After the first week of free agency, the Packers' roster is starting to take shape for the 2013 season. With inactivity the theme of the Packers offseason thus far, their starters should be largely the same as last season with an occasional new face.
While other teams around the league are stocking up on new talent, the Packers will get a big re-stocking with all of their injured players coming back. Desmond Bishop, Bryan Bulaga, Nick Perry and and Andrew Quarless highlight the list of re-additions the Packers will get.
Here is a pre-draft prediction of what the Packers' starting lineup will look like to start the 2013 NFL season.
There's no question who the Packers starting quarterback will be in 2013. Aaron Rodgers isn't just the best player on the team, but one of the best in the league. As long as Rodgers is leading the team, the Packers will have a chance to win any game.
Rodgers is still in his prime despite failing to replicate his 2011 numbers in 2012. That decrease says more about his remarkable run in 2011 than it does about last year. Rodgers should be expected to put up numbers similar or better to what he posted in 2012.
The biggest question surrounding Rodgers is his contract situation.
Rodgers has two years remaining on his current deal, but is grossly underpaid. The Packers have the cap room to extend their franchise quarterback now and not have to carry negotiations into the season. Expect the Packers to give Rodgers a raise, making him the highest-paid player in the league.
While the Packers seem interested in bringing in another running back, their Week 1 starter is already on the roster. Harris exploded onto the scene over the last four games of the regular season and in the playoffs. Over the six games, Harris rushed for a total of 257 yards while averaging 4.1 yards per carry. He also scored in four of the six games.
Harris added a quick and powerful burst that no other Packers running back possesses. His low-to-the-ground and physically punishing running style make him hard to tackle. In the Packers' pass-happy offense, Harris also proved to be a receiving threat. He caught nine passes for 81 yards in his six appearances.
Going forward, the biggest area of improvement for Harris has to be his pass-protection. He was decent in that department last season, but needs to improveme his consistency and flow within the offense.
In my opinion, Kuhn is overpaid for what he brings to the Packers offense. His dive plays and pass protection could be had for much cheaper. That said, the coaching staff seems to really like Kuhn and believes in him.
He should be expected to be the starter and continue to have the same role in the Packers' offense.
Jones was a touchdown machine for the Packers last season, scoring a league-leading 14 times. The biggest asset Jones brought to the team was his consistent play. He scored in nine of the Packers' 16 games. Without Greg Jennings on the roster, the Packers will need Jones to replicate his weekly production.
The smooth route-runner is entering the final year of his contract, so he certainly has reasons to be motivated heading into next season. Without Jennings, Jones should see an even bigger role in the offense.
After a breakout season in 2011, Nelson failed to live up to the hype in 2012. When Jennings went out of the lineup with various injuries, Nelson struggled as the team's first option at wide receiver. Not used to the primary focus of the defense, Nelson seemed overwhelmed at times.
The Packers need Nelson to get back to his play of the 2011 season and be a threat whenever he touches the ball. He's proven over this five-year NFL career that he's certainly capable of stepping up to the plate.
Greg Jennings' departure should mean plenty of additional opportunities for Jermichael Finley. The big tight end wants to be a star and he will certainly get his chance in a contract year. While the Packers have plenty of weapons in the passing game, Finley offers a unique package.
His lethal combination of size and speed make him a tough matchup for defenders. He's got the frame of a tight end, but the speed and moves of a receiver.
Finley needs to focus and eliminate the dropped passes from his game. If he can do that and get more on the same page with Aaron Rodgers, Finley could finally reach his potential as one of the best tight ends in the league. The sky has been the limit for Finley, but he's rarely even come close during his five years in the league.
At this point, it'd be optimistic to predict Derek Sherrod coming back in Week 1 and taking over the left tackle position. That should mean Marshall Newhouse opens the season as the starter. He struggled at times during the season, but also showed some potential to be a decent tackle. Hopefully the offseason and camp competition push Newhouse into improving dramatically.
Lang also had an up-and-down season, but partly because he was shifted around the line when the injury bug hit the Packers. The team needs to get more production out of Lang both in the passing and running games. He showed some decent ability to get into the second level late in the season as the running game got going.
Once Dietrich-Smith was inserted into the lineup as the starting center, the Packers running game immediately improved. He helped to open up running lanes for DuJuan Harris who broke out and averaged 4.1 yards in his six games. The Packers need Dietrich-Smith to improve his pass-protection and to continue his physical play in the running game.
