Green Bay Packers: What to Watch for at OTAs.
Change is in the air for the Green Bay Packers, and the team's organized team activities will give fans their first glimpse at the 2013 team.
After the usual busy draft, but quiet free agency, Green Bay has reloaded its roster, but the team will have a much different look than last season.
After drafting two running backs, the Packers are expected to finally feature a much more balanced offense. With the selection of Datone Jones in the first round, a pass rush is also expected to finally return to Green Bay.
OTAs are just the first battles in the larger war for a roster spot for many players, but here are some things to watch as the team gathers for what it hopes will be a first step on a Super Bowl journey.\
OTA Dates (voluntary): May 20-22, May 28-30, June 11-14. Mandatory minicamp: June 4-6
Could B.J. Coleman Supplant Graham Harrell?
The Packers truly hope the doomsday scenario of losing to Aaron Rodgers a severe injury never occurs, but if it does, they need a solid backup quarterback.
That job currently belongs to Graham Harrell, but for how long?
After playing poorly in the first three preseason games last summer, Harrell redeemed himself in the finale. He saw limited playing time in the regular season, but the most memorable play he made was when he tripped, fumbled and nearly cost the Packers a win against the New Orleans Saints.
Luckily, Rodgers was only out that one play, but it was enough to continue to shake confidence fans have in Harrell.
B.J. Coleman, meanwhile, spent all of his rookie season on the practice squad so he was eligible for the team's rookie orientation this year. Coach Mike McCarthy had praise for Coleman, who has a strong arm, but showed issues with accuracy last year.
If McCarthy's quarterback school continues to work magic, then Coleman very well could beat out Harrell in training camp and the preseason.
Is the Competition at Kicker Real?
Mason Crosby had a pathetic 2012-13 season. He was mired in a near season-long slump before finally showing signs of life as the regular season wound down.
Many expected the Packers to bring in a veteran to compete with, and potentially replace, Crosby, but no one expected that veteran to be Giorgio Tavecchio. That has led to questions about how serious Green Bay really is about creating a competition for Crosby.
Stranger things have happened, but Crosby very well could win this competition by default. The signing of Tavecchio might as well have just been a ploy to keep the wolves off Crosby for a little while longer.
Will the Offense Become More Balanced?
Mike McGinnis/Getty Images
The Green Bay offense has been among the league's elite the last several years, but McCarthy refuses to rest on his laurels.
Rodgers has been sacked far too many times and the running game has been lethargic at best. By drafting both Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin, it's clear the Packers will be more serious about the run.
The question now is, what will it look like?
In the past, Green Bay has set up the pass by using the pass-running short routes to set up deep plays. This year, the Packers could see a much more balanced approach with a potentially strong running game. It almost could look like an all-new offense if Green Bay returns to its West Coast offense roots that McCarthy was raised on in the NFL.
What Will the Defense Look Like?
Mike McGinnis/Getty Images
The Packers retained defensive coordinator Dom Capers and his 3-4 defense for another season. With help finally arriving for the defensive line in Jones, it will be interesting to see what the defense actually looks like in 2013.
Will there be a more aggressive pass rush? With the selection of Jones, that's the hope for Green Bay because Clay Matthews can't do it alone. If Jones can prove to be a Cullen Jenkins-type player, the Packers should be in good shape.
The bigger issue is how much the team has learned about the read-option offense that the 49ers used to embarrass the Packers in the playoffs last year. McCarthy sent Capers and his staff to Texas A&M in the offseason to study the read-option in hopes of being more prepared for it.
They'll find out quickly this season, as they face the San Francisco 49ers in Week 1.
Eddie Lacy vs. Johnathan Franklin or DuJuan Harris
Green Bay raised eyebrows by taking perhaps the two best running backs in the draft, but that was only the beginning of the excitement.
Now comes to find out which one will get the start over the other.
Eddied Lacy was considered to be the best running back in the draft, but injury issues are a concern. Johnathan Franklin was selected in the fourth round, but it would not be surprising to see him beat out Lacy and become the starter. Franklin is better in the screen game and would be a nice complement to the pass-first Packers' offense.
Don't count out DuJuan Harris either. His strong finish last season raised expectations for the Green Bay running game even before the draft. Now the Packers have a potential three-headed monster at running back for a dramatic turnaround from what they had last season.
The Battle at Right Tackle
David Welker/Getty Images
Green Bay flip-flopped its offensive line, which means the battle to watch is now at the right tackle position.
Marshall Newhouse, Don Barclay, Derek Sherrod and rookie David Bakhtiari all figure to have a chance to win the starting battle and it's a race that could go all the way to the end of the preseason.
Newhouse was the starter at left tackle last season, but it is unclear how he would perform on the other side. Barclay played well in Bulaga's absence and Sherrod missed the year with an injury he suffered in 2011.
Barclay could very well be the favorite, but it will be an intriguing battle to watch. Without the pressure of having to protect Rodgers' blind side, this group can focus on being better run-blockers for the new rookie running backs.
May the best player win.
Wide Receivers Without Greg Jennings and Donald Driver
Leon Halip/Getty Images
With Greg Jennings and Donald Driver gone, it will be interesting to see how the still-deep Packers' receiving corps performs with OTAs as just the first step.
With the threesome of Jordy Nelson, Randalll Cobb and James Jones returning, Green Bay still packs quite a punch at the position. Rodgers like to spread the ball around, but now with three receivers instead of the five he's had in the past, will he develop a "favorite" target?
Keep an eye on Jarrett Boykin as well. He earned a roster spot in the preseason last year and could be the next star receiver in making for the Packers. Boykin came out of nowhere, but that's par for the course with the Green Bay receivers.
What Shape Is Johnny Jolly In?
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Johnny Jolly hasn't played a snap since January 2010 due to drug arrests and his subsequent suspension from the NFL. The Packers decided, however, to keep him on the active roster and give him a shot at making the team in 2013.
Before a drug addiction took him out of the NFL, Jolly was becoming a solid defensive lineman for the Packers in 2009, their first year in the 3-4 under Dom Capers. With so much time missed, exactly what shape Jolly is in is a major concern for Green Bay.
McCarthy seems willing to be able to give Jolly every chance to succeed and that's admirable given Jolly's legal issues in the past. Even with first-round pick Datone Jones on the roster, Jolly could provide valuable depth, as Ryan Pickett is in his contract year and isn't getting any younger either.
Jolly's comeback could be one of the best stories to come out of the OTAs and training camp so keep an eye on this one.