Green Bay Packers Training Camp guide to roster competitions

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers lines up under center during 2012 training camp practice at Ray Nitschke Field in Green Bay. Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports photograph

 

Green Bay Packers fans, it’s time to get excited for some football – training camp is just around the corner and the 2013 Green Bay Packers roster will take shape in the next two months.

The last few weeks we have spent time breaking down each position on the Packers roster. We have already discussed the top storylines on the Green Bay Packers heading into the season, so check that out here: Top 10 Green Bay Packers Storylines.

With training camp less than a month away, here is a brief summary of each position. Click on the position titles to read a more in-depth analysis of each position.

Quarterback

Green Bay Packers quarterback Graham Harrell (left) and quarterback Aaron Rodgers (right) look on during 2012 training camp practice at Ray Nitschke Feld in Green Bay. Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports photograph

Who will emerge as Aaron Rodgers’s top backup? That seems to be on the minds of most fans heading into the 2013 season. Rodgers has been durable up until this point of his career, but what if  …? Most of us shudder thinking about what would happen if the Packers would have to play a few games without their all-pro quarterback.

Will this finally be the year Graham Harrell shows us enough in preseason that we feel confident he can fill in for a few games if he needs to and the Packers’ offense won’t be a complete disaster? Will second year player, B.J. Coleman, improve leaps and bounds and surpass Harrell as the Packers’ top backup quarterback?

The backup quarterbacks need to play better this preseason in order to reassure the entire fanbase that the season won’t be completely lost if number 12 goes down.

Running Back

Green Bay Packers rookie running back Eddie Lacy works out during organized team activities at Clarke Hinkle Field in Green Bay. Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports photograph

Will this finally be the year the Packers have a legitimate running game? Teams have figured out the past few seasons that the Packers don’t pose a running threat, but by drafting Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin this year, Green Bay seems committed to improving their running game. It’s about time.

Maybe a respectable ground game will limit the amount of times defensive linemen tee off on Rodgers, or maybe teams will actually respect the run and put an extra defender in the box, opening up the field for the Packers’ passing game.

The Packers now have a crowded backfield. How will this all work out? What will Lacy and Franklin’s roles be in the offense? Maybe this will be the year a player emerges as a true feature back for the Packers. Hey, that would be nice, but how do veterans DuJuan Harris, Alex Green, and James Starks factor into this? Many questions at running back will be answered in training camp.

Wide Receiver

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb with Jordy Nelson during organized team activities at Clarke Hinkle Field in Green Bay. Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports photograph

Who will emerge as the go-to receiver in Greg Jennings’ absence? Many favor Randall Cobb for this role, but don’t forget about Jordy Nelson and James Jones, who are both more than capable of being Rodgers’s number one target on any given Sunday. Maybe this ambiguity will make the Packers difficult to defend. It will be interesting, however, to keep a close eye on how Coach McCarthy decides to distribute snaps between the three receivers.

With all the youth at the position the Packers will need some young players to step up and emerge as the fourth and fifth wide receivers. It will be interesting to see if any of the undrafted rookies (White, Walker, Gillett, Sinkfield,  Cunningham) surpass the drafted rookies (Johnson and Dorsey) or the returning veterans (Boykin and Ross). That also makes me wonder how many wide receivers the Packers will keep on their final roster. Five? Six?

Tight End

Green Bay Packers tight end Jermichael Finley works out during organized team activities at Clarke Hinkle Field in Green Bay. Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports photograph

Will Jermichael Finley finally play to his potential? The Finley situation will be something you’ll want to keep a close eye on throughout the season. Will 2013 finally be the year Finley becomes an elite player at his position? Will the Packers be willing to dish out a big contract to the athletic tight end or will they go with some of the younger players on the roster next season? These questions will only be answered once the season kicks off in September, but Finley’s play will still be something to observe over training camp and the preseason.

Andrew Quarless’s return from a major knee injury will be something to watch in training camp. It will be interesting to see how his knee holds up once the pads are on and the hitting starts. I look forward to seeing how he looks in the preseason games. He has the potential to be a major contributor to the tight end position.

Offensive Line

Green Bay Packers offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga (75) blocks Cleveland Browns defensive end Jabaal Sheard (97) in the first quarter of a 2012 preseason game at Lambeau Field. Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports photograph

Most of us will be looking for how the new revamped offensive line looks in 2013. With Josh Sitton and Bryan Bulaga switching to the left side of the line and T.J. Lang and Marshall Newhouse switching to the right, it will be interesting to see how these changes improve both the run blocking and pass protection. This will be one headline we will all pay close attention to. We all want to know if Rodgers will be protected or not in the 2013 season. The Packers success may depend on it.

The other major headline at the offensive line position is the position battle at right tackle. It’s Newhouse’s job for now, but look for youngsters, Don Barclay, Derek Sherrod, and rookie lineman David Bakhtiari to all make their case for the starting spot. The Packers also need a backup center to emerge on the roster. Evan Dietrich-Smith seems to be the only legitimate center currently on the roster.

