The 2009 Green Bay Packers: Say Hello To The New Guys

Serge-Vincent MalenaContributor ISeptember 11, 2009

SEATTLE - DECEMBER 23: Derrick Martin #29 of the Baltimore Ravens walks on the field during the game against the Seattle Seahawks at Qwest Field on December 23, 2007 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

There was some talk around the NFL a few seasons ago that Green Bay had a hard time attracting big time free agent talent.

Packers general manager Ted Thompson has attacked that potential problem in a fairly unique way.

Thompson has sent a message to all veteran FA's looking for a position with his Green Bay Packers:

"You're welcome to apply; but be damn sure you're going to do everything that's asked of you and more before you think you're going to stay."

In a nutshell it reads: "We don't want you; we're fine without you."

Which bears the big questions, really.

Are the Packers fine with their roster comprised mainly of fifth-year or below players?  Are they fine when most of their 53 man roster's only NFL experience is with those very same Packers?

Thompson drove Brett Favre nuts in their time together with his unwillingness to deviate from his master plan.  No Randy Moss for you, sir! 

With the first season without Favre being a 6-10 one and the entire defensive playbook being thrown into the junk-heap to start the 2009 campaign, there are certainly some questions surrounding Ted Thompson's Packers this year. 

Will Thompson's seemingly crazy machinations pay-off?  When?

This season will be the showcase for Ted Thompson's vision of a truly home-grown competitive football team.  He wants to show that you can be responsible and fiscal while still winning; maybe winning everything. 

This task is as monumental and, perhaps more, difficult than just winning a Super Bowl for your franchise in today's NFL.

Thompson has introduced 10 new players onto the Packers roster for 2009 and, not surprisingly, they consist of eight rookies, one first year player, and one trade.

The trade is kind of surprising actually; not from a personnel stand-point, just because it's a trade.  Aside from draft day they don't happen often.

So who are these fresh faced young Packers, ready to help slay the mighty dragons of the NFC and lead their squad to the glory it so rightfully deserves?

Let's meet them...

Laying it on a Little Thick There Weren't You?  Dragons?

Point noted.  Moving on.

The Packers Made a Trade?  Not on Draft Day?

I know, weird huh?  Tackle Tony Moll was sent to Baltimore for defensive back Derrick Martin (pictured).

Something else that seemed weird at the time of the trade was that Martin was another addition to an apparently stocked secondary.  The subsequent release of veteran free agent pick-up Anthony Smith was the answer to that.

Smith was only useful to the Packers as a reserve safety, sometime starter if injuries hit.

Martin can play either safety or cornerback, depending on need, and is an aggressive special teams performer.

"Tony, meet Derrick he's new.  No, no, you don't have to show him around.  Actually, jeez, this is awkward now..."

Sorry Tony. 

According to Thompson, Martin was on the Packers draft board in 2006 and they've watched his career in Baltimore with interest after the Ravens grabbed him in the sixth round out of Wyoming.

What About Spencer Havner?  Is He New?

Not exactly.  Tight-end/linebacker hybrid Spencer Havner is listed as a one year veteran but has spent the last three years on the Packers practice squad. 

While he did play four games for the Packers at the end of last year, and is not one of the ten new faces, I'm going to write a bit about him anyway.  Three years on the practice squad!  The guy deserves a little recognition.

He was originally signed by Washington way back in 2006 as an un-drafted rookie out of UCLA.  Back in those days he styled himself simply a linebacker; the Packers added the tight end duties this year in the preseason, and all of a sudden Mr. Havner is on the active roster.

He'll be looked upon this year as a special teams performer primarily but should keep his new offensive playbook close at hand.  The Packers are fairly deep at the linebacker position while only keeping two other TE's on the roster.  Havner will see time there as a blocker, but can always be thrown at if things break down.

Who's Brett Swain?

Wide receiver Brett Swain is another Packer with one year of NFL experience (there are only three, punter Jeremy Kapinos is the last), but is a new face to the active roster.

Unlike Havner, he spent the entire 2008 season on the practice squad and saw no late season action.  With the Packers relatively healthy and very deep at the wide-out position in 2008, this was not surprising.

With the Packers' new focus on special teams in 2009, Swain managed to beat out veteran Ruvell Martin for the fifth receiver spot; a surprise move to many, including myself.

Swain was a seventh-round pick by the Packers in 2008 out of San Diego State and his relatively rapid (seventh round pick here people) ascension to the Packers active roster says something about his character.  If that will translate onto the field with solid, noticeable play remains to be seen.

Look for No. 16 on kicks and punts on a television near you this Sunday afternoon.

No. 16?  I Thought He Was a Wide Receiver?

He is.  16 is a weird number for a WR.

Does Ted Thompson Like Rookies?

Boy does he ever.  A Thompson draft pick always has a good chance to make the active roster; but this seems to have more to do with exhaustive scouting and talent evaluation than it does with simply defending whacko predictions.