Sitton was the best player on the Packers' offense line, mostly keeping quiet throughout the season. Finally getting a Pro Bowl nod was great recognition of what Sitton has accomplished during his six years with the Packers.
Bulaga is expected to come back healthy and reclaim his position as the right tackle. In his absence, Don Barclay's insertion to the offensive line made the Packers' line more physical and helped in the run game. Bulaga needs to raise his level of play, both protecting Rodgers and getting more in run-blocking.
Raji's play during the beginning stretch of last season left much to be desired and begged the question of whether he was actually an elite player. Over the second half, he answered those questions with emphatic, dominating performances.
While stats tell very little about Raji's impact, he had nine tackles over his first seven games. In his final seven, Raji had 17 tackles. He got much more push up front and allowed the rest of the Packers' front seven to get to the quarterback.
The Packers best run-stopper seemed to show a small dip in his game because of his age. He was mostly productive, but disappeared at times. The 33-year-old defensive tackle still has enough left in the tank to play a significant role in 2013, but the Packers need to start getting a replacement in line.
Pickett's talent on the defensive line, along with Raji, give the Packers two-thirds of the solution. They need to find a player that can consistently get push alongside the two staples.
One of the bolder predictions, it's time that Mike Neal finally puts it together and becomes a consistent starter for the Packers. Neal has a great skill set, but needs to stay active for the entirety of ballgames. Injuries are also an issue for Neal, but he's capable of becoming a strong player and producing at the level the Packers have missed.
The Packers' second-best player, Clay Matthews, is the integral piece to the team's defense. The key for the rest of the defense and the coaching staff is putting Matthews in good position to come up with impact plays. In the extremely talented NFC, the Packers will need all they can get out of Matthews.
The Packers' playmaking inside linebacker is expected to be back after missing the entire 2012 season with a hamstring injury. His absence was definitely felt as the Packers failed to come up with many big plays from their inside linebackers. In 2011, Bishop came up with five sacks and two forced fumbles. The Packers defense will be much better next season with Bishop back on the field.
While his playmaking ability isn't the greatest, the Packers coaching staff seems to really like what Hawk brings to the defense. As the main communication guy, Hawk has plenty of responsibility and seems to handle it well. Hawk needs to play smarter and more disciplined football if he's going to survive the new wave of zone-read packages in the league.
Perry struggled in his rookie season before ending up on the injured reserve list with a bad wrist. The former defensive end was forced to learn a new position, which was mostly responsible for his rough patches of play. Perry's athleticism should allow him to make a big jump with a full offseason of preparing to play as an outside linebacker.
Once a top corner in the league, Williams has struggled to live up to the standard he previously set for himself. He's had extremely rough patches in coverage with plenty of poor tackle attempts. While his level of play has slightly decreased, Williams is still capable of having stretches with good coverage and strong overall play.
The Packers need Williams to get back to his former, more confident play. Otherwise, Williams could start to see the bench with talented up-and-coming cornerbacks like Sam Shields, Casey Hayward and Davon House. Even with all the talent, Williams should get the Week 1 starting job.
While Hayward and House impressed during training camp, Shields definitely raised his level of play to match the two. His playing time seemed destined to decrease significantly with his poor performance in 2011 alongside the other talented players.
While Shields will likely get the start, Hayward and House should also see plenty of time on the field. The Packers have a bunch of young talent at the cornerback position, making it one of the team's richest positions.
Burnett has grown into a solid starting safety for the Packers, despite some miscommunications and blown coverages. He has showcased solid range and great playmaking ability with two forced fumbles, two interceptions and two sacks in 2012. In his fourth year, Burnett should be expected to be even better.
While Burnett will take up one of the safety spots, the Packers need to find a player that can complement him and the rest of the defense. They tried with Jerron McMillian and M.D. Jennings, but neither play was able to do enough to lock down a full-time starting job.
McMillian had some struggles in his first professional season. Playing at a small school like Maine, it's likely that the speed of the NFL game was just too much for McMillian at times. With a full offseason in Green Bay under the Packers coaching staff, McMillian should be expected to make a large jump and become an impact starter.
Mason Crosby, K
While he struggled during the middle of the season, Crosby put it together down the stretch and made sure not to cost the Packers any crucial games. He's got a huge leg and a ton of potential. It seems wise to push him in training camp with some competition, but expect Crosby to win out and be the starter.
Tim Masthay, P
Masthay has gone from being a competent punter to above average in the last few seasons. He's improved his directional punting and done a great job at pinning opposing offenses deep in their own territory. Masthay has become an underrated weapon for the packers.