Every year, someone new breaks out when we least expect it. Last year, the Packers saw Marshall Newhouse take up the reins when rookie Derek Sherrod went on injured reserve.
Despite looking bad in prior years, Newhouse had an outstanding season and will likely hold off the first-round draft pick when Sherrod returns to practice this summer.
Who are the guys we should watch this year? Who will shock and awe the league and Packer fans alike?
A.J. Hawk knows people are a bit disappointed in his performance, even if the Packers see value in him beyond a stat sheet.
While he hasn’t had the impact one expects from a Top Five draft pick, he has been integral in holding the team together during seasons such as last year—something obviously reflected in the fact that he’s been a captain in the playoffs two years running.
Virtually everyone on the defense had a bad year in 2011, Hawk being no exception. That makes it easy to forget that he’s led the defense in tackles three of the six seasons he’s been in the league.
Also, he has suffered from some of the same issues as fellow linebacker Clay Matthews in that there hasn’t been much in the way of help along the defensive front.
While Hawk should be part of the solution, not having any pass rush last year exacerbated the issue.
This year, he not only has Matthews, but Nick Perry to play off of, as well as rookie Jerel Worthy and, after his suspension, Anthony Hargrove.
There are more weapons, which means Hawk will have a lot more room to flash the full width and breadth of skills we know he has.
On the offensive side, I have to admit I’ve really come around on Alex Green. I liked him coming out of Hawaii, but like the Packers' coaches were rumored, I just saw something better in Brandon Saine.
The more I read about Green, though, the more impressed I am.
Instead of jetting off to rehab in Los Angeles, New York or any number of places young players flock to in the offseason, Green stayed in Green Bay.
I don’t know if you’re aware, but the nightlife in Green Bay isn’t exactly five-star.
For a young player to stay shows dedication to his craft and conditioning, which can push a player over the top. It shows focus, which reveals hunger—the hunger to succeed, the hunger to prove the doubters wrong and the hunger to prove yourself right.
Green runs the ball well, has decent speed and can catch effectively out of the backfield. In a group where no one player really stands out—James Starks is the starter, but how much does that mean now?—Alex Green has the drive to carve himself a significant role.
Or maybe even push the guys around him completely out of the way.
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