With the Green Bay Packers beginning their first round of Organized Team Activities today, nearly the entire team will be on the practice field together for the first time for the 2013 football season. With that, we thought it would be fun to take a look at a few of the biggest question marks or competitions on the roster and give you a few things to watch for during the three practices this week.
Changes on the Offensive Line
The first thing that comes to mind is how tackle Bryan Bulaga and guard Josh Sitton will adjust to playing on the left side. As we noted a while back, their transition to the left side together should help both players make the switch more smoothly as they continue playing next to each other. If they can play as well on the left side as they did on the right in 2011, that should significantly help Aaron Rodgers' ability to make plays.
Along with those changes is the open competition at the right tackle position and a presumed challenge for T.J. Lang at right guard. Keep an eye on fourth-round pick David Bakhtiari and the number of snaps he gets at right tackle; if he sees a lot of time with the first team it is likely an indication that the team wants to give him every opportunity to win the job.
Running Back Competition
We should not read too much into the ways that Mike McCarthy and company use their shiny new toys at running back this week...unless Eddie Lacy or Johnathan Franklin are taking the majority of the snaps with the first team. If Alex Green and DuJuan Harris are the first-team backs, that doesn't signal much of anything. They know the playbook, they have been with the team for a while, and they have skills that can be put to use.
However, if one of the rookies starts taking a large portion of the reps with the starters, that may be an indication that they would be ahead of schedule in their understanding of the playbook and the offense. If that's the case, it would give the rookie an early boost in a quest for a starting job in the Packers' backfield.
We have debated the Graham Harrell/B.J. Coleman question ad nauseum around here, and there's only one way to settle it: with good, old-fashioned competition. Harrell should get the first crack at the job in OTAs, but obviously Coleman will get plenty of chances to unseat him. A good early performance by either player should be a nice start to earning that job. Considering that there will be no major contact drills and therefore no pressure on the QBs, there will be little or no excuse for a poor performance this week.
With three players getting starter's money and only two on the field at any one time, the rotation at the position will be an interesting one to watch. Brad Jones is the wild-card here - he played right inside linebacker last year, but Desmond Bishop returns from injury to presumably reclaim his spot. A platoon with Jones and Hawk switching on passing/running downs might make sense to the casual observer, but in reality switching players out like that is a little more complicated. Keeping track of where Jones lines up and how the other backups are used might give a better indication of what the coaching staff is thinking.
Knowing the terminology of the Packers' 3-4 defense should be a huge help for first-round pick Datone Jones, but the questions I have are more related to the other players on the line. Will the coaching staff take another look at B.J. Raji playing nose tackle? If not, who will be working as the backups at the position behind starter Ryan Pickett? With Jones likely playing the right side, will Mike Neal continue to work there or will he take some snaps at left end? There are plenty of questions about what will go on with the line this season, and we should start to get our first ideas of the answers this week.
Did we miss anything? What are you most curious to see in OTAs this week?