Projecting the Green Bay Packers' Most Heated Roster Battles This Season
After making 11 selections in April, general manager Ted Thompson has filled many of the holes on the Green Bay roster. Now it's up to head coach Mike McCarthy and the coaching staff to put the best players in each position.
While we won't know the entire Week 1 roster until late August, many positions on the Packers' roster are set with incumbents being carried over from 2012. The team won the NFC North for the second consecutive year and made it to the divisional round of the playoffs, so a major roster shakeup would be unnecessary.
However, there are a few positions on the team that will see very heated battles in training camp.
Here are the five roster battles that will see the fiercest competition heading into the preseason.
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Talk about going from rags to riches.
Entering the draft, Green Bay was staring at DuJuan Harris as the team's starting running back. Harris played well late in the 2012 season, but the jury was (and perhaps still is) out as to whether or not he can be the long-term answer.
So Thompson made a move—check that, made MOVES—to immediately shore up the running back position. Not only were the Packers able to get Eddie Lacy from Alabama in the second round, a player many thought they would have taken in the first, but Thompson was also able to scoop up Johnathan Franklin from UCLA in the fourth.
With Harris and now Lacy and Franklin as the team's running backs, who will be the starter?
This should be the most fun battle to watch in training camp. Harris played well late last year, but the selection of two running backs shows he will have a challenge earning the starting job. Judging by the order they were selected, it wouldn't be surprising to see Lacy start with Franklin as the backup/change-of-pace back. Harris is most likely to be on the bench, except in certain formations.
If Lacy's health issues return in camp, then Franklin will be the starter. He's better in the screen game than Lacy, which will come in handy for Aaron Rodgers. It will be nice to have another weapon in the screen game aside from Randall Cobb.
James Starks is on the hot seat with the arrival of Lacy and Franklin. John Kuhn should return as the starting fullback.
Projected Winner: Lacy, but don't be surprised if Franklin sneaks up and takes it.
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Many thought the Packers would select a safety in this spring's draft, but the closest they came was cornerback Micah Hyde out of Iowa, a player who could be converted to a free safety in the long run.
Instead, it seems Dom Capers is content letting Morgan Burnett, Jerron McMillian and M.D. Jennings duke it out for the two starting spots in Green Bay's base 3-4 defense.
Burnett should be safe in his spot, so that leaves McMillian and Jennings to battle for the other side. Jennings showed some potential last year, but it's McMillian who may have the bigger upside. The Packers have not had a true hard-hitting safety since Nick Collins went down with a neck injury, and it could be McMillian who finally fills that void.
Of course, McMillian has room to grow entering his second year, and it will be interesting to see which of the two wins out. The "loser" of that battle will likely see time in the nickel and dime defenses, so they won't be in jeopardy of missing the roster.
The upside McMillian presents, however, very well could be what determines the winner.
Projected winner: McMillian
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One month ago, this would be about who would be protecting Rodgers' blindside. One $110 million dollar contract extension later, we're talking about the right side instead.
The Packers instead decided to shakeup the offensive line, moving Bryan Bulaga (who is recovering from hip surgery) and Josh Sitton to left tackle and left guard, respectively, and T.J. Lang and a player to be named later to the right side.
So who will be that "player to be named later?" As it stands now, it will be between last year's starting left tackle, Marshall Newhouse, Don Barclay and 2011 first round pick Derek Sherrod. Newhouse has been inconsistent, and Barclay showed promise late last year. Sherrod is still recovering from his 2011 injury.
Barclay played well in the 2012 preseason to warrant a roster spot, and he backed it up when he got his chance in the regular season due to injury. Newhouse may enjoy some kind of incumbent advantage, but many see him as nothing more than a solid backup.
Sherrod is the wild card. Will he realize the potential he showed that warranted the first-round selection two years ago, or will he continue to be riddled with injuries?
Barclay is the pick here, but don't expect Newhouse to give up his spot without a fight.
Projected winner: Don Barclay
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Green Bay just invested $110 million dollars in its starting quarterback. They're basically betting the farm Rodgers stays healthy.
If he doesn't, who can carry the load? Graham Harrell didn't inspire much confidence in cleanup duty last year with his most memorable play being a fumble that nearly cost the Packers the win against the Saints. He struggled all preseason, as well, until the final game.
B.J. Coleman currently resides on the practice squad and has a much stronger arm than Harrell but needs to work on his accuracy.
The Packers also picked up Matt Brown, from Illinois State, as an undrafted free agent.
Harrell has shown no signs that he will be another Matt Flynn and be able to compete for a starting job with another team. In fact, his position as No. 2 behind Rodgers could be in jeopardy if Coleman has progressed far enough. Don't count out Brown either as McCarthy specializes in quarterback development.
Projected Winner: Coleman in an upset. A rough preseason for Harrell leads to Coleman's elevation and Brown landing on the practice squad. Harrell gets cut.
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As it stands right now, it will be Mason Crosby vs. Giorgio Tavecchio to be the kicker for the Packers.
It doesn't sound like much of a competition for Crosby, does it?
This story may not yet be over, however. Tavecchio very well could surprise fans in camp who have yet to see him attempt a field goal. Don't rule out Green Bay adding a veteran yet, either. Crosby was atrocious in 2012, though his finish to the year gives some hope his crisis of confidence may indeed be over.
It will be interesting to see how Crosby reacts to a kicking competition, but he should be able to stave off Tavecchio. Being able to beat out another veteran, however, may be a different story.
Projected Winner: Crosby, but beware the addition of another veteran