Fresh Cheese: 5 Under-the-Radar Green Bay Packers Who Will Contribute in 2012
During every NFL season, young players emerge from the depths of their team's roster to become solid contributors.
Whether they re rookies or just players who haven't gotten their chance yet, these youngsters surprise fans and management by stepping up and playing well for their respective teams.
Last year, the Packers got a great effort from T.J. Lang, who had previously been a role player and emerged as a quality starter this year.
Lang was able to fill a big hole at left guard coming into 2011, and to the delight of fans and coaches, TJ limited pressure up the middle and did his job to keep Aaron Rodgers off his feet.
In 2012, more players will likely come out of nowhere and contribute like the previously mentioned Lang.
These guys should be on your radar as potential breakout players next season for Green Bay.
No. 5: CB Davon House
The Packers cornerbacks struggled for a good majority of 2011. You can blame the pass rush as much as you want, but limited sack totals aren't the only reason why this Green Bay defense allowed the most passing yards in franchise history.
Tramon Williams and Sam Shields both took a step back from 2010, and with Charles Woodson aging and potentially moving to safety, the Packers need another cornerback to step up in 2012.
Davon House could become that next guy.
After suffering a injury during training camp last offseason, House saw limited minutes and was basically a non-factor through much of his rookie season.
House didn't have any time to adjust to the NFL thanks to a lockout-shortened offseason and injuries, so after a (hopefully) injury free offseason, Davon will be much better prepared at the start of next season.
At 6'0'', 200 pounds, House has physicality that all of the other Packers defensive backs lack. With a full offseason on preparation, House will put his size to use and become a reliable player for the Packers in 2012.
It may seem like a long shot but don't be surprised if House plays well next season.
No. 4: QB Graham Harrell
After Matt Flynn leaves to take over a starting job for another NFL team, Graham Harrell will be the next man up for the Packers backup in Green Bay.
While most Packers fan would hope that Harrell doesn't see any time but garbage minutes, there's always a possibility that Aaron Rodgers could miss some time.
This Cheesehead team can't afford to miss a beat without their starter because they rely so heavily on their passing game. So, if Harrell gets in, he will need to play well in order for the Packers to win.
If he gets any significant time next year, Graham will surprise everyone with respectable play replacing Rodgers.
He played well in the preseason this year, leading the Packers to a comeback win against the Colts.
Despite a lack of mobility, Harrell has shown flashes of great accuracy. Plus, let's not forget the kind of success this kid had in college.
After three years of development in the Packers' system, Harrell will be prepared and ready to go if Aaron ever goes down.
No. 3: TE DJ Williams
Tight ends have become a popular position around the NFL, as their size and speed combinations can create matchup problems for defensive backs.
Most top offenses have two competent tight ends in their offense to cause problems for the opposition, and while Green Bay has one budding star in Jermichael Finley at that position, they could use another pass catcher to compliment him.
Nobody on the Packers' current roster has been able to do that yet, but DJ Williams has the potential to be the guy who steps up next year.
Williams was a stud in college, winning the award for the best college tight end in the nation his senior year.
While DJ is a bit undersized at 6'2'', he has outstanding speed and quickness that are a perfect supplement to the more powerful Jermichael Finley.
With 4.6 speed, Williams was one of the fastest tight ends in his class. Combine this outstanding speed with soft hands and toughness over the middle and you have yourself another weapon to deal with in this loaded Packers offense.
Expect Williams to step up his production in Green Bay and become a solid hybrid receiver for the Packers.
No. 2: OG Ray Dominguez
It's always important to develop young offensive lineman for the future, and the Packers have had a lot of success at this in the past.
TJ Lang, Scott Wells and Marshall Newhouse are all examples of this process, as they were all late-round lineman who were turned into starting caliber players.
Ray Dominguez has a chance to be the next name on that list, as this rookie guard out of Arkansas has a lot of potential.
An undrafted free agent coming out of college, Ray received a lot of interest from teams around the league. He reportedly had 16 offers soon after the draft from different squads across the NFL.
This 6'4'', 340-pounder was one of the most-coveted rookie free agents of the year—and for good reason.
Dominguez has great size and athletic ability for a big man and could definitely contribute if given the chance.
After a year of development with Green Bay, expect Dominguez to shine if he's given the opportunity to prove himself.
No. 1: ILB DJ Smith
Despite being undersized for the position, DJ Smith had a fine season with Green Bay last season in limited time.
Coming out of Appalachian State, Smith was thought to be no more than an overachieving linebacker that had the potential to play nothing more than special teams in the NFL.
When both AJ Hawk and Desmond Bishop went down with injuries last season, however, Smith stepped in and recorded an interception and 43 tackles.
For a rookie, Smith looked outstanding and should come into next season even stronger with a full year of preparation.
AJ Hawk will need to put in a lot of work this offseason to fend off the budding Smith, and however DJ is able to work himself on the field next season, I see him excelling.
At the very least, Smith provides Green Bay with outstanding special teams play and great depth if Hawk is able to retain his spot.