Now that the 2015 NFL Draft is behind us and the undrafted free agent signings are mostly known, we can safely assume that every player who projects onto the Green Bay Packers' starting lineup this season is on the roster. With that in mind, we at Acme Packing Company decided to take a look back at the starters at each position over the past several years to see how the roster has evolved.
We chose the 2009 season as a starting point, since that was the first year that Green Bay ran a 3-4 defense under Dom Capers. Also worth noting is that preseason injuries were taken into account - the starters listed are those who entered week one as the starter. This is why Bryan Bulaga is not listed as the projected starter at left tackle in 2013 (replaced by David Bakhtiari) or why B.J. Raji and JC Tretter are omitted from the 2014 list at nose tackle and center, respectively.
Note that the 2015 projections are just that - projections. We fully expect a handful of starting jobs and roles to change somewhat - especially in the linebacker and defensive line groups.
This one is easy - Aaron Rodgers has manned the quarterback position with consistently excellent play since the 2008 season. We don't feel the need to address this in any more detail, since he's won two MVPs in that span as well as a Super Bowl MVP award.
|Ryan Grant||Ryan Grant||James Starks||Alex Green/Cedric Benson||Eddie Lacy (R)||Eddie Lacy||Eddie Lacy|
At running back, the Packers had a pretty good thing going with Ryan Grant before his season-ending injury during the first game of the 2010 season. From then on, it was a revolving door for three seasons until Eddie Lacy's selection in the second round of the 2013 draft gave the Packers a true feature back.
|John Kuhn||Korey Hall||John Kuhn||John Kuhn||John Kuhn||John Kuhn||John Kuhn|
Interestingly, Hall took over as the primary starter in 2010. Kuhn ended up in more of a running back role that season after Grant's injury. He posted career highs (by a wide margin) in rushing attempts and yards that year as a second option behind Brandon Jackson before resuming the starting fullback role in 2011.
|WR1||Greg Jennings||Greg Jennings||Greg Jennings||Greg Jennings||Jordy Nelson||Jordy Nelson||Jordy Nelson|
|WR2||Donald Driver||Donald Driver||Donald Driver||Jordy Nelson||James Jones||Jarrett Boykin||Davante Adams|
|WR3/Slot||James Jones||James Jones||Jordy Nelson||James Jones||Randall Cobb||Randall Cobb||Randall Cobb|
This position probably shows the most natural evolution of any on the team, especially over the past few years. Players gradually climb the depth chart and take the place of older, departing players. Green Bay appears to have found a long-term core group though, with Adams appearing poised to take the starting boundary receiver job for good this season. Interestingly, Boykin is the only player named in this position group who was taken off this list due to his performance rather than because of retirement or departure in free agency.
|Donald Lee||Jermichael Finley||Jermichael Finley||Jermichael Finley||Jermichael Finley||Andrew Quarless||Andrew Quarless|
Yes, Finley had the position locked down for a while, and he was a big part of the team's offense in 2011. Quarless is the veteran now, but Richard Rodgers might claim the job next year.
|LT||Chad Clifton||Chad Clifton||Chad Clifton||Marshall Newhouse||David Bakhtiari (R)||David Bakhtiari||David Bakhtiari|
|LG||Daryn Colledge||Daryn Colledge||T.J. Lang||T.J. Lang||Josh Sitton||Josh Sitton||Josh Sitton|
|C||Scott Wells||Scott Wells||Scott Wells||Jeff Saturday||Evan Dietrich-Smith||Corey Linsley (R)||Corey Linsley|
|RG||Josh Sitton||Josh Sitton||Josh Sitton||Josh Sitton||T.J. Lang||T.J. Lang||T.J. Lang|
|RT||Mark Tauscher||Mark Tauscher||Bryan Bulaga||Bryan Bulaga||Don Barclay||Bryan Bulaga||Bryan Bulaga|
One of the obvious changes here was the flip of Lang and Sitton before the 2013 season. Similarly, the high draft picks (Bulaga, Derek Sherrod) weren't called upon to start at the beginning of their rookie years, and Bakhtiari wouldn't have been thrown into the fire either, if not for Bulaga's torn ACL. Finally, the center position has some stability after a rough couple years. The team expects to have the same 5 starters for consecutive seasons for the first time since 2009-10.
