Green Bay Packers: Defensive Battles Shaping Up for Training Camp

Bob FoxContributor IJune 16, 2012

Green Bay Packers: Defensive Battles Shaping Up for Training Camp

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    Head coach Mike McCarthy was pretty succinct when he talked about training camp at his press conference after the Green Bay Packers ended their three-day minicamp on Thursday.

    "This is going to be a damn competitive training camp, no doubt about it", McCarthy said.

    Indeed it shall be, as the Packers are very deep at a number of positions. Ted Thompson and McCarthy will have a number of difficult decisions to make about putting together a final roster. I would not be surprised to see a couple of trades to open a roster spot for a couple of players.

    Training camp is about six weeks away, but looking at the roster and guessing how many players will be kept at a certain position, jobs will be tough to come by. Here is how I see the roster shaping up.

    QB- Three

    RB- Three

    FB- One

    OL- Nine

    TE- Four

    WR- Six

    K- One

    P- One

    LS- One

    That adds up to 29 roster spots. That leaves 24 spots open for the defense. I see the defense shaping up like this...

    DL- Six

    LB- Nine

    DB- Nine

    Let's take a closer look at who will be competing for jobs on Dom Capers' defense.

Defensive Line

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    Here are the defensive line candidates for the Packers right now...

    - Ryan Pickett

    - B.J. Raji

    - Jerel Worthy

    - Mike Daniels

    - Mike Neal

    - Anthony Hargrove

    - Daniel Muir

    - Phillip Merling

    - C.J. Wilson

    - Jarius Wynn

    - Lawrence Guy

    - Johnny Jones

    That's 12 guys competing for six spots, maybe seven. Right now, the Packers know that Neal will be serving a four-game suspension and Hargrove will be serving an eight-game suspension. Both of those suspensions are currently being appealed.

    Assuming the suspensions of both Neal and Hargrove stay the same, although Neal has a better chance at winning an appeal due to his use of Adderall, here is how things will most likely go down at the end of training camp.

    You can basically mark down Pickett, Raji, Worthy and Daniels as locks to make the team. The decisions on Neal and Hargrove will come later because of their respective suspensions. That means six players will be fighting for the two remaining spots on the defensive line.

    They would be Muir, Merling, Wilson, Wynn, Guy and Jones. Plus, those two spots could change when Neal and Hargrove are eligible to play.

    Bottom line, there is going to be a real battle by these players to impress the coaching staff, especially defensive line coach Mike Trgovac.  


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    Here are the candidates for the linebacker position...

    - Clay Matthews

    - A.J. Hawk

    - Desmond Bishop

    - Nick Perry

    - Frank Zombo

    - D.J. Smith

    - Erik Walden

    - Brad Jones

    - Jamari Lattimore

    - Vic So'oto

    - Terrell Manning

    - Robert Francois

    - Dezman Moses

    That's 13 players competing for nine roster spots. Before we can determine who will be the nine LBs who will make the squad of the Packers, we first have to figure out who will be the locks to make the 53-man roster.

    My guess is that there are six players who will probably be locks to make the squad. They would be Matthews, Hawk (salary cap issues if cut), Bishop, Perry, Smith and Manning.

    That means seven players will be fighting for three roster spots. If I had to make a guess who those three players are that make the squad, I would say Zombo, Jones and Moses, who has really opened some eyes as of late.  

    However, we haven't seen any of the new players with pads on yet, plus we haven't seen how the second- and third-year players (Francois, Zombo, Smith, So'oto and Lattimore) have developed this offseason.

    Head coach Mike McCarthy expects players in that experience range to get better. 

    "We're a draft and develop program," head coach Mike McCarthy said recently. "This is essential to our development. I've been real happy with it, particularly with our second- and third-year players. They're here; they're into it. You really see the benefits when you see the third- and fourth-year players."

    A case in point was the play of Bryan Bulaga at RT last season. "Really improved from last year," McCarthy said

    We will find out if that same thing occurs with all the young LBs that the Packers currently have.

    It should be exciting to watch this all unfold.


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    Here are the candidates for the secondary...

    - Charles Woodson

    - Tramon Williams

    - Morgan Burnett

    - Charlie Peprah

    - Sam Shields

    - Jarrett Bush

    - Davon House

    - M.D. Jennings

    - Anthony Levine

    - Casey Hayward

    - Jerron McMillian

    - Sean Richardson

    - Micah Pellerin

    - Brandian Ross

    - Dion Turner

    - Otis Merrill

    That's 16 players competing for nine roster spots. Again, let's try and figure out the locks to make the squad first.

    I would guess that the locks are Woodson, Williams, Burnett, Shields, Hayward, Bush and McMillian. House is another one to watch, as he has impressed Mike McCarthy with his offseason work.

    So, if you add House to the group of locks, you would have eight players. Meaning you would have seven players competing for one roster spot, if the team only had nine secondary spots available. Plus, there is always the practice squad.

    Bottom line, the secondary competition is going to be just like the competition at linebacker and the defensive line. Fast and furious at training camp with lots of competition.

    Time will tell who wins the battle for those coveted roster spots.