Isn't nice to have training camp again? Sure there may not be the same sort of hitting, physical camp that we have seen in the past....in fact I don't know if there's been a single fight yet (disappointing)....but the race is still on!
It's interesting to me that this year the races that interest me the most aren't the ones I was expecting. I thought I would get wrapped up in the Starks vs. Grant horse race for the starting back. Maybe get into Morgan Burnett fight Charlie Peprah for that starting safety spot. I definitely thought I would love to see Lang and Sherrod duke it out for the starting LG position.
But no, these starting spots really don't capture my imagination. What has been catching my attention has been in who is catching passes. The two battles I love to hear about (alas not in Green Bay to watch) is the receiving corp and the last man standing in the TE group. Who gets to hang on and who is surprising so far has been much more interesting than the other battles so far....at least for me.
The other reason that I find this part of camp compelling is because I think these battles are going to shape the roster as a whole. There's lots of talent here, and I think these battles are going to spill over into other position groups and have the Packers keep more in some positions and less in others.
Quarterbacks (2) Aaron Rodgers, Matt Flynn. I know Mike McCarthy would feel more comfortable with three quarterbacks (hell a good number of us probably would too) but I just don't see the Packers keeping three unless Graham Harrell really lights it up in the Preseason.....and I mean light it up so much that it's a guarantee that some team will snatch him up when he's cut. Harrell has promise but I'm not expecting that to happen and he spends another year on the PS.
Halfbacks (4) Ryan Grant, James Starks, Alex Green, Brandon Saine. My first surprise, four of these guys being kept after only two kept last year. This comes all down to the Packers being once bitten twice shy. Last year risking keeping only two left our offense going through some real growing pains last year....and I think this year they over compensate with keeping some extra guys. The first three are pretty straight forward, but the last one is my going out on a ledge guess with this roster. Saine is big, strong, and fast. He fits with what MM likes in backs and should help with the rotation while growing into something good for the future....mainly he's kept for development for the future and not trusted to make it to the PS.
Fullbacks (1) John Kuhn. If there is any part of this where I will catch holy hell it's here. Going from three for two years in a row down to one...and a hybrid one at that. No to that UDFA kid from the Gophers, no to Quinn Johnson. Just Kuhn and here's why....I don't think the rookie is going to make the case to really make the roster. As for Johnson, well my money is on him being that same guy that's he's been the first two years here. Not good at catching, not good at special teams, but really REALLY good at blocking. That got him a pass the first two years, but this year there is so much talent at other positions that block, catch, and play special teams that Johnson loses out to a guy who can contribute at all three positions while he can only do one.
Offensive Line (9) Chad Clifton, T.J. Lang, Scott Wells, Josh Sitton, Bryan Bulaga, Derek Sherrod, Nick McDonald, Marshall Newhouse, Caleb Schauderaff. Most of this is pretty straight forward really. The main questions is if it's nine or ten, who the last one or two will be, and who's the starting LG. I think nine, although ten wouldn't surprising especially if they want to stash a guy here instead of say running back or corner (it's been known to happen). The biggest question about the guys I've listed is why Schauderaff over Evan Dietrich-Smith? My only answer? Schauderaff was drafted and I think they keep him around to see if he can become what they wanted him to since the drafted him. EDS was kept around for a similar reason last year after showing something so he has a pretty good case as well.
Wide Receiver (5) Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, James Jones, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb. Now things get interesting and it's because of two dudes: Jones and Cobb. Jones came cheap for the next three years and still has a pretty high upside. He could be something special....or he could be a guy with promise and stone hands. Time will tell, but he throws a monkey wrench in that last roster spot for guys with promise like Tori Gurley or Shaky Smithson and the standby of Brett Swain (who is probably going to go the route of Ruvell Martin). If Jones is throwing a monkey wrench into those plans the person who is turning up the heat is Cobb. If there is a star of this camp it's Randall Cobb. He's making plays, learning the playbook faster than most of the other rookies (I guess he is staying about one day ahead of where they are actually at in teaching the offense), and he's looking seriously legit. By the end of the year he's probably pushing everyone short of Jennings and maybe Finely for playing time and balls thrown to him if he can keep up the pace he's had so far. Could the Packers keep six? Maybe, but I doubt it's for Swain. If they do keep six it's because Gurley or Smithson really start to shine and they want him around but can't stash him on the PS. Don't know if that will happen, the preseason games will tell.
