Green Bay Packers: 5 Players to Watch This Preseason
The smell of freshly placed sod rises from the ground, fans pack into the stands as players warm up in near sight, the bull horn sounds and ushers in the start of the 2012 season for the Green Bay Packers.
GM Ted Thompson uncharacteristically spent most of the 2012 draft on defense, with six of eight picks being on the defensive side of the ball.
There have been some rookies and veterans who have surprised throughout the first few days of camp. Here are five players to watch going into the preseason, in no particular order.
There are a variety of players to watch during this year's preseason, but I singled out the five players I feel are the most important and will make an impact on the Packers this year.
Every Packers beat writer has flooded the Twitter-verse with praises for this man. Last year, Cobb ushered himself into the NFL with a 108-yard kick return for a touchdown on opening night against the Saints.
Now the second-year player is looking to become more a complete receiver.
I feel the Packers will look to get Cobb into certain packages that play to his strengths. Last year, in Week 11 vs. the Giants, Cobb lined up and threw an incomplete pass, which was a glimpse of what coach Mike McCarthy might do with Cobb.
Thus far in camp, Cobb has wowed his peers and coaches by making tough grabs in the 7-on-7 drill; one catch was a deep ball where he beat veteran cornerback Tramon Williams to score a touchdown.
Now we all know this is just camp, but if Cobb is this determined in camp, just think about how he will be when the lights are on and the games count.
As the month goes on, I'm sure we will hear a lot from Cobb, but he is one player worth watching in the month of August.
The 62nd overall pick for the Packers turned out to be Vanderbilt DB Casey Hayward.
Hayward, who tied that career mark for interceptions at Vanderbilt with 15, turned heads during the draft process with the ability to play zone coverage and man coverage when needed.
If you watched the Packers last year, you know one of their surprising weaknesses were their CBs. It seemed the players were having a hard time switching to more of a zone coverage scheme, instead of the in-your-face man-to-man previously played.
This is where Hayward comes in, as he will have a shot to compete for the nickel cornerback position. It seems Sam Shields will be playing a lot of the main cornerback spot, with Charles Woodson playing a lot of safety.
Early indications out of camp are that Hayward came to play and has showed great smarts in his coverage. He is gaining knowledge of the playbook really quickly.
When the preseason starts, Hayward will be a player to keep track of.
Cornerback Davon House had a somewhat disappointing rookie season, only notching one tackle in two games.
It was a combination of injuries and just lack of playmaking ability during practice last year that kept House on the bench. Many have said that it could've been the lockout shortened offseason that ruined Houses's development.
It's a new year now, and House will be out to prove that last year was a fluke.
House has the ability to be a playmaker at corner, and I believe he could be a starting corner for the Packers one day. Coming into camp, he will battle rookie Casey Hayward, Jarrett Bush, Brandian Ross and Anthony Levine for a starting spot in Dom Caper's scheme.
I feel House is comparable to ex-Packers corner Al Harris, who also wore No. 31, House's number. The ability to play bump and run when needed is going to be big for House, and it will be fun to watch him play throughout this training camp and preseason.
House is also on my top 10 list of young Packers players who I feel will leave their mark on the Packers franchise.
During the Packers' Super Bowl run in 2010, Williams was arguably the best defensive player the team had. He had a career-high in interceptions, as he played his first season as a full-time starter. He made big plays throughout the season and shut down other team's top receivers, which helped Charles Woodson roam the field and make plays at different positions.
Then came the 2011 season.
Week 1 of the 2011 season was the beginning of a very long year for Williams.
Although Williams came back and didn't miss time the rest of the year, he never seemed right, or felt right for that matter. This led to Williams losing a lot of his coverage numbers, and just being flat-out beaten by receivers who he shut down in 2010.
Many people want to say that 2010 was a fluke year and last season was the real Williams, but I don't believe that. When Williams is fully healthy, he can compete with the best of them.
With a full offseason to recover and deal with the embarrassment of the 2011 season, it will be interesting to watch this preseason and see if Williams' shoulder is fully healed.
If it isn't, then the Packers are in trouble, but if his shoulder is just a little bit better, look for him to get back into Pro Bowl form.
Green seemed destined for some kind of greatness during his first preseason in 2011. Then came the regular season, where Green struggled to make the field due to Ryan Grant and James Starks taking much of the load, and the fact that the Packers weren't interested in running the ball at all last year.
He amassed a meek 11 yards rushing before tearing his ACL, causing him to miss most of his rookie year.
Plays like those above show how dangerous and how talented this man is. He could be what the Packers have been missing in the last few seasons at running back.
Although the Packers aren't going to fool anyone by trying to run the ball 20 times, it makes sense to try and establish Green in some capacity.
James Starks enters training camp as the Packers' No. 1 running back, but all reports from camp so far indicate that Green is fully healthy and ready to put in the work needed to be a great running back.
Green will get a lot of carries this preseason, so be sure to watch out for No. 20 when he's on the field.