5 Green Bay Packers Feeling the Most Pressure Heading into Camp
With another solid draft class in tow, Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy will now get to work piecing together a roster of 53 players to open the 2013 season in San Francisco. With mini camps and organized team activities (OTAs) ahead, this will be the first real look there will be at the 2013 version of the Packers.
As far as determining roster spots, the real battles begin in training camp in July. Despite Green Bay making the playoffs for four consecutive years, Thompson isn't resting on his laurels and has injected competition at multiple positions on the team.
Here are five Packers that will experience the most pressure when training camp opens.
TE Jermichael Finley
Finley is listed here in that he isn't fighting for a roster spot, but rather for his future in Green Bay.
His chances of being a Packer in 2013 were doubt but Green Bay decided to bring him back for the final year of his contract, where he is, incredibly, one of the highest-paid tight ends in the game. Thompson didn't draft a tight end and only signed Matthew Mulligan as a free agent and Jake Stoneburner as an undrafted free agent, so Finley's starting job is secure.
If Finley wants to remain in Green Bay beyond 2013, he has to perform this year and that starts with a solid and quiet training camp. He needs to stay out of the limelight and not attract unneeded media attention. A newly-found maturity by Finley would go a long way in determining his future.
Same goes for on-field performance. Despite the protest of fans, he improved his drop total in 2012 but now he needs to look at making big plays. With the departure of Greg Jennings, one has to believe Aaron Rodgers will be looking his direction more frequently this season.
It's "do or die" time for Finley in Green Bay.
Charles Woodson is gone and Thompson didn't select a pure safety in the draft (Micah Hyde is technically a cornerback).
That means the heat is on Morgan Burnett, Jerron McMillian and M.D. Jennings to perform this year. Safety was one of the positions many expected the Packers to upgrade via the draft, but Green Bay didn't pick a defensive back until the fifth round. This must mean the team is content with the three safeties mentioned above.
That said, they will need to perform in training camp. Woodson remains unemployed and the chances of him returning to the Packers seems remote, but that won't stop Thompson from adding a veteran if needed.
McMillian may have the biggest upside of the three, but if the Green Bay defense hopes to improve this season it must see better play from its safeties.
RT Marshall Newhouse
Marshall Newhouse wasn't cutting it protecting Rodgers' blindside and with $110 million now invested in the quarterback, something needed to be done.
McCarthy decided to shake up his offensive line, moving Newhouse to right tackle and Bryan Bulaga to left tackle. Guards Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang also switched positions. This would take pressure off of Newhouse, but he's not even a lock to be the starting right tackle.
Instead he finds himself in a battle with Don Barclay, Derek Sherrod and perhaps even rookie David Bakhtiari for a starting role. Newhouse has been considered by many to be nothing more than a solid backup in recent years, but he's seen a lot of playing time due to injuries.
With Sherrod perhaps finally healthy as well as Bulaga's recovery from hip surgery, the heat is on Newhouse to perform in training camp.
CB Tramon Williams
After playing a key role in the Packers' Super Bowl XLV victory, Williams endured a tough season in 2011 after dealing with a nagging shoulder injury most of the season.
Many expected him to bounce back and return to 2010 form last season, and while he had his moments there also were some more cringe worthy moments. He was getting burned too often and at times seemed hesitant to go ahead and make the tackle.
With the emergence of Casey Hayward last season, one could argue Williams isn't even the best cornerback on the team anymore. While his spot is secure opposite Hayward for 2013, Williams needs to improve in 2013 and is under considerable pressure going into training camp.
Is he going to return to All-Pro form or is he in danger of becoming a one-year wonder in Green Bay?
RB James Starks
Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
Starks, like Williams, was a hero of the Super Bowl run three seasons ago but not much has been heard from him since. He earned the nickname "Neo" from many fans after his breakout game in the wild-card win over the Philadelphia Eagles, but he hasn't done much in the games and years afterward.
For one, injuries have hobbled Starks. He just can't seem to remain healthy for a long stretch of games. Throw in the emergence of DuJuan Harris last year and Starks looks more and more like a backup. When he is healthy and look at how he runs, Starks is far too indecisive and unable to make that first cut that makes a successful running back.
Things got much worse for Starks in April. Thompson stunned many by drafting not one but two running backs, and both in theory could be an NFL starter from day one. With the arrival of Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin, the heat is on Starks in training camp.
He seems destined for a spot on the bench, if he's even on the roster at all when September rolls around.