Breaking Down the Green Bay Packers' Rookie Class After the Preseason
Having cut the roster down to 53, the Packers will open their season with 10 rookies on the team. Six of the rookies were drafted by the Packers and the other four were signed as free agents following the draft. Two of the Packers' eight draft picks didn't make the roster, but were signed to the practice squad.
The Packers' rookie class features two offensive players and eight defensive players.
Nick Perry, OLB
The Packers drafted Nick Perry with the idea that Perry would be the Week 1 starter at one of the outside linebacker positions. Perry was drafted to have an immediate impact on a spot of need. As Week 1 draws near, Perry is preparing to start opposite Clay Matthews.
Perry got plenty of reps throughout the preseason as the Packers' coaching staff tried to ease his transition from defensive linemen to linebacker. Despite not making a ton of noise, Perry was very solid during his time on the field.
Perry's strength has been his bull-rush move. It has helped him drive back smaller offensive linemen and get to the quarterback. Against bigger and stronger linemen, Perry's bull-rush is negated and he struggles with other moves.
The transition period for Perry will continue in to the regular season. In addition to adding to his pass rushing repertoire, Perry also needs to improve his coverage skills in order to not be a liability if used in coverage.
Perry has the potential to be a big impact type of player for the Packers. Great coaching and veteran leadership will put him in prime position to take advantage of that potential. Don't expect Perry to be a star from the start. It will take some time for Perry to grow into the player the Packers want him to become.
Jerel Worthy, DE
Jerel Worthy is another player with big potential. The defensive linemen was drafted to add strength to the Packers' line. Not only has Worthy added competition, he has also brought a ton of energy to the unit and the rest of the defense.
Defensive linemen usually take a longer time to adjust from college to the pro game. Worthy will likely need this season to grow into the position and adjust to the speed and strength of the NFL.
Worthy won't begin the year as a starter on the defensive line in base and was working mostly with the second unit during the preseason. He did see some first team snaps in certain formations. At least in the beginning of the season, Worthy will be a rotational guy on the line. He will come in a sub, backup or whatever the needs might be.
Casey Hayward, CB
Casey Hayward entered camp competing for the cornerback position opposite Tramon Wiliams. After Sam Shields struggled at that spot to close out the 2011 season, Shields, Hayward, Davon House and Jarrett Bush all entered camp with hopes of taking over the spot.
It appeared that House was winning the job before hurting his shoulder early on. House's injury gave Hayward and the others at a chance at more reps and more time to impress the coaching staff. Hayward has been right in the mix with those guys.
It is unclear who the Packers will choose to start opposite Williams against the 49ers. Hayward has a chance to be the guy, but the veterans, Shields and Bush, might still have the edge.
Regardless of who starts Week 1, it is clear that Hayward and the others all have a chance to earn consistent playing time. Hayward is definitely in the running for playing time.
Mike Daniels, DE
Mike Daniels struggled through the preseason with knee and groin injuries after missing minicamps with a shoulder injury. Since his return a couple weeks ago, Daniels has hit the ground running in hopes of getting playing time and making an impact of defense.
Along with Worthy, Daniels will be asked to contribute on the defensive line. Depending on how fast he can get up to speed and how quickly he can adjust, Daniels could battle for playing time. B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett are the only players that seem to have their roles set in stone.
Daniels will be battling with Worthy, Phillip Merling and C.J. Wilson for playing time on the line. He played behind Worthy for most of training camp and the final preseason games. He will likely start the season there.
Jerron McMillian, S
Jerron McMillian won't open the season as the starter, but the fluidity at the position leaves the door open. Morgan Burnett is solidly slated as one of the starters, but the other position isn't strongly spoken for. The Packers will use Charles Woodson as a safety at times, but when they aren't, M.D. Jennings will likely get the nod.
McMillian was inconsistent during camp and in the preseason, showing great play-making ability while also giving up plays. The adjustment period for McMillian has taken some time and will continue into the season.
Along with Jennings, McMillian will also be competing with undrafted free agent Sean Richardson for playing time. All three players are largely inexperienced and could struggle once the games start meaning something. If this is case for Jennings, it could mean the Packers use Woodson more or the door will be opened for McMillian or Richardson.
Terrell Manning, LB
Terrell Manning was fairly quiet throughout training camp, but the fifth round pick did enough or the coaches liked his potential enough to warrant a roster spot. By trading up, Ted Thompson showed that there was something about Manning that caught his eye and that he wanted the player badly.
Manning finally made a couple plays in the last two preseason games, but also showed he's still very raw. There is plenty of work to be done for Manning to become a threat at inside linebacker, but the potential is there.
Impressive play from Jamari Lattimore and Robert Francois make the inside linebacker position crowded, even with Desmond Bishop going to Injured Reserve. Because of this, Manning is unlikely to have much of an impact this season unless the injury situation intensifies.
Undrafted Free Agent Rookies
Sean Richardson, S
The hard hitting safety earned a roster spot over Anthony Levine with this strong play down the stretch. Richardson was always flying to the ball and wrapped up well when he had the opportunity to make a tackle.
Dezman Moses, LB
A strong spring carried into July and August for Dezman Moses. The outside linebacker was probably the most impressive of the undrafted players, causing havoc for opposing offenses during the preseason. With Walden coming off the suspension list after Week 1, the Packers will have to make a decision regarding an outside linebacker. Moses has complicated things and could send Walden or Brad Jones packing.
Don Barclay, OL
The Packers kept just seven offensive linemen on their opening day roster and Don Barclay was one of them. Undrafted out of West Virginia, Barclay spent the entire camp with the Packers. He was part of a second unit that struggled to keep Graham Harrell upright during the first three preseason games, but looked much better against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Jarrett Boykin, WR
Many thought that if the Packers kept six wide receivers, it would Tori Gurley or Diondre Borel that would make the roster. Instead, Jarrett Boykin made the roster after catching 13 passes for 166 yards and a touchdown during the preseason. With five talented wide receivers ahead of him, it's hard to imagine Boykin getting much action.
Andrew Datko, OL & B.J. Coleman, QB
Both Andrew Datko and B.J. Coleman were released and signed to the practice squad.
Drafted in the seventh round, Andrew Datko was brought in to add depth and competition to the Packers' offensive line. During the opening weeks of training camp, Datko struggled mightily and looked largely out of place. After that, Datko showed solid improvement and looked to even be contending for a place on the 53-man roster.
The third string quarterback saw limited action as the Packers tried to ready Graham Harrell for the backup role. In his time, Coleman showed off his strong arm, but also his troubles with accuracy. Coleman will benefit from learning from the Packers' coaching staff throughout the season.