The Green Bay Packers are now into their second week of training camp. From what I have seen, I believe there are four positions in which a surprise starter might emerge.
Those positions are tight end, center, safety and inside linebacker.
At tight end, the two players who have really stood out so far at camp are rookie Richard Rodgers and second-year player Jake Stoneburner. The Packers also have veterans Andrew Quarless, Brandon Bostick and Ryan Taylor, along with rookies Colt Lyerla and Justin Perillo competing for spots on the roster.
Lyerla will be out a number of weeks due to a knee sprain suffered Saturday and looks to be a candidate for injured reserve. Perillo had a nice first week in camp but has been inconsistent this week.
That being said, I believe the Packers will keep four tight ends on the roster and one on the practice squad. It's hard to say which four the Packers will keep, but Rodgers definitely has a chance to start.
The former Cal Bear has grabbed just about everything thrown in his direction, and if he proves that he can block effectively, it will be hard to keep No. 89 out of the starting lineup.
The battle at center between JC Tretter and rookie Corey Linsley will also be one to watch this camp. Tretter started out slowly in camp in one on one drills but has bounced back. Linsley has held his own.
"I like Linsley. I think he's got maybe a little bit more natural ability than JC. What you would love to have, in my eyes, is to see Linsley develop into that guy, and then Tretter can be your third interior offensive lineman with quality enough to start at center or either guard spot. And maybe one of your best three interior offensive linemen who may earn a starting spot."
That may indeed be what happens now. Before he tore his ACL yesterday, Don Barclay looked to be the first offensive lineman off the bench at right tackle and at both guard spots. If Linsley does end up winning the battle to become the new center for Aaron Rodgers, Tretter could be the first player off the bench to play either center or guard.
Linsley also has some versatility, as he was a backup at both guard and tackle at Ohio State in 2011.
At the safety position, it's looking more and more like Micah Hyde will be on the field quite a bit. During the OTAs, the minicamp and the first part of training camp, Hyde was starting next to Morgan Burnett at safety.
But first-round draft pick Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is also getting some opportunities to shine, both as a starter at times and also in the dime defense.
The odd man out may end up being Burnett, who is already injury prone (ankle and oblique strain) less than two weeks into camp. Last training camp, Burnett hurt his hamstring and missed a lot of camp, plus the first three games of the regular season.
With No. 42 sitting on the sideline, there will be more opportunities to impress the coaches for both Hyde and Clinton-Dix.
So far the depth chart remains the same at inside linebacker with A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones manning the positions, but both Jamari Lattimore and Sam Barrington will get their chances to shine.
Rookie Joe Thomas has looked pretty good so far inside as well.
And based on the way fourth-round draft pick Carl Bradford has struggled at outside linebacker so far in camp, I would not be surprised to see the Packers move Bradford inside.
Bottom line, the battles at tight end, center, safety and inside linebacker will certainly be interesting to watch during camp, especially with the first preseason game vs. the Tennessee Titans coming up on Saturday night.