Ten Things I Want To See at Packers Training CampPosted:Jul 21st, 2014 4:23 pm
Greetings everyone, I've come out of my offseason stupor ready for football and ready to (hopefully) keep you coming back every few days to read my latest thoughts on the '14 Packers. First, a bit of news, "Packer Preview" will return to its one hour length in this, our 19th season on the home of the Vikings, KFAN. We're on early: 7am-8am, but feel free to podcast it whenever is convenient on Sunday mornings at either kfan.com or iTunes.
With camp opening this weekend, here are the 10 things I'm hoping to see emerge as we creep closer and closer to the opener in Seattle.
1. No significant injuries: Ooh, that's insightful. Most fans are dying to see a few injuries shake up the roster during the summer. But seriously, nothing derails optimism like early injuries such as the one we saw Bryan Bulaga suffer before preseason games even started. Seeing the Bills' emerging star Kiko Alonso go down with a torn ACL in private workouts reminds us that training camp is a daily minefield and all position and roster battles are less important than making sure everyone stays healthy.
2. The tight end battle: While some Packer fans continue to hold out hope that Jermichael Finley will be resigned, I'd still be shocked to see it--despite Finley's cryptic tweets. The job is wide open as we enter camp, with Andrew Quarless the likely guy initially sitting atop the depth chart. While he had a nice stretch right after Finley's injury, he screams backup to me and I'd like to see either rookie Richard Rodgers or Brandon Bostick jump up and grab the job during camp and in preseason games. A Rodgers-to-Rodgers connection rolls the best off the tongue, but Bostick, if recovered from injury, may be more ready to step right in and take advantage of the situation. He flashed nicely last season and has a ton of uspide. Of course, the wildcard here is Colt Lyerla, who could end up the offensive weapon that everyone is talking about in December, or could end up crashing and burning in August with an off the field dustup.
3. Ha Ha flashes: Wouldn't it be great to see Micah Hyde start with the ones and then Ha Ha Clinton-Dix looks so good in practice that the coaches decide they can't keep him off the field? With the Packers getting virtually nothing from their last three #1 picks, here's hoping the former 'Bama safety ends that run. The defense is dying for a big-hitting, playmaking safety to fortify the back end and the rookie seems to have all the intangibles to become that guy, beginning with a solid work ethic and willingness to learn.
4. Rodgers finds a center he loves: He made no secret that he hated to see Evan Dietrich-Smith walk via free agency, but Rodgers gets new centers about as often as he changes girlfriends. Maybe Olivia Munn will be the one. And maybe JC Tretter will grab the center spot and man it for the next five years. The former Ivy Leaguer is coming off a lost rookie season, but finds himself in a position to grab a starting spot on one of the league's most dynamic offenses. Yes, I am aware the pack drafted a center in the fifth round, but there's a reason Corey Linsley was the sixth center drafted. I think it's a long shot he unseats Tretter. It would be great to see some instant chemistry between Rodgers and Tretter and finally get some stability at a position the team has undervalued in recent years.
5. Peppers proves valuable off the field: At 34, the Pack's marquee free agent doesn't figure to get a ton of action in the preseason. But Julius Peppers appears to already have made quite an impression on the other guys on the defense. The way he carries himself and goes about his business has caught his teammates' eye. The departure of Charles Woodson last year removed a respected veteran voice from that unit. Peppers appears ready to fill that void. If joining the Pack has re-energized him, giving him a shot at a Super Bowl ring, he could be just as valuable off the field as he is on. I see him as a situational pass rusher whom Capers will move all over the front seven. If he's vertical in January he could make a play or two when it matters most.
6. Clay plays the role of observer till mid-August: No one figures to gain more from the addition of Peppers than Matthews, who hopes to see less double teams, when the veteran is on the field. Look for the Pack to be extra careful with Clay this summer, making sure his thumb is 100% healed. The defense cannot afford another season where he misses five or six games. I'll be happy to see very little of #52 this summer.
7. Rodgers' understudy: A big question mark we all have is whether the Packers will carry two or three QBs this season. They're already eons ahead of last year's depth chart with Matt Flynn and Scott Tolzien on board. The presumed result is that Flynn will be Rodgers' backup and Ted Thompson will have to decide whether he feels he can afford to carry three QBs, at the expense of another position. But don't be surprised if Tolzien outplays Flynn in the preseason and wins the job. I know, Flynn kept the team's playoff hopes afloat last year, while Tolzien was underwhelming. But McCarthy really likes Tolzien and having him learn in his offseason program will likely cause him to look a lot more polished and confident this season.
8. The #3 wide receiver: Jarrett Boykin starts the year here, but with three rookies he's going to look like he's always shaking his head as he constantly looks over his shoulder. This is a position that notoriously takes most rookies longer to master and feel comfortable, but Davante Adams has a chance to replace James Jones from day one. He should be a solid red zone target, something the Packers need desperately with the losses of Jones and Finley--an area the team really struggled in last season. He struggled in minicamp, but he'll likely look a lot different with pads on and with a few weeks of getting comfortable. Former Badger Jared Abbrederis also has a shot to play in multiple receiver sets, but will most likely earn his chops as a returner. He'll be given every opportunity to win that job.
9. Bulaga regains his form: OK, he hasn't been a world beater, but the former #1 pick could really help stabilize the line this season. With David Bakhtiari performing better than we could have hoped when he stepped in at left tackle last season, the team can feel good about moving Bulaga back to the right side. Don Barclay was okay last year, particularly as a run blocker, but it would be nice to have him as a utility guy, with Bakhtiari and Bulaga serving as solid bookends on the offensive line.
10. Young D-line shows some nastiness: You gotta love Mike Daniels speaking up and promising that this unit will be meaner and tougher. We know it will be younger, with the losses of Ryan Pickett and Johnny Jolly. Dom Capers' 3-4 will go as far as the defensive line goes. The team simply must be better up front. BJ Raji's return to the nose and playing for a big contract should provide more results in the middle and Daniels is emerging as a very good player. Now the team needs last year's #1 pick Datone to take a jump and hope that rookie Kyhri Thornton and someone within the group of Guion, Worthy and Boyd steps up.