Packers Training Camp Headlines
As the Green Bay Packers are finishing up their organized team activities and entering mandatory minicamp, there are many questions that are being directed towards the 2013 NFC North champions. Of course, everybody is anxious to see the Green and Gold suit up against the Super Bowl XLVIII champion Seattle Seahawks in what will be a "Fail Mary" rematch, but before we get to the regular season kickoff, it's important to discuss what fans will want to see in training camp.
(Salt and) Peppers
Ever since Charles Woodson signed a 7-deal with the Packers in 2006, fans have been pleading with Ted Thompson to get a high-profile player in free agency. After being cut by the Chicago Bears, Thompson was able to make that happen by signing 8-time Pro Bowler Julius Peppers to a 3-year deal worth up to $30 million. Obviously, Peppers has been in the league for quite some time now (age 34), and on top of that, he'll most likely have to play at outside linebacker in Dom Caper's 3-4 defense, a position he's never played before. However, with the 6' 7" Peppers in the lineup, it could take some pressure off Clay Matthews and the rest of Green Bay's pass rushers. Hey, Peppers himself even said that he's never played opposite of a player as dominant as Matthews before. At the very least, the addition of Peppers will add depth to the outside linebacker position, which seemed to be very crippled towards the end of the year.
Hyde and Ha Ha Lead Intriguing DB Discussion
It's pretty obvious that the Green Bay Packers made it their mission to improve their talent at defensive back. The first sign came when they drafted Cornerback Casey Hayward in the second round of the 2012 Draft. Although he was banged up virtually all of 2013, he has proven that he can be a great asset for the defense when healthy. In last year's draft, they picked up Iowa's Micah Hyde in the 5th round. Although he doesn't have the desirable 4.3 speed of a defensive back, Hyde has shown coaches and fans that he can play at the nickel, safety, and even on special teams as a punt returner.
If that wasn't enough, the Pack went straight to safety in the 2014 Draft and selected Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix with the 21st overall pick. As a main piece of the Crimson Tide's dominating defense for the past two seasons, Ha Ha will be competing with Hyde for the starting safety position in training camp. Along with adding new players to the mix, Green Bay also gave long-term deals to Cornerback Sam Shields and Safety Morgan Burnett. Add veteran Tramon Williams and up-and-comer Davon House to the mix, and you have a deep class of defensive backs that certainly have something to prove in 2014.
Wide Receiver Fever
In the Packers 2010 Super Bowl season, their top receivers were Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, James Jones, and Jordy Nelson. Three years later, Greg Jennings has signed with the enemy, Driver has retired, and Jones has set off for new adventures in Oakland. Today, Nelson and Randall Cobb lead a group of new, young receivers that will all be competing to find some time on the field with Mr. Rodgers. Although their jobs might not be in danger for 2014, both Nelson and Cobb are in contract years. Nelson has said that he believes that contract negotiations will begin shortly, but there's no promising that both he and Cobb will return with new deals.
Next on the depth chart is Jarrett Boykin, who filled in nicely last season while Cobb was nursing a knee injury. However, Boykin will once again be faced against stiff competition, starting with 2nd round pick Davante Adams out of Fresno State. In college, Adams was highly-featured in a passing offense due to his soft hands and big body. Also, based on some of Green Bay's past selections of receivers in the second round (Jennings, Nelson, Cobb), Adams should be just fine.
Next on the list is Wisconsin's own Jared Abbrederis, a Wes Welker-like slot man who's sure to become this training camp's fan favorite. Abbrederis's fall to the 5th round may have something to do with his history of concussions, but if he's able to avoid any head injuries, he could be one of the steals of this draft. In the 7th round, the Packers selected Saginaw Valley State's Jeff Janis to make it three receivers in the draft.
Although Davante Adams might have enough security as a second round pick to make the roster, Abbrederis and Janis will have to beat out Myles White, Chris Harper, Ken Dorsey and others just to make the team. With a large group of receivers like this, don't be surprised if Green Bay keeps six active receivers on the roster. Whatever happens, wide receiver just may be the position to watch in Green Bay's training camp.
Besides the punter, the offensive lineman is the most forgotten position in football. Of course, we usually remember them from false starts and holding calls, not from protecting the quarterback and creating holes for the running backs. As for the Packers, a few of their lineman are returning from injuries, including Bryan Bulaga and J.C. Tretter. Bulaga was set to start his first season at left tackle when he tore his ACL in the annual Family Night Scrimmage. Now, it seems that he will return to right tackle as his 2013 replacement, David Bakhtiari, will remain at left tackle.
J.C. Tretter, on the other hand, was injured early in training camp and started his rookie year on the PUP list. Entering 2014, Tretter seems to be the favorite to win the starting center position. His competition will be Garth Gerhart (Toby Gerhart's brother) and Corey Linsley, a 5th round rookie out of Ohio State. Whoever wins the job, Aaron Rodgers hopes that they will stick around longer than his other centers in the past (the Packers have had three starting centers in the past three seasons).
Of course, the Packers won the NFC North this past season with their starting quarterback missing nearly half of the regular season, but the Lions, Bears and Vikings continue to make that gap smaller. For now though, we can sit back, relax, and enjoy training camp with all of the competitions, undrafted up-and-comers, and the Aaron Rodgers pie-in-the-faces that it will bring.