Packer Veterans Who Have Been Put on Notice This Offseason
For the second straight year in 2012, the Green Bay Packers saw their Super Bowl aspirations go down with a resounding postseason thud.
All of this after the Packers had won Super Bowl XLV.
Yes, Green Bay has gone 26-6 in two seasons since then and won two consecutive NFC North titles, but the way in which the Packers were dispatched from the playoffs by the San Francisco 49ers was alarming.
It's also true that the Packers lost to NFC teams which reached the Super Bowl the past two postseasons, but general manager Ted Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy certainly have had to re-evaluate the makeup of the roster.
Because of that, a number of veterans on the roster have been put on notice heading into Organized Team Activities, mini-camps and training camp.
Following are some of those Packers' veterans on alert this offseason.
No veteran has been put on more notice than former starting left tackle Marshall Newhouse.
The Packers announced last week that they were moving both right tackle Bryan Bulaga and right guard Josh Sitton to the left side of the line.
Why? Primarily because of the inconsistent play of Newhouse, who has allowed a whopping 24.5 sacks the past two years.
So where does that leave Newhouse? It looks like he will be in a five-man scramble to become the starting right tackle. The Packers are hoping that both Derek Sherrod and Andrew Datko will be healthy enough to compete for the job this summer.
The Packers also have Don Barclay, who started at right tackle for seven games last year (including the playoffs), and has proven to be a better-than-average run-blocker. The Packers drafted David Bakhtiari in the fourth round this year and he will also get a shot at starting.
Not only will Newhouse be fighting for a starting job in 2013, it also looks like he could be fighting for just a roster spot if he isn't named the starter.
That would definitely classify as someone being put on notice.
James Starks/Alex Green
After the Packers drafted not one, but two running backs in the 2013 NFL draft, both James Starks and Alex Green have to be alarmed. Why? Well, there is no doubt that both rookies Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin will get significant playing time in 2013.
The Packers were very pleased with the play of DuJuan Harris late in the 2012 regular season and in the postseason. If the Packers decide to keep just four running backs in 2013, that means three of the spots are already taken.
The bottom line is that either James Starks or Alex Green will be the odd-man out.
Starks looked to have a very promising future in Green Bay when he led all NFL backs with 315 yards rushing in the 2010 postseason during the Packers' Super Bowl XLV title run, but an assortment of injuries and his tendency to not know assignments have since derailed him.
Green was drafted in 2011, but suffered an ACL tear his rookie year. Green still led the Packers in rushing last season with 464 yards before he wore down due to scarring issues from his ACL injury.
The Packers need to decide which back has the best upside based on a number of factors. Either way, Starks and Green both have to practice and play this summer like it could be their last year in Green Bay.
Why? Because it is for one of them.
You know you are being sent a signal by the team when your current contract is torn up and a new deal is restructured for the team's benefit.
That is exactly what happened with A.J. Hawk and the Packers, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
The restructured deal will save the Packers $7.25 million over the final three years of the contract.
Hawk knew it was a deal he had to make because the Packers are hoping that inside linebacker Desmond Bishop will be able to play this season after suffering a severe hamstring injury in the first preseason game of 2012, which caused him to miss the entire season.
Brad Jones also played well in his absence, so well that the Packers re-signed Jones to a new contact after he became an unrestricted free agent.
The Packers also have players like Terrell Manning, Jamarri Lattimore and Robert Francois waiting in the wings as backups at inside linebacker.
The Packers also drafted another inside linebacker in Sam Barrington of South Florida in the seventh round.
Hawk played much better in 2012 than he did in 2011 with 120 tackles and three sacks, but he also did not create a turnover or recover one.
Hawk need to continue the trend of 2012 season and also the 2010 season (134 tackles, .5 sacks and three interceptions), which allowed him to get a his new contract in the first place.
If Hawk has a year like he had in 2011 (104 tackles, 1.5 sacks, zero turnovers), the Packers might really put him on notice in 2014—as in possibly being released.
Some were shocked when they heard rumors that inside linebacker Desmond Bishop was perhaps on the trade market during the 2013 NFL draft as NFL.com reported.
So why would that be? Bishop had two good back-to-back seasons in 2010 and 2011 when he totaled 263 tackles, eight sacks, had one interception and forced four fumbles.
It could be that the Packers are concerned about the ruptured hamstring injury that Bishop suffered in the first preseason game of 2012. The injury was so bad that Bishop missed the entire season.
According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Bishop's agent Blake Baratz, was quoted as saying, "He’s been rehabbing daily, getting the strength back in his quads and his legs," Baratz told Tyler Dunne of the Journal Sentinel. "I think he’s 85, 90 percent. I’d have to ask him but he’s getting there. He’s getting there. I think he’ll be fully cleared for all of the off-season stuff.”
Still, that has to be concerning since the injury occurred in early August of 2012.
Perhaps the Packers were just getting a barometer reading on the trade value of Bishop, as he would have to pass a physical on any team who traded for him.
Either way, Bishop can't feel real positive about his status with the Packers.
The Packers selected defensive end Datone Jones in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft, plus picked up another defensive lineman when they selected Josh Boyd in the fifth round.
Those selections can't be reassuring to C.J. Wilson nor anyone not named B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett on the Green Bay defensive line.
Wilson is considered a very good run-stuffer at defensive end for the Packers, although he does not have great skills at rushing the passer.
Wilson started seven games for the Packers at defensive end in 2012 with 24 tackles and 2.5 sacks. Mike Neal does not play the run as well as Wilson, but he did have 4.5 sacks. Mike Daniels had two sacks, but he also recovered two fumbles, including one for a touchdown.
Boyd plays a lot like Wilson (in that he plays the run well), but is slightly bigger.
The way I see it, four spots on the defensive line will be taken by Raji, Pickett, Jones and Boyd.
That means that Neal, Daniels, Wilson and Johnny Jolly will be playing for two positions if the Packers keep just six defensive linemen.
I don't see Jolly being able to play like he did in 2009 when he last played for Green Bay before being dealt an indefinite suspension by the NFL in 2010. I think Wilson could be the odd-man out between him, Neal and Daniels.
Time will tell.
Mason Crosby had a very tough year in 2012 for the Green Bay Packers. Crosby made just 21-of-33 field goals last season. That was only good enough for a 63.6 percent average to rank dead-last in the NFL.
Head coach Mike McCarthy and special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum stuck with Crosby though, and he did kick better late in the season and in the playoffs.
Crosby is pretty solid in other aspects of the kicking game, as he produced 35 touchbacks last year on kickoffs and converted his only onside kick.
Still, the Packers decided to bring in some competition this summer for Crosby when they signed left-footed kicker Giorgio Tavecchio, who tried out with the San Francisco 49ers last year.
I expect Crosby to continue to keep his job, but if he starts to get the yips again like he did last season, the Packers have an alternative at kicker.
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