and more." On top of being a ball hawk, Hollman is seeking the opportunity to display his skills in both man and zone coverage.

"Emotions are going to be up. People are going to be a little antsy," Hollman said. "This is just the week where everybody wants to buckle down and make sure that when (the game's over) Thursday night we did everything we could to make the roster."

There are tight battles at every nearly position on the Packers' roster, including at running back where Dexter Williams is competing with veteran Tra Carson and Keith Ford for the Packers' No. 3 job. The rookie sixth-round pick hopes to demonstrate the strides he's made over the last month.

Quarterback Tim Boyle rode out cut-down day last year as an undrafted free agent out of Eastern Kentucky. Despite amassing a 113.0 passer rating this summer, Boyle says he isn't breathing any easier the second time around.

At the moment, his focus is set squarely on the Chiefs and keeping pace with DeShone Kizer in the competition to back up Aaron Rodgers. Whatever happens in the game, Boyle will have his family by his side while he waits on the Packers' decision.

"It was a weird day for me last year, waiting by my phone and all my friends are getting cut," Boyle said. "It's a weird sensation when you're kind of hanging on and you really don't know if you're going to have a job within the next 24 hours. That's part of it. I'll be with my family. Thankfully, they're coming out. So I'll have some distraction with me."

Defensive lineman Tyler Lancaster is vying to make the initial 53-man roster for the first time after coming up short of a spot last summer. He was promoted from the practice squad a month later and played in 12 games with five starts as a rookie.

Cut-down day was a nerve-wracking process for Lancaster last year, but he tried to make it as normal as possible. He got a morning workout in at Lambeau Field and even ate breakfast before receiving the bad news.

As a former undrafted free agent himself, Lancaster sympathizes with the rookies and first-year players fighting for a spot tonight against Kansas City.

"Last year this was the Super Bowl. This was going to make or break me," Lancaster said. "I think for a lot of guys they're definitely feeling the pressure. It's different for everybody, but it was a big game for me last year."

Tight end Robert Tonyan is one of the handful of players on the roster who has been on both sides of the bubble on cut-down day. He was among the Detroit Lions' final cuts in 2017 before making the Packers' roster as a fourth tight end last summer.

Knowing there is no right or wrong way to go about handling cut-down day, Tonyan and receiver Jake Kumerow went to the driving range and played video games to pass the time last year.

Tonyan was at peace the entire time because he felt he left everything on the field during a preseason in which he caught eight passes for 61 yards and two touchdowns. With one final preseason game to go, this summer is no different.

As the Packers put the finishing touches on their 2019 preseason slate, Tonyan has a simple piece of advice for any young player looking to follow his footsteps: "Leave no doubt."

"You have one more game to put it all out there and leave it all out there," Tonyan said. "It is a business, so you never know. If you think you have it or you think you don't have it, stuff can always happen. Control what you can control."

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