Green Bay Packers: 5 Up-and-Coming Impact Players to Watch in 2012
The Green Bay Packers are one of the youngest teams in the NFL this year. The Packers blend a mix of veteran talent with a bunch of young players. A few of these young players have some experience, while others are quite raw.
With one of the best offenses in the league, there aren't many openings for young players on that side of the ball. The defensive holes from last season have opened up plenty of spots for young players to seize the opportunity.
If some of these players can develop further and have a bigger impact, the Packers will be in great position towards the end of the year.
Davon House should take over duties as the starting cornerback opposite Tramon Williams when he returns to full heath. House has been nursing a shoulder injury since the beginning of training camp, but he has since returned to practice. It is possible he plays against Chicago, but that is still up in the air.
House will provide the Packers more depth and strength at the cornerback position. Backup Jarrett Bush was targeted and abused by the San Francisco 49ers, giving up plenty of yardage.
It will take House a few weeks to fully adapt to playing with a shoulder harness, so his expectations should be tempered in the first weeks following his return. Also, House is very inexperienced after only playing on special teams last season.
House needs snaps to develop, but he looks to have made a huge jump from his rookie season. If he can pick up where he left off before getting hurt, he will be a big addition for the Packers throughout the season.
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D.J. Smith had a very up-and-down game against the 49ers. There were times when he played very well and was the tackling machine that he is known for being. Other times, Smith missed tackles or looked lost in coverage.
After Desmond Bishop tore his hamstring, Smith was thrust into the role as starting inside linebacker alongside A.J. Hawk. Smith got solid game experience last season when both Hawk and Bishop struggled with injuries. During that time, Smith showed he has some serious potential.
Smith, like many of the other young guys, will grow with more experience. While he doesn't quite have the ability to make Packers fans forget about Bishop, he does have the potential to push A.J. Hawk out the door next season.
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As a first-round draft pick, Nick Perry is expected to have a big season and make an immediate impact. He showed some of his potential against the 49ers, but he also showed that he's still a raw player trying to learn a new position.
One aspect that Perry needs to adjust to is coverage on wide receivers. Most seasoned linebackers would struggle against wide receivers, and Perry, who wasn't asked to cover in college, struggled.
Perry adds an immediate impact to the Packers pass rush. His strength and quick burst allow him to get to the quarterback. He will compliment Clay Matthews beautifully in the pass rush. It will take him some time to get comfortable in coverage, and hopefully, he won't be asked to cover more wideouts.
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Last season, the Packers defense was susceptible to miscommunications in the defensive backfield. That trend continued against the 49ers with wide-open receivers. On many of those miscommunications, finger pointing ensued among the players on the field. More times than not, Morgan Burnett was involved one way or the other.
In his third year, Burnett hasn't fully lived up the potential that he showed during his rookie season. That year was cut short with a torn ACL. Last year, Burnett was playing without safety Nick Collins alongside him. Collins is gone, and it's time for Burnett to step up and be the guy.
Burnett needs to become a true impact player for the Packers defense. With slight improvements in the pass rush, the Packers would heavily benefit from Burnett growing into the player they need.
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Against the 49ers, the Packers revealed their secret weapon on the offensive side of the ball—Randall Cobb. After a solid rookie season (25 catches, 375 yards and a touchdown), Cobb will be a more-utilized weapon for Green Bay.
Against San Francisco, the Packers used a formation where Randall Cobb lined up in the backfield. From there, Cobb was able to get into a route without being jammed up at the line. The non-traditional position worked extremely well as Cobb caught nine passes for 71 yards.
In addition to his new offensive role, Cobb continues to be a strength on special teams. He returned a punt 75 yards for a touchdown against the 49ers. In that role, Cobb is a threat to take any punt or kickoff back for a touchdown.
Cobb looked like a breakout player in Week 1, and that should continue throughout the year.