With the first preseason game just around the corner, and over a full week of training camp under their belts, the Packers 53-man roster is beginning to take shape. After the Packers Family Night Scrimmage, there are a few players who took steps forward, and some that may have buried themselves too deep to recover.
Injuries over the next few weeks may throw a monkey wrench into who gets the final few spots on the team, but here are my 10 fearless predictions on what I believe will transpire by the time the regular season rolls around.
1) Crosby will not be the Packers kicker in Week 1
Crosby's 3-for-8 performance during Saturday's scrimmage may not be the final straw for Coach McCarthy, but if he doesn't improve over the course of the preseason the Packers will have no other choice but to move on. Giorgio Tavecchio appears have better accuracy, but doesn't have the same amount of leg strength as Crosby. I will gladly take the more accurate kicker in this scenario, or test my luck with a free agent kicker.
2) Graham Harrell will win the back-up quarterback battle
As we noted heading into training camp, the back-up quarterback battle will come down to who makes the least amount of mistakes. If that is the case, Coleman's two interceptions on Saturday will likely give Harrell the lead in the race. Coach McCarthy would rather have a quarterback who didn't turn the ball over than one with a stronger arm, and Harrell appears to be making less mistakes. As long as Harrell doesn't have any epically terrible performances during the preseason, he should have that job locked up.
3) Johnny Jolly will make the team
Jolly has been a pleasant surprise so far in training camp, and has been mentioned on numerous occasions as someone who is making plays on the defensive side of the ball.
It's clear Jolly still knows how to play the position. It's just a matter of seeing if his body still has life in it.— Tom Silverstein (@TomSilverstein) July 28, 2013
As Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel notes, Jolly still has the instincts to be a solid contributor for the Packers, but three years away from the game is hard to recover from. If he can stay healthy, and work his way into playing shape, he will likely get a spot. He's put himself into a good position thus far.
4) James Starks will make the team
Another outstanding run by Starks. Either he's getting great blocking or he's really reading the holes well.— Tom Silverstein (@TomSilverstein) July 30, 2013
Starks has been another pleasant surprise during training camp, showing signs of a possible return to his 2010 form. With DuJuan Harris expected to miss another two weeks, Starks has the perfect opportunity to make some noise, and put himself in position to make the team.
5) DuJuan Harris won't make the team
Injuries are always unfortunate. Throw some poor timing into the equation, and you come face to face with a tough decision. Harris' healthy recovery from a cyst on his lungs was the best solution to a scary situation, but the timing may have cost him a roster spot. If Harris isn't able to play until Week 3 of the preseason, it would be tough to imagine the Packers keeping him over Starks and Green. Harris will have to blow people away when he does get on the field in order to find a spot.
6) Marshall Newhouse will start at Right Tackle
Not exactly a "fearless" prediction, but after Newhouse has taken the majority of the first team snaps in practice, it's hard to see Barclay unseating Newhouse. A telling sign during Saturday's scrimmage was that David Bakhtiari came in before Barclay at Right Tackle, and Barclay was playing Right Guard. It could have just been an audition for Barclay at a different position, but if the coaching staff is already moving him around I don't think he's in a strong position to start at Right Tackle. (Note: this assumes that Newhouse does not get moved back to the left side to replace Bryan Bulaga. If that happens, all bets are off.)
7) Datone Jones will start at Defensive End
Datone jones just flat-backed TJ Lang. Very impressive.— Tom Silverstein (@TomSilverstein) July 30, 2013
Jones was expected to see playing time as a rookie, but his athleticism and experience within a 3-4 scheme have put him on a fast-track to potentially start Week 1. Coach McCarthy has mentioned that he needs to finish plays and get to the ball after he gets past the offensive line in front of him, but the fact that he has been continuously in the backfield is a promising sign for the first-round pick out of UCLA.
As we touched on during our first podcast, McMillian has the potential to be a playmaker at the safety position but the coaching staff appeared to trust Jennings more in crunch time last season. McMillian has left an impression so far in training camp, delivering some hellacious hits and playing above-average pass defense as well. If he makes a few plays in the preseason, I expect him to start over Jennings in Week 1.
9) Eddie Lacy will not only be the starter, but be the feature back
Lacy was arguably the MVP of the Family Night scrimmage. He displayed some of his quick cutting ability and reeled off some impressive runs of 19 and 16 yards on a limited number of carries. Lacy has all the tools to become a feature back in the NFL, but he has to improve on his pass blocking (especially blitz pick-ups) in order to achieve that role. I think Lacy will gradually improve on that area of his game, and earn the trust of the coaching staff during the preseason to get the bulk of the carries during the regular season.
10) Jeremy Ross will be the return specialist
Until Johnathan Franklin can prove himself as a reliable return man, it appears Ross will take the role of kick and punt returner. Randall Cobb is a difference maker on special teams, but the risk of playing him on special teams far outweighs the possible reward when he has become such a valuable weapon on offense. Until someone else emerges as an option, I expect this to be a battle between Ross and Franklin, with Ross having a healthy lead at this point in time.
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