Green Bay Packers: 10 Sleepers to Watch in Training Camp
It happens every year, not only with the Green Bay Packers but with teams across the NFL—a handful of unheralded players fly under the radar, exceed expectations and make a name for themselves with an impressive training camp.
Some go on to do the unthinkable and make a 53-man roster. A few more make a team's practice squad and keep the dream alive.
These players might be raw, but there are a few currently on the Packers' offseason 90-man roster worth watching during the rest of training camp and during the preseason. Rather than look at the players fans already know, what follows is a look at a few names that aren't immediately recognizable.
Some will succeed, some will come up short in their bid to make the team, but most of them should make the Packers' training camp a competitive one.
As someone who's been making waves since the Packers' offseason program back in May and June, maybe Dezman Moses is no longer a sleeper.
But it's clear that the undrafted rookie out of Tulane is a threat to make the Packers' 53-man roster, and based upon his play so far, he may have already wrapped up his spot on the team.
The biggest compliment from the coaching staff has been the playing time given to Moses in place of star Clay Matthews.
When Matthews had to rest his hamstring during the OTAs, Moses came in to work with the starters. And when Matthews exited last week's Family Night scrimmage, Moses came in to replace him.
There are still obstacles for Moses to overcome. He played defensive end at a college that isn't exactly a football powerhouse.
Before transferring to Tulane, however, Moses gained some experience playing big-time football, at linebacker even. If he can rely on his background playing in a two-point stance, he stands a good chance of making a meaningful contribution to the Packers.
Unfortunately for Lawrence Guy, his season ended before it got started a year ago when he was placed on injured reserve during training camp following a concussion.
Guy came to the Packers as a seventh-round draft choice last season as an underclassman from Arizona State. When his inexperience was combined with an injury, it all added up to a year ending in disappointment.
In limited action in 2011, Guy actually played pretty well. He got to see the field in the Packers' first exhibition game against the Cleveland Browns before being shut down and actually made four tackles in limited playing time.
If there was a silver lining to his lost season, Guy was able to stick around the team, attend meetings and observe how the veterans went about their business.
He'll put those lessons to the test this year as he returns to action and looks for spot along the Packers defensive line.
And it certainly doesn't hurt Guy's chances that fellow defensive linemen Anthony Hargrove and Mike Neal are currently suspended to start the regular season. The door has been opened a crack, if only temporarily.
Randall Cobb casts a big shadow in Green Bay, almost too big for Shaky Smithson.
As someone who was among the best return specialists in the NFL in his rookie season and was voted as having the NFL's Play of the Year for his electric return against the New Orleans Saints, Cobb's job security is as strong as they come.
For that reason, it will be difficult for Smithson to make the Packers' roster as a wide receiver/return specialist, but he's a threat in his own right.
Go back to Smithson's senior year in college at Utah and check out the stats: 21 kickoff returns for a 24.1-yard average and an even more impressive 31 punt returns for a 19.1-yard average and two touchdowns.
That's not even to mention his contributions on the offensive side of the football.
Like Lawrence Guy, Smithson also spent last season on injured reserve with the Packers, but it gave him an opportunity to learn the Packers' schemes.
It will be difficult, if not impossible, for Smithson to unseat Cobb on returns, but if anything were to happen to Cobb, Smithson could be the man. And if not with the Packers, Smithson will be auditioning for 31 other teams in the NFL during the preseason with every chance he gets.
Nic Cooper was a running back at Winston-Salem State in North Carolina during college who rushed for the fourth-most yards in school history with 3,430.
In addition, he has the third-most touchdowns in school history with 43.
As impressive as those numbers may be, the Packers are turning Cooper into a fullback. He has the size, after all.
At 5'10" and 249 pounds, Cooper is a bowling ball. He's a little bit like John Kuhn in that regard, the type of player who's primarily a fullback, but someone who they might not be afraid to give a couple carries.
Cooper benefited during the offseason as pretty much the only healthy fullback during OTAs and minicamp when Kuhn and Jon Hoese have been out injured.
It's been a lot of the same during training camp, as Kuhn missed the first week and a half on the PUP list and Hoese dropped out of practice with a hamstring problem.
As a result, Cooper has been getting snaps with the first-string offense he probably wouldn't be getting otherwise, and that can only help his development.
Practicing with the starters doesn't guarantee Cooper a roster spot, but a good performance during the preseason will help.