Tight Ends (5) Jermichael Finley, Andrew Quarless, Tom Crabtree, D.J. Williams, Ryan Taylor. That's right I went with five. Three fullbacks was so last year! This season's fashion is TE and they are going to load up. Williams and Taylor shined while Quarless was injured, Finley held out, and Crabtree was...I guess there but who knows? These two rookies shined and shined bright. Williams is shorter than your normal TE and my guess is he fills in for some of the FB work if he can block at all. Taylor is a special teams whiz and should be able to contribute a bit. Crabtree is still the blocking leader and I guess has been stepping up his recieving game. The only one who is a question is my mind is Quarless. He had some dropping problems last year and started this year injured. My money is on Quarless out if they go under five unless Taylor cools off.
Defensive Line (6) B.J. Raji, Mike Neal, Howard Green, Ryan Pickett, C.J. Wilson, Lawrence Guy. Look for C.J. Wilson to bloom this year into real contributor. He's good against the run and should get better at the pass rushing as well (I know this is a hope, but I think it's in him). Other than that major question here is Jarius Wynn or Guy? Guy should have more upside and help much more in the long run answer the question of who is going to replace Cullen Jenkins? He's in, Wynn hits the streets.
Inside Linebackers (4) A.J. Hawk, Desmond Bishop, K.C. Asiodu, D.J. Smith. So Asiodu and Smith aren't exactly Brandon Chillar or Nick Barnett, but they should be good enough to back up and spell two very durable and talented players in Hawk and Bishop. Even better is the fact that both should be contributors on special teams.
Outside Linebackers (4) Clay Matthews, Brad Jones, Frank Zombo, Erik Walden. Who is opposite the Claymaker? My money is on Zombo but really just flip a coin and then flip it again is probably it. I also don't think Rickey Elmore makes it. So far he hasn't really shaken things up and so far I have heard how he's mostly missed on one-on-one drills. I think the Pack can stash him on the PS and they do.
Cornerbacks (6) Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, Davon House, Jarrett Bush, Pat Lee. Again a case of once bitten twice shy. In the Super Bowl the game almost slipped away because of depth problems and so six corners stick around just in case. The first thing I don't have to talk about really. The rumblings I've heard are great camps put in so far by House and Bush (shocker I know), they stick. Lee is the major question mark. Frankly, I've given up on him and this could be another one of those places where the Pack could keep only five of these guys and then keep an extra receiver, Dlineman, or Olineman.
Safety (4) Nick Collins, Charlie Peprah, Morgan Burnett, Anthony Levine. Why Levine instead of say Brandon Underwood? Couple reasons: 1. Levine has potential to be a bruising hitter, something the Pack could use, 2. Underwood is a knuckle head who has washed out at corner and has been arrested twice in two offseasons. Levine didn't make the team last year but this year I think he steps up and makes that 53, remember his study buddies last year were Burnett and Shields. One of those guys made noise last year and the other was about to make some noise last year before coming up hurt. I think Levine gets it more than Underwood ever will and grows into a real player for the Packers.
Specialists: Tim Masthay, Mason Crosby, Brett Goode. These have got to be the safest positions on the team outside of Aaron Rodgers and maybe Clay Matthews. No one is running against them and Crosby and Masthay have been improving (slowly). Goode, well the less you hear about a long snapper the better he is and I for one have never really heard much about him other than this time of year when we just type in the fact that he's making the team....that says it all.
So what do you think? Type in your 53 or at least the tweaks you'd make to mine and say why so and so is not going to make the team will.