In the first full fledged offseason of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, young Packer players who missed out on the benefits of OTAs and minicamps last year (Sam Shields, Randall Cobb) are having to take full advantage of that this year, with Shields looking to bounce back from his sophomore slump, and Cobb looking to make a bigger name for himself in the Packers' offense.
Which brings us to arguably the biggest focal point of the offense for training camp this year: the wide receivers. But it's not because of a shortage of manpower or talent. On the contrary, the Packers aren't sure how many they want to keep. In a passing offense like Mike McCarthy's led by reigning MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers, great wide receivers are always welcome.
Well, McCarthy has plenty to choose from, and the Packers are known to hold onto youth at any position if they show the capability to perform well, such as the case with Sam Shields in 2010 and safety M.D. Jennings in 2011.
But many Packers faithful are wondering just how this group will look like going into Week 1 against San Francisco. Who will the coaching staff let hang around?
First, the only true locks at this point are Greg Jennings, who has solidified his position as the number one receiver; Jordy Nelson, who exploded in his third year to boast career highs in receiving yards and has gained the number two spot on the Pack's list. And then there's Randall Cobb, who sparked up Green Bay's long forgotten return game and showed ability in his limited offensive snaps that warranted the coaching staff to give him more looks.
Should the Packers keep six receivers?
That leaves at least two spots up for grabs, with Donald Driver, James Jones, Tori Gurley and Diondre Borel in competition for those spots.
Out of those names, Driver is likely to emerge to claim one of those spots. The Dancing With the Stars winner restructured his contract so that he will make less in 2012, and has claimed he wants two more seasons with the Packers before retirement. While it's uncertain if he will get that season, the longtime Packer favorite will likely get at least one more year in 2012.
Meanwhile, it could be argued that James Jones may not be in a Packer uniform for 2012. While the Packers did re-sign him last year, they did not have prospects like Borel or Gurley to spice things up. And with his role gradually diminishing thanks to targets like Jennings, Nelson Cobb, and tight end Jermichael Finley, Jones could find himself at the other end of a trade, as he is still a good receiver that has starting capability and value on the market.
Both Gurley and Borel spent all of last season on the practice squad, and were courted by other teams to join their own rosters, but the Packers raised their salaries to keep them around. Gurley's 6'4" frame is intriguing and gives the Packers a potentially big target on the outside, while Borel's athleticism gives them an option in the slot.
Another element of this is that the Packers may opt to keep six receivers instead of its general five. Last season, the Packers kept five tight ends, and are unlikely to do so again. This could open the door to keep James Jones, or keep both Borel and Gurley.
Either way, those fourth, fifth and even sixth spots will all be up for grabs when training camp rolls around, and no matter who stays, every receiver will benefit thanks to the man lining up under center.