Without a doubt, Eric Stokes is the man who has provided the most evidence this upcoming season. After playing 16 games in his rookie season a few years ago, he has only played a total of 12 games over the last two. He played less than 10 percent of the snaps last season.

“It was a lot of different little mindsets that I had to go through different little trials,” Stokes said. “Even when I thought I was back in Denver – boom, hamstring again. Then come back on Christmas Eve (against) Carolina, my family is looking at me and then another hamstring. Just a lot of little trials and tribulations, but I took the good with the bad.

Stokes, 25, was drafted 29th overall in the 2021 NFL Draft. He came to Green Bay with high expectations after leading a tough high school team in Georgia. He was the nation’s No. 8 pick with four picks his junior season.

The frustrating thing is that the injury is a hamstring. That may be one of the most annoying soft tissue injuries there is. Christian Watson’s hamstring was an issue last year, as well as Romeo Doubs, Dontayvion Wicks and even Bo Melton were bitten by the hamstring bug.

And if we go back a little further, Clay Matthews had a huge problem with his hamstrings.

This is a turning point for Stokes. The Packers declined his fifth-year option, which would have meant a guaranteed salary of $12.4 million through 2025. But now the pressure is on as he will enter free agency after 2024 with many question marks.

Can Stokes be counted on to lead a defensive secondary given his massive health issues? This season will give us the answer. Can he still be a solid coverage corner and be aggressive enough in the run game to be a presence?

These are all valid questions, but the bottom line is availability. The NFL phrase has always been that you can’t make the team or get paid if you’re in the recovery tub. Stokes knows he has to play if he wants to see a solid contract next year.

But at what point does he push himself too much, which eventually comes back to bite him? The Packers can afford to be careful with him, but Stokes can’t.

A hamstring injury is perhaps one of the most fickle injuries in football. You can’t see the injury and there is a level of trust between the player and the team that both parties are doing the right thing.

“He’s had a chance to really develop his body,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said. “He looks in great shape. I think the piece says the same thing.”

If the Packers can get a fully healthy Stokes back for the first time since his rookie season, Green Bay’s defense will look pretty great.