5 Green Bay Packers Who Could Surprise You in 2012

Andrew Garda@andrew_gardaFeatured ColumnistAugust 7, 2012

H. Marc-Larson, Press-Gazette
H. Marc-Larson, Press-Gazette

As we are hurtling closer to the end of camp and preseason games are upon us, it's time to look at some of the players on the Packers who could have some surprising success this season.

Some will be more surprising than others, but all five of them have shown in camp that they have the skills to make an impact in 2012.


Alex Green

Green is a guy who has been steadily making news in camp, though most people fully expect James Starks to remain starter.

However, Starks has struggled to stay healthy so far during his (brief) NFL career. Green was hurt last season as well, but it remains to be seen if it is the same durability issue that Starks seems to have.

In camp, Green has shown very good speed and nice acceleration, as well as some good cuts and jukes. They aren’t tackling yet, so we’ll see how effective he is in live action, but if he can stay healthy, he is showing he can play.

That’s the key—stay healthy. If he can do that, he can take this job, and given he had no real health problems in college, this shouldn’t remain and issue.

While not a special back, he does everything well, and Green may surprise some people by taking this starting running back gig during the season.


Diondre Borel

We’ve discussed the chances that the Packers could keep up to seven wide receivers—Borel is a reason why it’s not insane.

The Packers paid both Borel and Tori Gurley a tremendous amount of money to stay on the practice squad back in December and pass up a spot on Tampa Bay’s active roster.

How much is a tremendous amount? Borel’s weekly salary was $5,700 and they bumped it to $22,059, which is the rookie minimum for a guy on the active roster.

Flash forward to camp, and Borel has, in short order, caught both the eye of Aaron Rodgers and Mike McCarthy and made some outstanding plays.

It’s entirely possible the Packers trade James Jones (a move rumored early this spring), and if that happens, Borel will have his opportunities this season.

Fast and sure handed, Borel has shown a lot of talent in camp and is rewarding the team’s faith in him.

It’s crowded in the wide receiver group and will be all season—but when he gets his chance, he’ll make an impact.


DJ Smith

Smith has been in a lot of nickel packages as a starter, and while he currently isn’t an every-down starter, he filled in for AJ Hawk more than once during camp.

Now, Hawk has a lot of believers among the coaching staff, but if he stumbles again this year, you may see Smith step in.

He has had to do so before (Week 12 of his rookie season) and did very well. While he had an up-and-down year, he showed off great instincts and made some very nice plays.

He’s got the work ethic and leadership gene that Hawk has with what seems like more upside since Hawk has had some poor seasons.

Smith might carve himself out a bigger slice of snaps with his play this camp, and the team might find itself a more effective inside linebacker.


Brandian Ross

Ross isn’t going to win a starting job, but he will contribute this year. While he hasn’t shown shutdown corner instincts, he has done a great job in coverage over all and shown some steady hands and an ability to break up a play.

There’s a lot of room behind Charles Woodson, and while the favorites are guys like Davon House, Casey Hayward and Jarrett Bush, Ross can easily carve out a role in the rotation when Woodson is at safety.

Ross has shown in camp that he can be a reliable cornerback, and if needed, could step up pretty quickly.


Andrew Datko

The concussion suffered by left tackle Marshall Newhouse and the lingering recovery from a broken leg which continues to sideline Derek Sherrod raises the specter of the injury-plagued seasons the Packers have had to ward off the last few years.

Datko isn’t ready for prime-time yet, as evidenced by not getting the spot this weekend when Newhouse was out. The team went with Herb Taylor instead, as he has been playing better and has more experience.

That said, in the long run, Datko has more upside, and once he adjusts to the schemes required of him, is a more likely replacement across the line than a fairly unproven journeyman like Taylor (who hadn’t played a snap since 2008 prior to the team signing him last season).

Datko is fast off the snap, though not necessarily explosive, and is good in both run and passing situations, though could use some improvement in both areas.

He’s no worse than Newhouse, if more raw.

For those who think you cannot have a seventh-round player at left tackle, the truth is that talent is found in any round. With the players around him (nearly all Pro Bowl-caliber), he would have the support he needed to succeed.

This is not to say that a switch will happen for sure—however, if Newhouse has any issues this season, Datko could do quite well in the lineup in his stead.


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