One Burning Question for Every Member of the Green Bay Packers' Roster

Brian Carriveau@@BrianCarriveauContributor IAugust 6, 2012

One Burning Question for Every Member of the Green Bay Packers' Roster

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    More than a week into training camp, the Green Bay Packers' annual intra-squad scrimmage is in the rear-view mirror, and they're looking ahead to preseason action.

    The Packers kick things off on Thursday evening at San Diego against the Chargers in a nationally televised game on ESPN.

    Like any team in the NFL, there are more questions than answers at this point in the season for the Packers. They're questions that won't be answered until training camp is over and a few that will linger into the regular season.

    What follows is a sampling of those questions, one for every player on the team.

Quarterbacks

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    Aaron Rodgers

    Can Rodgers possibly perform better in 2012 than his MVP season in 2011?

    It’s not going to be easy to improve upon last year’s campaign in which Rodgers set an an NFL single-season record for passer rating (122.5) and led the Packers to a 15-1 record.

     

    Graham Harrell

    Can the Packers possibly trust a backup quarterback who hasn’t thrown so much as a single regular-season pass?

    Harrell is still largely an unknown quantity. He’ll see plenty of preseason action as the Packers get him as prepared as possible.

     

    B.J. Coleman

    Will Coleman impress the Packers enough to justify keeping three quarterbacks on their 53-man roster?

    The Packers typically don’t carry more than two quarterbacks unless injury necessitates it, but if they cut Coleman, they risk losing him.

Running Backs

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    James Starks

    Will James Starks avoid injury, stay healthy and play a full season for the first time since college?

    The biggest criticism of Starks is that he’s been unreliable. Until he keeps himself available for an entire season, people will continue to doubt his ability to be a feature back.

     

    Alex Green

    Green has done a good job coming back from a torn ACL last season, but how long will it take him to be back to 100 percent?

    The second-year back out of Hawaii is off to a good start to training camp, but questions remain whether he’ll be fully ready by the time the regular season starts.

     

    Brandon Saine

    Can Saine become part of a regular backfield rotation, or will he only play a few snaps a game?

    Saine has to prove he can share the load with Starks and Green or carve out a niche role such as third-down back.

     

    Marc Tyler

    How soon can Tyler show the maturity he lacked in college?

    Tyler got in trouble for a couple alcohol-related issues at USC, but there’s no room for error if he wants to make the Packers’ roster.

     

    Du’ane Bennett

    Will Bennett take advantage of Tyler’s injury-related absence?

    Tyler recently suffered a shoulder injury early in training camp that has forced him to miss time and opened the door for Bennett to potentially jump ahead of his fellow undrafted rookie in the running back pecking order.

Fullbacks

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    John Kuhn

    After missing the beginning of training camp with a knee injury, can Kuhn get back to being the Kuhn of old?

    Kuhn has played at a high level the past couple seasons, and the Packers hope injury isn’t about to slow him down.

     

    Jon Hoese

    Will injuries prevent Hoese from competing for a roster spot?

    For a player on the fringe, Hoese can’t afford to miss much more time, whether it’s practice or a game.

     

    Nic Cooper

    Will Cooper be able to capitalize on all the extra repetitions he’s gotten with Kuhn and Hoese out injured?

    Cooper has received practice time with the starters by default, but at some point, he’ll have to earn the right to play with the starters based upon merit.

Wide Receivers

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    Greg Jennings

    Will Jennings sign a contract extension with the Packers, and if so, when?

    Jennings is considered the player with the highest profile whose contract expires after 2012. Whether he signs a contract extension before the start of the regular season or waits for free agency remains to be seen.

     

    Jordy Nelson

    Can Nelson replicate his 1,200 yard and 15 touchdown season from a year ago?

    Nelson joined the NFL’s top receivers in 2011 with Jennings missing several games to injury.

     

    Donald Driver

    Will Driver prove the Packers right by keeping him around at the expense of developing younger players?