|LE||Johnny Jolly||Ryan Pickett||B.J. Raji||B.J. Raji||Johnny Jolly||Datone Jones||Josh Boyd|
|NT||Ryan Pickett||B.J. Raji||Ryan Pickett||Ryan Pickett||Ryan Pickett||Letroy Guion||B.J. Raji|
|RE||Cullen Jenkins||Cullen Jenkins||Mike Neal||C.J. Wilson||B.J. Raji||Mike Daniels||Mike Daniels|
It's still a bit bizarre that Raji, whose best work came in 2010 on the nose, wasn't moved back there full-time until prior to the 2014 season. The difficult task of replacing Cullen Jenkins after the Super Bowl is shown clearly here, though the Packers clearly have the right end locked down now - it's the left end position that is in a bit of turmoil with neither Jones nor Boyd really taking ownership of that job just yet.
|LOLB||Aaron Kampman||Clay Matthews||Clay Matthews||Nick Perry (R)||Nick Perry||Julius Peppers||Julius Peppers|
|LILB||A.J. Hawk||A.J. Hawk||A.J. Hawk||A.J. Hawk||A.J. Hawk||A.J. Hawk||Clay Matthews|
|MLB||Nick Barnett||Nick Barnett||Desmond Bishop||D.J. Smith||Brad Jones||Brad Jones||Sam Barrington|
|ROLB||Brady Poppinga||Brad Jones||Erik Walden||Clay Matthews||Clay Matthews||Clay Matthews||Nick Perry|
Even a star like Matthews didn't enter his rookie season as a projected starter, though he did replace Poppinga in the fourth game of that season. This year, we're projecting him in the middle with Perry in a "starting" role, though Clay should be moved around quite a bit. And as everyone knows, Hawk at least brought his best effort to every game and every season.
|LCB||Charles Woodson||Charles Woodson||Charles Woodson||Tramon Williams||Tramon Williams||Tramon Williams||Casey Hayward|
|RCB||Al Harris||Tramon Williams||Tramon Williams||Sam Shields||Sam Shields||Sam Shields||Sam Shields|
|CB3/Slot CB||Tramon Williams||Sam Shields (R)||Sam Shields||Casey Hayward||Casey Hayward||Casey Hayward||Micah Hyde|
|SS||Atari Bigby||Morgan Burnett||Morgan Burnett||Charles Woodson||M.D. Jennings||Morgan Burnett||Morgan Burnett|
|FS||Nick Collins||Nick Collins||Nick Collins||Morgan Burnett||Morgan Burnett||Micah Hyde||Ha Ha Clinton-Dix|
Burnett's movement back and forth from the safety positions is intriguing, but he certainly seems best-equipped to playing more of a strong safety role with Ha Ha's emergence in center field.
|K||Mason Crosby||Mason Crosby||Mason Crosby||Mason Crosby||Mason Crosby||Mason Crosby||Mason Crosby|
|P||Jeremy Kapinos||Tim Masthay||Tim Masthay||Tim Masthay||Tim Masthay||Tim Masthay||Tim Masthay|
|LS||Brett Goode||Brett Goode||Brett Goode||Brett Goode||Brett Goode||Brett Goode||Brett Goode|
|KR||Will Blackmon/Jordy Nelson||Jordy Nelson||Randall Cobb||Randall Cobb||Randall Cobb||DuJuan Harris||Ty Montgomery|
|PR||Will Blackmon/Jordy Nelson||Tramon Williams||Randall Cobb||Randall Cobb||Randall Cobb||Micah Hyde||Micah Hyde/Ty Montgomery|
If Ty Montgomery can lock down the return jobs like Cobb did in the early part of this decade, those jobs will be in great shape. Here's hoping that is the case.
A few things are clear from this exercise. The first is that virtually no rookies are ever brought into Green Bay with the expectation that they will start from day one. In fact, the only five rookies we have listed on the entire roster are Linsley in 2014, Lacy and Bakhtiari in 2013, Nick Perry in 2012, and Sam Shields in 2010. Even so, only Lacy and Perry were entering the season with immediate expectations. Bakhtari most likely would not have started if Bryan Bulaga's ACL remained intact in training camp, and the same goes for Linsley and JC Tretter's injury last season. Shields, on the other hand, was a quick study in training camp and put his raw athleticism to work instantly after coming in as an undrafted free agent - plus the Packers had hoped that Al Harris would be able to return to the field that season, an expectation which never panned out.
The other item that's worth noting is the constant focus that Ted Thompson and company have on developing their own talent. Of the 203 spots that we identified on this entire grid, exactly 22 of the names had played a game for another NFL team before starting in Green Bay. Of those 24 spots, 15 are taken up by three names: Ryan Pickett, Charles Woodson, and John Kuhn. The others are Letroy Guion (one season), Erik Walden (one) Julius Peppers (two), Jeff Saturday (one), Cedric Benson (one) and Al Harris (one). (Note that Ryan Grant was acquired from the Giants in a trade, but he never actually played a game for them.)
What other trends do you observe from looking through these lists? Let us know in the comments.