July 26, 2012; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers safety Jerron McMillian (22) defends during training camp practice at Ray Nitschke Field in Green Bay, WI. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE
M.D. Jennings is still in pole position to grab the nickel safety role in the Green Bay Packers' defense, but his competitors aren't going down without a fight. Jennings has looked the same throughout camp and preseason, while Anthony Levine and Jerron McMillian have been on a very obvious upward trajectory.
Jennings had one very poor glaring error in the game against the San Diego Chargers, and had a couple of other plays where he looked a bit out of position. He made less obvious errors against the Cleveland Browns in Week 2 of preseason, but still didn't look like the potential star we've heard that he might become from his performances in practice throughout the summer.
Meanwhile, McMillian put in an excellent head-turning performance against the Browns last Thursday, and Levine has been solid in both preseason games. The three have been splitting time with the first-team defense during practice this week, and even though Jennings should start the game against Cleveland at the nickel safety spot, don't be shocked if all three players get plenty of snaps in the first half.
Mike McCarthy and Dom Capers are going to be taking a bit of a leap of faith, whoever they hand the job to. All three players have minimal experience and a lot of physical upside. Jennings may be the most polished of the three players, but that certainly isn't saying much. No matter who plays, there's going to be a bit of a learning curve for them in real games, and the San Francisco 49ers are likely to target that nickel safety in any way possible.
Between the three of them, someone should have a dominant showing. The Bengals aren't exactly deep at wide receiver, even though they have plenty of talent. A.J. Green might go over the middle a bit, but he's going to be doing more work on the outside. Rookie Mohamed Sanu might be dangerous on slant and post patters through the middle, but he's a rookie and isn't a consistent threat just yet. Bengals starting tight end Jermaine Gresham will miss the game with an injury.
I'm expecting a good showing out of all three safeties on Thursday, and I'm hoping someone steps up to win the job definitively. We've been waiting to see The Doctor claim that spot all summer, and he should have an opportunity to do that against the Bengals.
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