    Only by being an active and contributing member of the offense will Driver avoid the criticism of hindering the development of receivers like Gurley and Borel.

     

    Randall Cobb

    Cobb is already a dangerous return specialist, but can he be a dangerous receiver as well?

    Cobb’s 25 receptions a year ago were modest, but there’s reason to believe he’s ready for a breakout season.

     

    James Jones

    Where does Jones fit into the wide-receiver pecking order?

    It’s debatable whether Jones deserves to play more snaps than players like Cobb and Driver.

     

    Tori Gurley

    With a deep group of receivers ahead of him, can Gurley find playing time among this talented position?

    It’s looking increasingly likely that the Packers will keep Gurley on their roster, but whether he’ll actually be able to see meaningful playing time is something that’s yet to be determined.

     

    Diondre Borel

    Is it possible for Borel to convince the Packers to keep seven wide receivers on their 53-man roster?

    It would be rare for a team to keep seven wide receivers, but then again, this is a team that’s kept five tight ends, three fullbacks and even two punters in the past.

     

    Shaky Smithson

    Can Smithson be as explosive on kick returns in the NFL as he was in college?

    More than a wide receiver, Smithson’s best assets are as a return specialist. Unfortunately, he’s blocked by Cobb.

     

    Dale Moss

    Does this former basketball player truly have what it takes to be a professional football player?

    It’s obvious Moss has talent, but the Packers only have a limited amount of time to decide if they continue to develop him or not.

     

    Jarrett Boykin

    Can Boykin convince the Packers to keep him on their practice squad?

    Boykin is Virginia Tech’s all-time leading receiver, but there’s a world of difference between the college and the pro game.

     

    Currenski Gilleylen

    How will the transition from college running back to professional wide receiver go?

    So far so good for Gilleylen, who seems to make an attention-grabbing catch almost every day at training camp.

Tight Ends

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    Jermichael Finley

    Can Finley curtail the drops and become a more consistent and complete player in 2012?

    Finley has the talent and ability to be an elite NFL tight end but has yet to put it all together.

     

    Tom Crabtree

    Can Crabtree take advantage of the absence of Andrew Quarless and become the unquestioned No. 2 tight end?

    Last year Crabtree was in a time-share with Quarless, and this year he’ll have to fend off Williams and Taylor.

     

    Andrew Quarless

    Will Quarless play at all in 2012?

    It’s presumed Quarless will begin the regular season on the PUP list, but coming back at midseason may still prove to be too soon for a player that suffered a gruesome knee injury a year ago.

     

    D.J. Williams

    Is Williams a legitimate threat in the passing game?

    Williams has impressed onlookers early during training camp, but it remains to be seen whether that will translate to the regular season.

     

    Ryan Taylor

    Can Taylor be more than just a special teams player?

    Barring injury, Taylor should make the 53-man roster and be a special-teams regular, but whether he contributes to the offense is another matter.

     

    Brandon Bostick

    Is there room for a tight end on the practice squad?

    The Packers had five tight ends that made the roster last year and could this year too. Due to the depth at the position, Bostick will really have to stand out if the Packers want to keep him.

     

    Eric Lair

    Will Lair avoid injured reserve?

    Lair suffered a knee injury during training camp practice, and it could be serious enough to place him on I.R. or cut him outright.

     

    DeMarco Cosby

    Was Cosby signed to replace Lair?

    Cosby was signed shortly after Lair was injured, which might suggest that Lair’s injury is serious.

Tackles

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    Bryan Bulaga

    Is 2012 the season Bulaga becomes a Pro Bowl player?

    Head coach Mike McCarthy has suggested Bulaga is on the verge of being a Pro Bowler. The only question is, how soon?

     

    Marshall Newhouse

    Will Newhouse inspire confidence as the Packers’ left tackle of the future?

    With Sherrod injured, Newhouse will be the unquestioned starter at left tackle to begin the season, but his long-term starting status is still in doubt.

     

    Derek Sherrod

    How soon until Sherrod returns to action after breaking his leg last year and being place on the PUP list early in training camp?