- He's undergoing a change of position to inside linebacker.
- He's up to 242 pounds, according to the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
In 2011, Jamari Lattimore made the Packers' roster, but he didn't play much outside of special teams.
Part of the reason was because he played at a relatively light 222 pounds for an outside linebacker that plays on the line of scrimmage.
There's been two big changes for Lattimore during the 2012 season:
Because the Packers are deep at inside linebacker, it will be difficult for Lattimore to see much regular-season action, but given a little time, he could be a factor.
His biggest contribution could continue to be on special teams, where he plays on a majority of the coverage and return units.
If Lattimore can maintain his speed while adding size, it will make him a tough cut.
When Scott Wells left in free agency, it left an opening at the center position that the Packers filled by signing veteran Jeff Saturday.
At 37 years old, however, Saturday will only be a starter in the Packers offense for a year, maybe two. The long-term solution has yet to be found.
Following the 2012 NFL draft, the Packers showed how highly they think of Tommie Draheim by offering him the highest signing bonus of all the undrafted rookies, according to Packer Report.
There's still a long way to go before Draheim shows he's the center of the future in Green Bay, but he finds himself in a good position.
He'll be competing with Evan Dietrich-Smith and Sampson Genus for playing time, but among the three of them, there might be room for two of them this season, one of the 53-man roster and one on the practice squad.
Also working in Draheim's favor, he played left tackle at San Diego State University in college, giving him some versatility to play other positions along the offensive line, if necessary.
Shea Allard was signed as an undrafted rookie out of Delaware following the NFL draft.
And out of the six undrafted offensive linemen the Packers have signed, Allard is the only one that's seeing action at left tackle, which should give an idea of what they think of him as an athlete.
Left tackles are a little more highly regarded because they protect the quarterback's blind side.
Allard has plenty of competition, including seventh-round draft choice Andrew Datko, who's also playing left tackle, but he's setting himself up nicely to prove his worth at a valuable position.
It can be expected that Allard will be getting plenty of playing time in the second half of the preseason games while blocking for third-string quarterback B.J. Coleman. If he can keep Coleman upright, it will increase his chances of sticking around.
Like fellow offensive linemen Tommie Draheim and Shea Allard, Don Barclay was also signed as an undrafted free agent.
And early in training camp, Barclay has done his best to take advantage of situations that have opened the door for him.
Take, for example, the annual Family night scrimmage in which second-year guard Ray Dominguez couldn't play because of injury. With Evan Dietrich-Smith playing center, Barclay stepped into the second-string left guard spot.
Barclay has some naturally good size at 6'4" and 305 pounds, so he needs to learn to use his size to his advantage.
Dominguez remains out, and the starters aren't expected to see much playing time in the first preseason game on Thursday, so Barclay should get a ton of action.
Brandian Ross returns for his second consecutive training camp in Green Bay after spending the entire 2011 season on the Packers' practice squad.
Last year, Ross made a big-time play in the team's annual intra-squad scrimmage that made him stand out. On the first play from scrimmage, Ross intercepted Aaron Rodgers and returned the ball for a touchdown.
Because storms ended the scrimmage just minutes later, it stood out as the night's biggest play and is still Ross' claim to fame.
His time on the practice squad, however, has allowed Ross to learn the Packers defense, and he got to guard one of the best receiving corps in football every day.
Like many other players on the roster, it will be a challenge for Ross to win a spot on the 53-man roster, especially with players like Davon House, Sam Shields, Jarrett Bush and Casey Hayward ahead of him on the depth chart.
But in the event that any one of them were to sustain an unfortunate injury, Ross will be there to pounce.
Gone from last year's Packers team are a pair of veteran safeties, Nick Collins and Charlie Peprah, both of whom had injury issues.
The Packers have moved Charles Woodson to safety in a part-time role, but that still leaves room for other safeties to find some playing time.
M.D. Jennings and Jerron McMillian will get first crack at filling the holes left by Collins and Peprah, but there's a chance for Sean Richardson to win a roster spot if he can impress.
The easiest way onto the roster might be through special teams, and Richardson has a pretty good blend of size and speed. Plus, he displayed a nose for the football in college.
Richardson had 84, 99 and 63 tackles in his last three years in college. If he can be a reliable tackler at the pro level, it will go a long way towards his attempt to stick with the Packers.