Davon House grimaces in pain while being tended to by trainers of the Packers staff during a game against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium last August. House was sidelined from this injury and never got back to 100 percent in 2012. Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports photograph
The 2012 season witnessed many young players on the Green Bay Packers roster emerge and play key roles on the team.
Rookie Casey Hayward proved to be a playmaker in the defensive backfield, and Randall Cobb had a breakout second year. Even undrafted rookies Dezman Moses and Don Barclay found themselves on the field making significant contributions.
However, 2012 was far from a storybook year for many on the Packers roster.
The second year running back had an up and down 2012 season. With Ryan Grant not returning to the team and James Starks battling injuries heading into training camp, it was supposed to be Green’s chance to prove that he could be the Packers’ featured running back. Instead, Green spent a majority of OTAs and training camp on the sideline rehabbing his knee from the injury he suffered during his rookie season, and he got lost in the depth chart once the Packers brought in Cedric Benson during the preseason.
Alex Green rushes the ball against the Chicago Bears during the second half of their 2012 matchup at Soldier Field. The Packers defeat the Chicago Bears 21-13. Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports photograph
Green only had two rushing attempts for two yards in the first four games of the season, but when Benson was lost for the year in week five, Green finally got his chance to be the Packers’ featured back.
Green struggled to capitalize on the opportunity and establish himself as a real running threat in the Packers backfield. He rushed for 464 yards on 135 attempts – a pedestrian 3.4 yard average. It was evident as the season progressed that it was difficult for Green to cut on his injured knee, severely prohibiting his ability to hit the holes with power and burst.
Green fizzled toward the end of the season as he missed time with a concussion, while undrafted back DuJuan Harris emerged as the Packers’ most effective running back.
Green now enters the 2013 training camp buried on the depth chart at a position where Green Bay just drafted promising young backs, Eddie Lacy and Jonathan Franklin. Not to mention returnees Harris and Starks and undrafted rookie Angelo Pease.
Odds seem to be against Green, but this will be the first year of his young career that he enters training camp fully healthy. Considering the injuries he played through last season, 2012 was a poor representation of what Green has to offer on the field. He may be a completely different back now that he’s healthy. This training camp may be Green’s last chance to prove that he can play a significant role at running back.
Marshall Newhouse during organized team activities at Clarke Hinkle Field in Green Bay. Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports photograph
Newhouse also had a 2012 season he would probably like to forget. Though he started all 16 games last season at left tackle, he gave up a team-high 11 sacks and looked outmatched against elite pass rushers like Forty-Niners’ Aldon Smith and Minnesota’s Jared Allen. He also didn’t offer much when it came to run blocking.
Newhouse lost his left tackle job to Bryan Bulaga this offseason, but he will get a chance to start anew at right tackle this year. Newhouse will compete with Barclay, Derek Sherrod, and rookie David Bakhtiari for the starting right tackle position, but it looks like heading into training camp, Newhouse has the inside track for the job.
Newhouse will get a chance in training camp to prove he can still start at tackle in the NFL. His skillset may be a better fit for the right side of the line, anyway, so the switch may prove to help his career. Newhouse lacked the athleticism to hold up against the league’s best pass rushers, but he is still a formidable player who possesses the intelligence and work ethic to excel at the position. Maybe 2013 is finally the year Newhouse settles in on a position on the line and silences the critics.
Nick Perry takes part in a blocking drill during the 2012 training camp practice at Ray Nitschke Field in Green Bay. Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports photograph
Perry’s rookie season was less than ideal. Heading into the 2012 season, he was toted by many as Green Bay’s solution in finding a second pass rusher to assist Clay Matthews. Perry struggled early in his transition from a college defensive end to NFL outside linebacker. Perry’s season was cut short when he was placed on injured reserve with an injured wrist after week six.
In 2013, Perry will get another shot at proving he’s the Packers next pass rushing threat. Green Bay has struggled to find another reliable 3-4 outside linebacker the past few years. This year will be Perry’s chance to emerge as a difference-maker on the defense. His ability to collapse the pocket from the left side of the defense will determine whether or not the Packers will have a well-rounded defensive pass rush this year. Perry has the potential to take a lot of pressure and attention off Matthews and could be the athletic outside linebacker needed to contain mobile quarterbacks, such as Colin Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III.
For the Packers defensive to take the next step in 2013, they’ll need young players like Perry to step up and make an impact on the field.
Davon House works out during organized team activities at Clarke Hinkle Field in Green Bay. Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports photograph
House began last year’s training camp as a sure-fire starting cornerback, and arguably, one of Green Bay’s most promising young defensive backs. He seemed primed in 2012 for a breakout season and establish himself as a legitimate starting NFL corner.
House’s high expectations came to a crashing halt when he suffered a severe shoulder injury in the preseason opener. He missed the remainder of training camp and the first six weeks of the regular season, and went on to play the remainder of the season with a debilitating shoulder harness. House just wasn’t the same player he looked to be at the start of training camp. He played apprehensive and lost some of his range of motion due to the harness.
House enters his third season with Casey Hayward, Sam Shields, and Tramon Williams all ahead of him on the depth chart. House has his work cut out for him to earn playing time, but if he returns to the aggressive play he demonstrated at the beginning of camp last year, he will make a strong case for playing time.
House is an underdog at the position, but don’t be surprised if he shines this preseason and makes a case for one of the top three cornerback positions. House will at least be healthy this season, and like Green, would like to forget an injury-riddled 2012 season by coming out with a strong performance in training camp.
Mason Crosby reacts after missing a field goal during the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Lambeau Field. Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports photograph
No Packers player had a rougher time during the 2012 season than Crosby. With 12 missed field goals and a league-worst 63.6 field goal percentage, I’m sure Crosby is more eager than ever to get back to the field and redeem his awful kicking performance from last year.
Green Bay brought in Italian kicker Giorgio Tavecchio to compete with Crosby. It’s the first camp competition Crosby has had since his rookie season in 2007. I expect Crosby to prove himself in training camp and gain back his kicking confidence. He needs to prove he can make the big kicks in crunch time and regain his long kicking game. He missed seven field goals over 50 yards last season, which is the most in his career from that range.
The Packers need to feel confident in their kicker heading into the season, and Crosby will have a little over a month to prove to his coaches 2012 was a fluke.
The beauty of a new season is that it means there will be plenty of opportunities for players to get a fresh start on the field. A player can go from a zero to a hero in a matter of a couple of plays.
2013 may be the year a few Packers players erase forgettable 2012 seasons.