    The Packers need to know whether Sherrod will be available for duty during the regular season.

     

    Andrew Datko

    Is Datko worth keeping on the roster and developing him as a future contributor?

    It’s doubtful Datko will see much regular-season playing time, so the Packers have to decide if they want to use a roster spot on a rookie who will play sparingly, if at all.

     

    Herb Taylor

    Is Taylor’s experience enough to keep him around as an insurance policy at tackle?

    With questions about the health of Sherrod and Newhouse, Taylor’s value to the team is suddenly higher than ever.

     

    Shea Allard

    As an undrafted rookie, is Allard a better left tackle prospect than Datko?

    It’s too early in training camp to tell, but one thing is for sure: Allard doesn’t have the same risky injury history as Datko.

     

    Mike McCabe

    Will McCabe be able to come back from injury in time to make an impression?

    McCabe didn’t play in the team’s recent Family Night scrimmage, which doesn’t help his chances of making the team.

Guards

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    Josh Sitton

    Will Sitton’s 2012 campaign be good enough to be called one of the best guards in the entire NFL?

    Sitton is a good NFL guard, but he has yet to make a Pro Bowl or All-Pro team that would cement his status as one of the best.

     

    T.J. Lang

    What kind of money will Lang make when he signs a new contract?

    2012 is a contract year for Lang, and players entering contract years typically play at a high level as they look to cash in the following season.

     

    Ray Dominguez

    Can Dominguez make the roster as an offensive lineman who offers little versatility other than guard?

    Dominguez already tried and largely failed at tackle, and he doesn’t play center. So he’ll have to be borderline dominant if he’s going to make the roster strictly as a guard.

     

    Don Barclay

    Is a spot on the practice squad realistic for Barclay?

    Barclay has impressed enough to get playing time with the second-string offensive line.

     

    Jaymes Brooks

    Is there enough time left for Brooks to compete for a job after he comes off the PUP list?

    Brooks has yet to practice during training camp, and NFL teams don’t typically have a lot of patience with players on the roster bubble.

     

    Greg Van Roten

    Will the lack of an offseason program hurt Van Roten’s chances of making the roster?

    Van Roten was signed on the eve of the first training camp practice, which gave him less time to learn the Packers’ offense compared to the other undrafted rookies on the team.

Centers

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    Jeff Saturday

    Will age catch up to Saturday?

    The Packers will be happy if they get a single productive season from Saturday and hope that his play doesn’t drop off until after 2012.

     

    Evan Dietrich-Smith

    Can Dietrich-Smith become indispensable?

    Dietrich-Smith is in a good position as a reliable backup who can play both center and guard, but he’s still not viewed as a future starter. He’ll be out to change some minds.

     

    Sampson Genus

    Will Genus be able to hold off Draheim?

    Whether it’s the practice squad or the 53-man roster, there’s probably only room for one player between Genus and Draheim.

     

    Tommie Draheim

    Will Draheim be able to overtake Genus?

    It will be a battle of Genus’ experience in the Packers' offense versus Draheim’s potential.

Defensive Linemen

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    B.J. Raji

    Will Raji be able to rebound from a mediocre 2011 season?

    Raji was a hero during the Packers’ Super Bowl season but didn’t play particularly well either against the pass or the run last year. Maybe a reduction in snaps will help.

     

    Ryan Pickett

    At what point will Pickett be too old?

    Pickett is entering his 12th year in the NFL, a time when some big men start to break down.

     

    C.J. Wilson

    Can Wilson keep his job as a starter at defensive end in the Packers’ base 3-4 defense?

    Wilson is the starter for now, but Worthy is talented and will provide a stiff challenge to the third-year veteran.

     

    Jerel Worthy

    Can Worthy be a difference maker in the Packers’ defense?

    No one is expecting Worthy to be a Pro Bowler as a rookie, but he is being counted upon to make an impact.

     

    Mike Daniels

    Will Daniels be able to become part of the regular defensive-line rotation in Green Bay?

