Packers training camp preview: Rookies to watch
For the Packers to advance beyond the divisional round of the playoffs the team will need to shore up two areas that hurt them last year and both involve running the ball.
As we know, the Packers defense was obliterated down the stretch in a Week 17 loss to Minnesota and again against San Francisco in the playoffs. To help strengthen the defense the Packers will look to first round pick Datone Jones. While at UCLA Jones played in a 3-4 defense so the transition to the NFL should be a smooth one. However, while Jones specialized in occupying blockers and helped the Bruins finish fourth in the nation in sacks, the real question is how will he contribute to stopping the run?
Perhaps the most interesting storyline heading into training camp is the backfield. In 2012 the Packers finished 20th in rushing offense. Now in 2013 the Packers are counting on two rookies to bolster the run game: Eddie Lacy and Jonathan Franklin. Both runners bring a different style to the table. Lacy is a physical, between-the-tackles runner while Franklin is smaller but quicker and can accelerate when hitting the corner. The differing styles may be necessary because Mike McCarthy promised last month that the running game would be better.
Along the offensive line the Packers tried to replenish depth with the selections of J.C Tretter and David Bakhtiari. However Tretter broke his ankle during OTAs and will miss significant time. Bakhtiari however fits the classic mold of a Ted Thompson pick: a versatile player who can play a number of positions. He can be slotted at either guard or tackle.
Seventh round picks Charles Johnson and Kevin Dorsey are part of a large group that will fight for snaps at wide receiver. Tomorrow we'll take a look at positional battles as the wide receiver position will be one to watch.
Back to the defense, the Packers added depth at a number of positions though none of the defensive rookies other than Jones appear ready to push for a starting job. Josh Boyd brings depth up front, Sam Barrington joins a group of raw players at inside linebacker while Nate Palmer plays on the outside and might help out on special teams. Finally Micah Hyde will be in the secondary though at least for now he will stay at cornerback.
Finally, there are the undrafted free agents. The last few years the Packers have seen at least one undrafted rookie make the team. Who will it be this year? Among the players worth watching are center Patrick Lewis, tight end Jake Stoneburner and wide receiver Myles White.
Yesterday we took a look at who the Packers need to replace and don't forget we're previewing training camp all week on Wisconsin's Afternoon News.