On Wednesday, the Green Bay Packers suit up and take the practice field as a team for the first time in the 2015 NFL season. Organized Team Activities begin this week, as the first on-field instruction and coaching will take place at the Don Hutson Center and Ray Nitschke Field.
Get ready for Wednesday's kickoff with our 2015 OTA Primer here, as we break down the schedule, positions to watch, and several other storylines to watch as we prepare for on-field workouts.
Week 1: May 27-29 (May 28 practice open to public)
Week 2: June 2-4 (June 2 open)
Week 3: June 9-12 (June 10 open)
Minicamp: June 16-18 (all practices open)
We've covered a handful of these already, ranging from starting jobs like the tight end and left defensive end positions as well as depth spots such as the third running back, fifth wide receiver, and kick return specialist jobs.
Of course, arguably the highest-profile position battle this summer will be at inside linebacker. Leading the charge at this point is third-year pro Sam Barrington, who started nine games last year (including playoffs), including the final seven. At 6'1" and 240 pounds, Barrington has good size for the Mike position. Also expected to contribute, at least somewhat, is All-Pro outside linebacker Clay Matthews, whose transition to a versatile inside/outside role halfway through last season sparked a turnaround for the Packers' run defense.
Because of his ability to rush the passer, however, the Packers would likely prefer to keep Matthews outside if possible, which would require a step up from one of a slew of young players at the position. Candidates for such a breakout include rookie fourth-round pick Jake Ryan, undrafted free agent Tavarus Dantzler, second-year players Carl Bradford and Joe Thomas, and third-year pro Nate Palmer.
Another position to keep an eye on is the starting left cornerback spot, opposite Sam Shields. Casey Hayward is the likely choice to man that position, but he has primarily been a slot corner throughout his NFL career. Like every player working under cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt, Hayward will have to prove this summer that he deserves that job.
Beyond the starters, the nickel and dime corners will be worth monitoring. Micah Hyde looks like a lock to man one spot in the slot, but a slew of young players (including second-year pro Demetri Goodson and numerous rookies) will look to make their mark as well.
One of head coach Mike McCarthy's favorite cliches is that he expects a significant jump in production from a player's first year to his second. Certain names have proved him right in the past; think back to Randall Cobb's sophomore campaign, Mike Daniels' expanded role in 2013, or Barrington's emergence a year ago. This year, numerous candidates will be expected to start taking leadership roles as the team will ask much more of them than it did a year ago.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
By midseason, it was apparent that the first-round pick was ready to take over as the full-time free safety, relegating Micah Hyde back to his slot corner role. If he continues his quick improvement, Clinton-Dix could push for Pro Bowl recognition in year two.
Like Ha Ha, Adams was brought along slowly to start the year but made significant impacts in certain games down the stretch last season. His big days against the Patriots and Cowboys are flashes of the great potential he possesses; now he needs to develop into a consistent playmaker.
The young receivers
Jared Abbrederis' rookie year was lost to an ACL tear, while Jeff Janis spent 16 of 18 games as a healthy scratch. However, both have been praised heading into their second year, with McCarthy complimenting Janis' work down the stretch last season. If both of them can impress this summer, it may force the Packers to keep six wideouts on the roster.
Rookie Question Marks
What can we expect out of first-rounder Damarious Randall and second-round pick Quinten Rollins? Will they crack the nickel and dime rotation with Micah Hyde or
A concern about Montgomery is his potential inability to participate in all three weeks of OTAs. As Brian Carriveau of 247sports pointed out, Stanford's graduation is on June 14th, and if Montgomery is indeed graduating this spring he will be ineligible to participate until that time. In that case, he would miss all three weeks of OTAs and be in Green Bay in time for the team's mandatory minicamp which begins on June 16th. Unfortunately, that would likely set Montgomery back a bit in his progression to earn a productive role on offense in his first year in addition to contributing on special teams.
Hundley looks to push Tolzien
After trading up to pick him in the fifth round of the NFL Draft, the Packers have a substantial investment in UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley. Beating out Scott Tolzien for the backup quarterback job with just one offseason of work may be a tall order, but Hundley does have excellent physical tools. If he can stay on par with Tolzien through the summer, the Packers might elect to roll into the 2015 season with just two quarterbacks on the roster. At worst, Hundley's draft position would likely buy him a year or two of development under Mike McCarthy to see if he can become at least a viable backup option.
What do the Packers have in their three sixth-round picks? Aaron Ripkowski could be the second coming of William Henderson. Christian Ringo is the spitting image of Mike Daniels. Kennard Backman has the physical tools to become a field-stretching tight end. If any one of these players can approach their ceilings, that crop of picks will be considered a success; they'll take their first steps towards those goals this week.
Veteran Workout Bonuses
It is no secret that the Packers use workout bonuses heavily in their veterans' contracts in order to ensure attendance throughout the offseason program. Eight players have bonuses of more than a quarter of a million dollars on their deals, and the team will pay out almost $5 million in total this year, provided all the bonuses are earned. In other words, if you're a Packer, you'll be in town for OTAs unless you have a really good reason not to.
The Packers are one of the top teams in the NFL in giving playing time to undrafted free agents, a fact which they are proud of and even use as leverage when trying to sign these players each spring. A few players come into Green Bay this year with a little more hype than most, and they will do their best to keep their names on the tips of Packers fans' tongues with their first few practices.
At a position where the depth drops off significantly after the top two players, Crockett's production as both a runner and a receiver at North Dakota State makes him an appealing option.
The linebacker's highlight film and physical tools are impressive, but they must come with the caveats that he played in the FCS and will be learning a new position as he moves inside. If he shows signs over the next few weeks that his abilities will translate to NFL speed and complexity, then we'll start getting excited.
In a sign that the Packers may be incorporating more power blocking schemes in the running game, Rotheram arrives in Green Bay as a mauling guard who thrived in Paul Chryst's Wisconsin Badgers-style rushing offense. If he can prove competent as a pass-blocker, he has a good chance to earn a roster spot.
He qualifies for both "UDFA" and "second-year player" consideration. One of last year's top signings spent the entirety of the season on the practice squad, but hopes to convert his impressive size and athleticism into production and splash plays this summer.