    Daniels has made a solid early impression in training camp, but he still has to prove he’s worth keeping active on game days when the games count.

     

    Daniel Muir

    Is there room for Muir on the 53-man roster as a backup nose tackle?

    Unless an injury occurs to either Raji or Pickett, it might be difficult to justify keeping a backup nose tackle on the roster.

     

    Mike Neal

    Will Neal live up to his second-round status?

    For one, Neal must stay healthy. And two, he’s down to his last chance in Green Bay. When Neal comes back from suspension, he has to be a difference maker.

     

    Anthony Hargrove

    Will Hargrove be able to make an impact after coming back from suspension?

    Hargrove is scheduled to be gone for the first eight games of the season, but the Packers are hoping he’ll be able to contribute once he’s eligible to play once again.

     

    Jarius Wynn

    Has Wynn’s time in Green Bay come to a close?

    If Wynn wants to make the Packers’ roster, he’s going to have to play better than average, because there’s a bunch of young players ready to take his place.

     

    Lawrence Guy

    Will Guy be able to take advantage of the suspensions to Neal and Hargrove?

    The door has been opened a crack for Guy, but he’s still not assured of a roster spot even with the suspension to other defensive linemen. He’ll have to earn his spot.

     

    Phillip Merling

    Can Merling prove he’s not a bust?

    Merling was a bust in Miami, and he’s not off to a good start at Packers’ training camp. Only a dominant performance during the preseason games might be enough to change anyone’s mind.

     

    Johnny Jones

    When will Jones come off the PUP list?

    Jones has yet to practice during training camp, which isn’t considered a good thing for a fringe NFL player.

Outside Linebackers

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    Clay Matthews

    Can Matthews rejoin the NFL’s sack leaders in 2012?

    After getting only 6.5 sacks in 2011, Matthews will look to approach the 13.5 he had back in 2010.

     

    Nick Perry

    Will Perry live up to the expectations of a first-round draft pick?

    There’s always a burden on the shoulders of a first-rounder to play better than most NFL players, and Perry won’t be immune to that pressure.

     

    Erik Walden

    Is Walden worth keeping around?

    Not only was Walden jailed last year during a domestic dispute, but now he’s suspended one game by the NFL. The Packers have to decide whether it’s in their best interests to cut ties with Walden or keep him around.

     

    Dezman Moses

    Moses has already exceeded expectations, but can he be a legitimate contributor to the Packers as a rookie?

    It’s one thing to make the 53-man roster; it’s another to make a difference during the regular season.

     

    Brad Jones

    Is Jones’ versatility as inside/outside linebacker and special teams player be enough to keep him around?

    Jones might not be considered a starter, but his flexibility might make him a tough cut.

     

    Frank Zombo

    Will Zombo ever be able to get back to the level he played at as a rookie?

    Injuries have played a role in Zombo’s fall from grace, but he’s on the verge of being cut if he doesn’t get healthy fast.

     

    Vic So'oto

    Can So'oto have the same productive preseason he did last year?

    In 2011, So'oto had 2.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception returned for a touchdown during the exhibition season.

Inside Linebackers

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    Desmond Bishop

    Can Bishop make the next step from solid player to Pro Bowl player?

    Since taking over for Nick Barnett, Bishop has been a consistent, reliable performer in the Packers' defense but has yet to enter Brian Urlacher territory.

     

    A.J. Hawk

    Can Hawk make more impact plays?

    The criticism of Hawk has always been that he doesn’t make enough sacks, interceptions and forced fumbles.

     

    D.J. Smith

    Will Smith find time on defense, whether as a starter or in a subpackage?

    If Smith can’t supplant Hawk as a starter, it’s possible he’ll still find playing time in certain defensive packages.

     

    Terrell Manning

    Is Manning good enough to be active on game days?

    Only 46 players are allowed to be active on regular-season game days, and it will be a tall task for Manning to prove he belongs among them.

     

    Robert Francois

    Is there room from Francois on the 53-man roster?

