Green Bay Packers: 5 Players Who Will Break out in 2012
The Green Bay Packers have plenty of talent, but there are still some players who have shown some potential, but haven't had that breakout year quite yet, whether because of injuries or simply not getting enough opportunities.
In 2011, it was Jordy Nelson who was the breakout player for the Packers. The year before that, it was several players, including Tramon Williams and James Starks. There are several players on this Packers roster that have immense talent, but are still waiting to have that big season.
Here are five players I believe will have a big year in 2012.
5. Bryan Bulaga
Bryan Bulaga has played well his first two years in the NFL, but I think he has yet to reach his full potential. He is still a young player who still makes mistakes from time to time, whether it is committing the unnecessary penalty, or giving up a sack or two.
Still, Bulaga has stayed healthy and, for the most part, has played quite well for a young player. His biggest issue seems to be committing penalties, and this will probably be remedied with more time in the NFL.
Next year, I think Bulaga could have the year Scott Wells had last year or Josh Sitton had the year before, where he finally proves that he is the offensive lineman of the future for the Green Bay Packers, and he was well worth the first-round draft pick.
4. D.J. Smith
Despite being a late-round draft pick, it seemed that the Packers' coaching staff really liked D.J. Smith immediately after drafting him. And in the limited time that he played, Smith certainly showed some potential.
A.J. Hawk has held down the middle linebacker position for some time, but Hawk has never really lived up to the potential of a fifth overall pick in the draft, and after struggling in 2011, the Packers could look to give Smith some more snaps.
I do think this Packers defense will be better next year, and I think D.J. Smith could play a big role in that.
3. James Starks
James Starks was a breakout player during the Packers' Super Bowl run in 2010, but in 2011, he had both good games and bad games sharing snaps with Ryan Grant.
Despite stepping up in 2010, Starks never really played a full season that year; in fact, he was injured for most of it. And while he showed flashes of potential in 2011, he hasn't really shown that he can play consistently for a full season.
I think all that could change in 2012, and Starks will take over as the starting running back for good. The Packers will look to run the ball more, and Starks will take advantage of the opportunity.
2. Morgan Burnett
Morgan Burnett is going into his third year in the NFL, and despite the defense struggling, Burnett still had a solid 2011 season.
In his rookie year, Burnett was injured for most of the season, causing Charlie Peprah to take his place. This year, Burnett stayed healthy, but veteran safety Nick Collins was out for most of the year.
Despite making many mistakes that a young player might make, Burnett had a couple of great games, especially at the beginning of the season.
I think Burnett could be helped by two things: either the return of Nick Collins, which would take the pressure off of him, or simply more playing time.
If Collins has to hang up his cleats, the Packers should feel comfortable that they have a rising star in Burnett, and I think that, in 2012, he will prove his worth as he gets more playing time under his belt.
1. Randall Cobb
Randall Cobb, the second-round draft pick out of Kentucky, had a solid rookie year, catching his first touchdown and running back a kick for a touchdown all in his first game.
However, being a young player on a veteran wide receiver corps, Cobb didn't get a whole lot of opportunities this year. I think with the possible loss of Donald Driver, Cobb will get more playing time on offense, in addition to continuing to return kicks and punts.
Cobb could turn into a dangerous player for the Packers since he is so versatile. I think, next year, he will start showing the NFL all he can do.