Defensive Line

Green Bay Packers defensive end Datone Jones during organized team activities at Clarke Hinkle Field in Green Bay. Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports photograph

Will Datone Jones bring a spark to the position? Jones’s contributions this season will come under close scrutiny. We all expect him to make an impact on the defense this year, but to what degree is the question. Jones will most likely start, but let’s hope he can also bring some pass rushing ability to the defensive line.

B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett, Mike Neal, and C.J. Wilson all enter contract years in 2013. We’ll see which players make their case for contract extensions and which players prove they’re affordable for the team to lose.

The defensive line also needs to improve their run defense and establish a physical presence on the field. Hopefully, the new additions will light a fire under the group.

Outside Linebacker

Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews talks with fellow linebacker Nick Perry during 2012 organized team activities at Ray Nitschke Field. Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports photograph

Can Nick Perry become the other pass rusher opposite Clay Matthews? Perry has the potential to really help take the Packer defense to the next level. If he can prove to be a solid starter that can apply regular quarterback pressure from the left side, Matthews could have another big year.

The Packers will also be looking for young talent to emerge and provide depth at the position. Look for how rookies, Nate Palmer, Andy Mulumba, Donte Savage, and Jarvis Reed, adjust to the new position, and if any of them showcase pass rushing ability in training camp.

How will the Mike Neal experiment at outside linebacker pan out? This is a very creative way for Dom Capers to use the versatile defensive lineman, but it’s so unconventional many wonder if it will really work. We’ll get our first look at it in game action in the preseason.

Inside Linebacker

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning is tackled by Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Brad Jones and outside linebacker Clay Matthews in the second half of the 2011 NFC divisional playoff game at Lambeau Field. The Giants won 37-20. Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports photograph

How will the group get by without Desmond Bishop? We got a taste of life without Bishop last season, but the defense lacked punch without Bishop manning the middle of the field. Will Brad Jones take Bishop’s role on the defense? He is certainly athletic and good in pass coverage, but I’m not sure he delivers a hit quite like Bishop.

Maybe Terrell Manning will emerge as a force in the middle, but he still has a ways to go before unseating A.J. Hawk or Brad Jones as a starter. Let’s hope the inside linebackers bring a little more to the table this year than last season.

Cornerback

Green Bay Packers cornerback Sam Shields celebrates an interception with cornerback Tramon Williams during the 2012 game against the Tennessee Titans at Lambeau Field. The Packers won 55-7. Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports photograph

It will be interesting to see who the starting cornerbacks are by the time the season begins. Expect a lot of shuffling among the top four corners (Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, Casey Hayward, Davon House) during the preseason and training camp until Green Bay finds the right combination. Hayward seems to be the best candidate for the nickel spot, but he could still start in the base defense.

I expect House to be a bigger factor at the position than he was in previous seasons now that he’s healthy. Entering a contract year, we should also keep an eye on Shields’ performance this season. It just may determine his future in Green Bay. I also wonder how rookie corner Micah Hyde will fit into the group. He is hard pressed to find playing time this season unless the position is met with a number of injuries.

Safety

Green Bay Packers safety Morgan Burnett during the 2012 game against the Tennessee Titans at Lambeau Field. The Packers won 55-7. Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports photograph

Who will start alongside Morgan Burnett? The starting strong safety position is one of the most anticipated position battles heading into training camp. At this point, M.D. Jennings has a slight edge over Jerron McMillian, but many expect McMillian to surpass Jennings in training camp. It will be a close race, and I wouldn’t count out Jennings’s experience at the position.

Will Burnett emerge as a playmaker in the secondary? The past few seasons the Packers have lost Nick Collins and Charles Woodson - two major playmakers in their secondary. Green Bay needs young players on the roster to step up and fill the playmaking void left by the two veterans. Hayward is already on pace to being a true playmaker on defense, but Burnett seems like the best candidate in the secondary for taking that next step and becoming a true game-changer.

Special Teams

Green Bay Packers kicker Mason Crosby attempts a field goal during the 2011 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Lambeau Field. The Packers won 35-26. Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports photograph

Will Mason Crosby prove to everyone he is out of his slump? Gosh, let’s hope so. I don’t think most of us can handle another season of horrific kicking. With as tough as the NFC will be this season, the Packers will find themselves in quite a few close games, and they’ll need a kicking game that they feel confident can convert game-winning field goals.

The Packers also need a returner to emerge on the roster. Green Bay would like to utilize Cobb more on offense, so they need another player to take over returning duties. At this point, it seems to be Jeremy Ross’s job to lose, but the Packers may also experiment with other players, like Johnathan Franklin and James Nixon, in training camp.

There you have it. With a brief roster summary, you should now be well equipped to enjoy an exciting Packers training camp and preseason.

Topics: Green Bay Packers, NFL Preseason, Position Battles, Roster Breakdown, Training Camp

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