This years crop of rookies has fit Thompson's mold almost perfectly again.  Of his eight draftees for 2009 only one, T Jamon Meredith from South Carolina, failed to make the active roster.  Meredith was subsequently signed to the practice squad and here's hoping he can follow in Swain's footsteps for 2010 with the Packers thin at tackle.

Replacing Meredith as a rookie offensive lineman who did make the Packers in 2009 is undrafted guard/center Evan Dietrich-Smith out of Idaho State.

Dietrich-Smith has decent size at 6'2" and 305 lbs.  He started at tackle his last two years at Idaho and excelled at basketball in high-school, which he says has given him excellent footwork as a football lineman.  He'll be backing up starting left guard Josh Sitton on the Packers this year and will also play special teams.

So, There's Seven New Faces Left and They're All Packers Draft Choices?

You've been paying attention, excellent.  Let's cover them from the "bottom" up.

Seventh round choice Brad Jones is a linebacker out of Colorado.  He was a three year starter at CU and played every game.  He's an apparent special teams wizard; are we seeing a pattern develop here?

Kinda.  Special Teams Ahoy!  Sixth Round Choices?

Sixth round choice Brandon Underwood is a cornerback out of Cincinnati.  Another special teams roster decision, Brandon can learn much from his fellow corners Al Harris and Charles Woodson about his NFL defensive duties.

Another sixth round choice was 277 lbs. defensive end Jarius Wynn.  Wynn made the Packers roster as an undersized end out of Georgia, based on his pure pass rushing skills and his familiarity with having a big, stylized "G" on his helmet.  Go Bulldogs!

Wynn is listed third on the depth chart at his position and looks to make his impact primarily on special teams this season, but with the flexibility of the 3-4 he might find himself in the mix often enough defensively, with his size maybe determining how often.

I do seem to remember an end for the Dolphins a while back that everybody said was too light to play his position.  Jason something; wonder what happened to him?

Are There Any NFL Teams With Three Fullbacks on Their Roster?

I think there's only one; if there's more, one of them is for sure the Packers.

I doubt there's another.  Three FB's is a strange choice.

Quinn Johnson from LSU was the Packers' fifth-round choice in 2009 and some felt that rang the death bell for either of current fullbacks Korey Hall or John Kuhn's careers with the Packers.

Well, some were wrong and the Packers surprised quite a few people by keeping all three on their 53 man roster.  Johnson is listed as third on the depth chart and look for him, Kuhn, and Hall to be out smacking people around on special teams for the Pack this year.

Are the Packers Thin at Tackle?

Well, that's now the third time I've mentioned it, so at least I think so. 

With the trade of Tony Moll to Baltimore and veteran Mark Tauscher still in un-signed/maybe retired limbo, the Packers have only two players, Chad Clifton and Breno Giacomini, listed as true tackles for 2009. 

Starting right tackle Allen Barbre is actually still listed by the Packers as a guard/tackle, as are many other members of the 2009 Green Bay offensive line.

One of these is 2009 fourth round draft pick T.J. Lang out of Eastern Michigan. 

His current position on the depth chart is backing up Daryn Colledge at left guard but his size, 6'4" 316 lbs., means that he could make a future transition to tackle.  Lang and quarterback Aaron Rodgers could be working together a lot in the next 10 years or so if Lang assumes this eventual role.

Seems Like There's Only Two Names Left.

Seems like you forgot to ask a question there, but whatever. 

With no second or third round selections made by the Packers in 2009 we can fast forward to everyone's favorite round: the first.

The Packers traded up to nab USC linebacker Clay Matthews III late in the first round in 2009.  Many have questioned Matthews as a first round selection and I feel it's just Thompson making a bold decision to address a need and get the player he wants instead of watching him slip away.  Will it pay off?  That's up to Clay the third.

Matthews is yet another new Packer with an extensive special teams resume from college.  His pass rushing skills will let him see the field quite a bit on the defensive side; he is currently listed as veteran Brady Poppinga's back-up at right outside linebacker.

Observationally; this kid is a tank.  He looks big even for a linebacker and with his pedigree (both father and grandfather productive NFL veterans) he fills out the "intangibles" column quite nicely.

B.J. Raji; With a Name Like "B.J." I'm Thinking Little Guy?  Am I right?

You are wrong.  Raji, the Packers first first-round draft pick in 2009 from Boston College is a 6'2" 337 lbs. defensive end/nose-tackle.  337! That's not little. 

He's currently listed as both John Jolly's back-up at left defensive-end and Ryan Pickett's back-up at NT for the Packers and should see significant playing time this year, even without cracking the starting line-up.

As with every other new face on the Packers roster for 2009, Raji should see time with the specials.

The Packers lost so many games by so few points in 2008, it seems as if Ted Thompson is attempting his own unique version of a "quick-fix" of the Packers special teams unit as one way of addressing this.  Strong special teams play can make all the difference between a four point victory or a three point loss.

The new Packers in 2009 are obviously a big part of that plan and here's hoping it shows up on the field.

And in the win column.


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