    Francois did well in a reserve role last year for the Packers, but the depth at inside linebacker is greater than it was a year ago.

     

    Jamari Lattimore

    Can Lattimore make the transition from outside to inside linebacker?

    Perhaps a better question is, will the move to inside linebacker be enough to earn Lattimore a job?

Cornerbacks

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    Tramon Williams

    Will Williams be able to regain the strength he lost from a shoulder injury that caused nerve damage last season?

    Not only does Williams have to tackle better than a year ago, he has to be able to press wide receivers at the line of scrimmage as well.

     

    Sam Shields

    Can Shields regain his spot in the starting lineup?

    Shields would appear to be in the doghouse after a lack of physicality last year, but he’s not out of the running to win his job back yet.

     

    Davon House

    Is House good enough to crack the starting lineup?

    House is making a name for himself so far at training camp, but there’s still a long way to go before the coaches name a starter.

     

    Jarrett Bush

    In addition to his role on special teams, will Bush be a regular contributor on defense?

    Bush has always usually had a role on the nickel or dime defenses in Green Bay, but he has more competition for his job than ever.

     

    Casey Hayward

    Can the rookie leapfrog the veterans ahead of him on the depth chart?

    Expectations are high for the second-round draft choice, but he’s in a battle with no fewer than three other cornerbacks for playing time.

     

    Brandian Ross

    Can Ross become known for something other than his pick-six of Aaron Rodgers in the 2011 Family Night scrimmage?

    Fans might remember Ross’s Family Night exploits, but that’s about it.

     

    Otis Merrill

    Will Merrill ever be known as someone other than “the kid who used to play college football at Wisconsin”?

    Compared to Merrill, at least Ross is remembered for something he did at the professional level.

     

    Dion Turner

    Can Turner make a play that causes him stand out?

    There are so many players at cornerback that Turner is going to have do something to stand out, preferably an interception during a preseason game.

Safeties

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    Charles Woodson

    Will Woodson be able to follow in the footsteps of Rod Woodson as an elite corner that became a good safety late in his career?

    Whether Woodson will be the same type of playmaker at safety as he was at cornerback is a development worth watching.

     

    Morgan Burnett

    Can Burnett take his game to the next level?

    Burnett is assured of a spot in the starting lineup, but his sights will have to be set on bigger goals.

     

    M.D. Jennings

    Is Jennings good enough to play safety when Woodson moves back to corner?

    Jennings is the leader in the clubhouse to receive playing time when Woodson plays cornerback, but there’s still a lot of time left in training camp.

     

    Jerron McMillian

    Can McMillian mount a challenge to Jennings as a part-time starter at safety?

    There are four preseason games for McMillian to make an impression, which is what it will take to unseat Jennings.

     

    Anthony Levine

    Can Levine make the jump from practice squad to 53-man roster?

    Levine has been on the practice squad for part of the past two seasons, and obviously he’d like to receive a promotion.

     

    Sean Richardson

    Can Richardson offer more than the other safeties on the roster bubble?

    There might be room for Richardson to make the roster on the strength of special teams play, but he’ll have to be really impressive for that to happen.

     

    Micah Pellerin

    Is Pellerin the player the Colts cut or the player that showed enough promise for the Packers to sign?

    It was surprising that the Colts gave up on Pellerin so early. Maybe the Packers' defense is a better fit for him.

Specialists

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    Mason Crosby

    Can Crosby play at the same high level he did in 2011?

    Without a doubt, Crosby had the best season of his career last year. The Packers will want to see him match that performance if not exceed it in 2012.

     

    Tim Masthay

    Can Masthay improve his net and gross average to those of the best punters in the NFL?

    While Masthay set single-season team records in both net (38.6 yards) and gross (45.6 yards) punting average last season, they were still only middle-of-the-pack numbers compared to other NFL punters.

     

    Brett Goode

    Will Goode remain flawless?

    In four seasons, Goode has yet to send a snap over the holder’s or punter’s head.