The Best Rookie Storylines at the Green Bay Packers OTAs
The Green Bay Packers have gotten a decent look at their 2013 rookie class now on two occasions. First, there was the rookie minicamp, and then the first of three organized team activities, which was held last week.
The second set of OTAs starts today.
There are some very interesting storylines regarding the 2013 rookie class, and not just with the draft picks either. There are a few undrafted rookies who potentially could make the roster, or at the very least, make the practice squad.
I'm going to talk about three of those undrafted rookies in this slideshow, along with three draft picks who will be given an opportunity to become starters for the team.
Defensive End Datone Jones
2013 first-round draft pick Datone Jones found out quickly about life in the NFL, as he battled another former first-round pick Bryan Bulaga last week in a drill at the OTAs. Bulaga was trying to hold his ground at left tackle, while Jones was trying to make a statement as a rookie, as he attempted to get by Bulaga.
The result? The two had a minor scrap after their session. But Jones and Bulaga were fine afterward as Jones explained via Packers.com.
Guys get pushy. Me and him going against each other, that's going to happen. Him being a vet and me being a rookie and me being drafted high. He's a competitor just like I am. He showed me a lot at practice and we talked it out. There were no hard feelings.
The Packers have high expectations for Jones this year, as he will certainly become a starter at defensive end for the team this season, barring something cataclysmic.
Jones will line up against Bulaga at times in practice, as well as against left guard Josh Sitton. That will be a good test for Jones as Bulaga and Sitton are Green Bay's very best offensive linemen.
The real test for Jones will be against NFL competition. However, going against Bulaga and Sitton will not only be good for Jones, but also for the two linemen who are playing on the left side of the offensive line this year after playing their entire NFL career on the right side.
Jones looks to be a three-down player for the Packers, as he has proven in college that he can excel versus the run (especially the read-option) and the pass.
Running Back Eddie Lacy
The Packers know that they have a very dangerous offense, led by quarterback Aaron Rodgers. However, there is still room for improvement, especially in the running game. That is where someone like Eddie Lacy will certainly help.
The Packers finished 13th in the NFL in total offense last year, after finishing third in that category in 2011. The biggest reason for the fall-off was due to the two safeties of the Green Bay opponents playing very deep almost all the time.
Why? They had no respect for the Green Bay rushing attack. Plus they wanted to lessen the effect of the deep passing attack of the Packers.
When the Packers did see the eight-in-the-box look out of defenses last year, like in short yardage situations, the Packers struggled running the ball in those situations as well.
Lacy should change all that as he will be given every opportunity to become the main weapon at running back for the Packers.
If his success at the college level is any indication for how he will do in the NFL, then the Packers will be quite pleased.
So far, so good for Lacy, although the first real test will be when the pads come on at training camp.
Offensive Lineman David Bakhtiari
When the Packers showed their new look along the offensive line last week at OTAs, the position at right tackle was manned initially by Marshall Newhouse. Newhouse has been a two-year starter at left tackle the past two years, and has been inconsistent both in pass-blocking and run-blocking. In fact, Newhouse allowed 24.5 sacks over the past two seasons.
That is why the Packers will give a number of other players every opportunity to win that right tackle job. The list includes players like Don Barclay, Derek Sherrod, Andrew Datko and rookie David Bakhtiari.
The competition will be fierce, but I expect Bakhtiari to definitely be in the mix.
The former Colorado Buffalo has played both right and left tackle in college. When he started at right tackle in 2010 for Colorado, he had 59 knockdown blocks.
Bakhtiari can be effective both in pass-blocking and run-blocking as he is very good in getting to the next level.
When it's all said and done going into the 2013 season after training camp, don't be surprised if Bakhtiari is the starter at right tackle.
Running Back Angelo Pease
When the Packers drafted both Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin in the 2013 NFL draft, many were shocked. I know I was. Shocked in a good way, though, as both Lacy and Franklin can be a "thunder and lightning" type of combination for the Packers in the backfield.
However, Lacy and Franklin aren't the only two rookie running backs who are making noise so far in Green Bay. So is undrafted running back Angelo Pease who played his college ball at Kansas State.
Pease stood out at the rookie minicamp, as he impressed head coach Mike McCarthy, as he explained via Packers.com.
I'm going to do it to him again, I thought Pease of Kansas State had a very good weekend. He had another run today. I think he's a good young back. ...He’s here for a reason. So that’s a credit to the player and that’s a credit to our personnel department. You’re also practicing in helmets and shorts and that’s why you have to be practical about what you saw today. It really confirms movement ability, athletic ability. Are they systematic? Do they fit what you’re looking for? So that’s really what this weekend’s for. The real football doesn’t start until training camp and we all realize that.
Plus, there was a reason why Pease went undrafted. He only had 480 rushing yards the last two seasons at Kansas State, and only had seven receptions in that time.
Pease has a number of running backs in front of him on the depth chart. The list includes Lacy and Franklin, along with DuJuan Harris, James Starks and Alex Green.
Still, if the 5'10", 211-pound Pease can continue to make noise, especially when training camp starts, there is a chance he could at the very least make the team's practice squad.
Offensive Lineman Lane Taylor
Rookie offensive lineman J.C. Tretter unfortunately suffered a broken ankle last week at OTAs. Tretter was expected to play a number of positions across the line, but was counted on to be a factor on the inside at both guard and center.
Tretter's injury opens the door for someone else to fill that role. That someone could be Lane Taylor.
Taylor received the biggest signing bonus at $7,000 among all the Packers’ undrafted rookies this year.
Taylor was a four-year starter at right guard for Oklahoma State, and was named 2012 First-Team All-Big 12 by both the coaches and the media.
Some scouts also think Taylor has the capability to play center as well.
The 6'3", 324-pound Taylor is a punishing run-blocker, and did not allow a sack last season.
Expect the Packers to take a long look at Taylor this summer.
Outside Linebacker Andy Mulumba
Last summer, the Packers were pleasantly surprised by a number of undrafted rookies, and one who really stood out was outside linebacker Dezman Moses. So, who will be the Dezman Moses this year among the undrafted rookies?
One player who might fill that role is Andy Mulumba. The 6'3", 260-pound Mulumba played defensive end at Eastern Michigan in college, but is expected to be an outside linebacker in the pros.
Mulumba is originally from Montreal, and besides getting an opportunity with the Packers, Mulumba was also selected in the first round of the CFL (Canadian Football League) draft by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Mulumba sees an opportunity in Green Bay, where the depth chart at outside linebacker is a bit thin. Right now the Packers only have Clay Matthews, Nick Perry and Moses there, along with Mulumba and sixth-round draft pick Nate Palmer, who also played defensive end in college.
The Packers really like Mulumba's upside, but training camp is the real time to catch the coaches' attention, much like Moses did last summer.
That performance by Moses in last year's training camp led to a spot on the 53-man roster.
Time will tell what will happen with Mulumba in Green Bay, but he certainly has options further north if the NFL doesn't work out.