Packers Could Start Two Rookies On Defense

The Packers used their first-round pick this year on an offensive tackle, and Arizona’s Jordan Morgan is expected to earn a starting role at left tackle over the incumbent Rasheed Walker, but the team’s next two draft picks could be on their way to starting roles, as well, according to ESPN’s Rob Demovsky.

Green Bay had two second-round picks in this year’s draft, and they used both of them on SEC defenders. At 45th overall, the Packers took Texas A&M linebacker Edgerrin Cooper, then 13 picks later, they took Georgia safety Javon Bullard at No. 58.

Cooper was the first player taken at his position in this year’s draft, aligning with most pre-draft rankings. Thanks to the unprecedented run of offensive players to open the event, Cooper ended up being the only linebacker taken in the first two rounds. Bullard was the second safety off the board, also following many pre-draft rankings.

Neither player was necessarily viewed as a surefire candidate to start as a rookie. Cooper has the quickness and explosiveness to run and cover, but his occasional lack of discipline had some thinking development was necessary before he could become a three-down linebacker. Bullard has the versatility to play all over the field with a skillset that could make him a perfect fit in a hybrid safety/nickel role, but his lack of ideal size and length was viewed as a potential limiter to his natural abilities and instincts at the next level.

In new defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley‘s new scheme, though, both players reportedly showed flashes in organized team activities. The team has made it clear that it’s not declaring any starters quite yet, but Cooper has been the leading man in the middle of the team’s 4-3 look on defense between Quay Walker and Isaiah McDuffie as the Packers look to replace the departed De’Vondre Campbell.

The team is also looking to replace both starting safeties after the departures of Jonathan Owens and Darnell Savage. Free agent signing Xavier McKinney should fit into one of the two starting slots, but the second job appears to be up for competition. Bullard has a bit more of an uphill battle to win the job than Cooper does at linebacker, but through OTAs, he appears to be well in the mix.

The team isn’t afraid to start rookies either. Green Bay saw Carrington Valentine start 12 games at cornerback after being selected in the 7th round last year. If Cooper and Bullard continue to show positive signs of development throughout the summer, there’s a good chance the Packers could have at least three rookie starters to open the 2024 NFL season.

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