5 Green Bay Packers Who Will Surprise in Training Camp
Training camp is only a week away for the Green Bay Packers, and a number of players could surprise people with their performances.
That being said, I'm going to list five players who will do exactly that starting next Friday.
Head coach Mike McCarthy has often said how important Year 2 is in the development of the players on his roster. Three of these players are second-year players.
The other two players are rookies who were both drafted in the fourth round of the 2013 NFL draft.
Without further ado, let's look at the five players who will surprise in training camp.
Offensive Lineman Andrew Datko
Before he injured his shoulder at Florida State, offensive tackle Andrew Datko was considered a possible Day 1 prospect in the NFL draft and most definitely a Day 2 possibility. He was a four-year starter and had exceptional foot quickness and balance at left tackle.
Datko also played in the ACC, which always has a number of talented pass-rush specialists. But Datko experienced shoulder woes in his junior and senior years, which dropped his draft stock. That is why the Packers were able to select Datko in the seventh round of the 2012 NFL draft.
Datko struggled last year in training camp, both at left and right tackle, mostly because of his shoulder injury, which had him overcompensating as he took on opposing defensive linemen.
But this offseason, with the help of the training staff, Datko appears healthy and much stronger. He is one of my favorites to win the right tackle job when all is said and done.
Offensive Lineman Don Barclay
Speaking of surprises, Don Barclay was one in training camp last year. He was an undrafted rookie offensive lineman who just kept impressing his coaches each day in practice with his effort and tenacity. He played both guard and tackle last year in camp.
Barclay started the last four games of the regular season and also the postseason at right tackle. Overall, he performed OK, especially in the run game. His biggest problem was blocking edge-rushers on passing downs. The Packers had to give him blocking help on a number of occasions.
Recently, the Packers have given Barclay some snaps at center at OTAs, and I think that inside (guard and center) is where the coaches feel he would be better utilized as an offensive lineman.
He has an opportunity to be the first inside offensive lineman off the bench, much like Evan Dietrich-Smith in the past two years before he became the starting center late last season. Eventually, Barclay has a chance to become a starter inside.
Offensive Lineman David Bakhtiari
I expect the Packers to start a number of rookies in 2013. Two of those rookies will be Datone Jones and Eddie Lacy. Jones is a definite starter for sure at defensive end, while Lacy is the odds-on favorite to win the starting running back position.
A third rookie who could also end up starting is offensive lineman David Bakhtiari. That would be at the right tackle position, where I expect him to give a spirited battle to win the job. His main competition will be Andrew Datko.
Bakhtiari has started at both right and left tackle in college, where he only allowed 5.5 sacks in three years. The former Colorado Buffalo was also a dominating run-blocker and was able to get to the second level with ease.
If he doesn't win the right tackle job, I would expect him to be the first tackle off the bench to play on either side of the line.
The two wild cards in all this are Marshall Newhouse and Derek Sherrod.
The competition with Bakhtiari and Datko could make Newhouse play at a different level, which would be nice to see after he gave up 24.5 sacks the past two seasons at left tackle while also being a soft run-blocker.
Sherrod had another surgical procedure to repair his broken leg this winter, and he is expected to contribute at some point this summer. As a former first-round pick, he has the talent and ability to be a starter at right tackle, once he is healthy.
Running Back Johnathan Franklin
The Packers made big splash in the 2013 NFL draft when they selected running back Eddie Lacy in the second round. They then made an even bigger splash when they picked running back Johnathan Franklin in the fourth round.
If all goes as expected, Lacy will be the feature back for the Packers, especially in short-yardage situations. He is a big back at 5'11", 231 pounds, and his track record at Alabama was outstanding.
As a senior for the Crimson Tide, Lacy rushed for 1,322 yards and had 17 touchdowns. He also caught 22 passes for 189 yards and two touchdowns. He played well in big games, with 181 yards rushing in the SEC title game vs. Georgia and 140 rushing yards in the BCS title game vs. Notre Dame.
But he isn't the only rookie running back with a sterling track record in college. As a senior at UCLA, Franklin rushed for 1,734 yards and 13 touchdowns while catching 33 passes for 323 yards and three more touchdowns.
For his career as a Bruin, the 5'10", 205-pound Franklin had 4,403 yards rushing and 31 touchdowns. He also snagged 58 passes and three more scores.
I expect that talent and production to continue in the pros for Franklin, as well as for Lacy. The two of them should become a great thunder-and-lightning combination for the Packers at running back for years to come.
Franklin could excel as the third-down back in the prolific passing offense of the Packers, as he does everything well: running, receiving and blocking.
Tight End Brandon Bostick
The 2013 roster features seven tight ends. That is a lot, to say the least. Jermichael Finley will be the main one in the passing game, but head coach Mike McCarthy likes to put two or even three tight ends on the field at times, depending on the down and field position.
The Packers also use their tight ends on special teams. Looking at the roster right now, the team has Finley, Andrew Quarless, Ryan Taylor, D.J. Williams, Matthew Mulligan, Brandon Bostick and rookie Jake Stoneburner on the depth chart.
The team may keep five tight ends on the roster, which has happened in the recent past under McCarthy. Green Bay will also probably keep another tight end on the practice squad.
That is where Bostick spent the 2012 season, after he had a nice training camp with the Packers last summer as an undrafted rookie.
The coaches like Bostick, and he is probably the best downfield threat at tight end besides Finley and Williams. The 6'3", 250-pound Bostick played wide receiver at Newbury College and has filled out to become a tight end in the pros.
Finley needs to continue to play like he did late in the 2012 season to earn another contract extension, while Williams has to start producing in games like he has in practices. That evolving situation could open the door for Bostick to make a name for himself at camp this year.
I expect him to do just that.