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July

Packers Starters Most Likely to Lose Their Spots

Most of the offseason chatter about Packers starters getting benched has centered on A.J. Hawk being replaced by D.J. Smith. That very well might happen, but what about other starters that could find themselves on the bench once the season starts?

Erik Walden
According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), Walden totaled just three sacks, 14 QB hits and 22 QB hurries in 15 starts. From week 12 through the playoff loss, Walden had zero sacks, four hits and six hurries (he also got arrested). His (-20.5) overall rating by PFF was the worst among 3-4 OLBs by almost 10 points.

Packers fans don’t need fancy stats and analytics to know that Walden was bad. If he was simply average, and provided at least a little pressure on the QB down the stretch, who knows how last season might have ended? Rookie Nick Perry likely will take over here.

Jarius Wynn/C.J. Wilson
These two combined to start six games, so it’s a stretch to call them starters. Howard Green also started five times, so we’ll consider Wynn/Wilson/Green a sort of three-headed monster that started most games somewhere on the defensive line. With Green gone, there’s only two heads of the monster left, and I’m not sure that either head will start this season.

Wilson seems like a good athlete, which gives me some hope that he could eventually turn into a serviceable player. A permanent starter? The jury is out.

The Packers need more defensive lineman that cause chaos. It’s a common misconception that the only role of a 3-4 defensive lineman is to “occupy blockers.” That’s true to a point, but the lineman needs to do something that actually occupies the blocker. Simply being a large body with a pulse that walks upright isn’t enough.

Jerel Worthy caused chaos at Michigan St. He occupied blockers, and he also beat the hell out of the blockers he occupied. If he can do that in the NFL, he’ll be starting over Wilson and Wynn in no time.

Marshall Newhouse
Thanks to Chad Clifton’s injury, Newhouse started 13 games at left tackle. He’s got the inside track to begin as the starter this season unless Derek Sherrod recovers from his leg injury and plays out of his mind in training camp. I don’t see Newhouse losing his spot.

Donald Driver
Do we really consider Driver a starter? He “started” 14 games in 2011, but was obviously under Jordy Nelson (nine starts) on the depth chart. With Driver, we shouldn’t be asking if he will remain a starter. We should be asking how far down the depth chart he will fall.

Charlie Peprah
Peprah started after Nick Collins got hurt, so I don’t really consider him a “starter.” In my dream world, Jerron McMillian will take over for Peprah on day one, but that’s probably wishful thinking.

That’s about all I can think of. As bad as the defense was, it feels like there should be more starters in danger of losing their spot.

Before the 2010 season, Mike McCarthy and the Packers coaching staff talked about improving from within. There will be some new (young) faces on defense in 2012, but there’s going have to be a lot of improving from within, too.

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Adam Czech is a freelance reporter and a Packers fan living in the Twin Cities. Follow Adam on Twitter. Read more of Adam's writing on the Packers here.

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36 Responses to “Packers Starters Most Likely to Lose Their Spots”

  1. ScottS says:

    Altough technically not a “starter,” Sam Shield’s spot might be in danger as well.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

    • Adam Czech says:

      I thought about Shields also, but didn’t list him because, as you say, he technically wasn’t a “starter.” He probably should be on this list, though.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  2. aaronqb says:

    My bet is that Newhouse and Shields will both be starters all season. Peprah should be on his way out. Walden, Wynn/Wilson/Green, and Driver have already occurred.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  3. BubbaOne says:

    Add John Kuhn to the list. Though a fan favorite he turns 30 in Sept, is coming off an injury, and has a $2.3M salary this year. Nic Cooper rec’d some props this offseason. If he excels in camp TT could look to use the almost $2M savings towards one of the upcoming contracts. And maybe the TE’s are groomed to play more H-Back to help pick up the slack.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 6 Thumb down 3

    • Adam Czech says:

      Interesting. I didn’t consider Kuhn. I think he’s safe, but he definitely should be in the discussion.

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      • BubbaOne says:

        Kuhn’s fumble in the playoff game didn’t help him either. Though not crucial to TT’s decision it is another straw on the Camel’s back.
        Here’s the kicker, if Kuhn returns I feel Crabtree’s job is less safe. If Cooper is the starter then Crabtree is more safe.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

    • marpag says:

      I think Kuhn is about as safe as a decent starter can be. I don’t love the guy, and his salary is a bit much for a fullback, but he’s the only fullback in the state of Wisconsin not currently playing for the Badgers.

      Kuhn’s decent. While he’s not a devastating blocker, he’s OK. He’s a better than average runner for a true fullback, and he can do a little something with an occasional dump off pass. His versatility is his big plus. I just don’t see this Packers offense ever lining up with a traditional “thumper” at fullback, anyway. It’s just not what they do.

      I regard the “buzz” around Cooper in the same way that I regard the buzz around Shaky Smithson. It’s camp talk. Cooper would have to be absolute lightning in a bottle to knock Kuhn out of the starter’s spot. I’m not holding my breath.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  4. MNPackFan says:

    DD may not start, but I think he will be a bigger contributor than most people think. Remember he was in a fantastic off season workout regimen.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 3 Thumb down 4

    • Dan "FireMMNow" Blakley FireMMNow says:

      the other guys that are younger, faster and cheaper also work pretty hard in the offseason.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  5. James david Marsh says:

    I do not even see C.J. Wilson, Jarius Wynn, Erik Walden, Donald Driver, and Charlie Peprah even making the team in this coming year. Marshall Newhouse will start at LT and Sam Shields will “start” in the dime package. I fully expect M.D. Jennings to start at one of the safety positions. The DL will come from B.J. Raji, Jerel Worthey, Mike Neal, and Ryan Pickett.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 3 Thumb down 4

  6. BubbaOne says:

    I think Newhouse will have the second year leap forward MM talks about. I think Sherrod’s lack of conditioning and strength, and inability to work on fundamentels will preclude him from competing for the starting spot. Datko may have a better chance.

    I think last year showed the 3 time pro bowler Nick Collins could compensate for Peprah’s limitations and Burnett can’t. It’s possible TT keeps 3 S’s (Burnett, M.D., McMillian)knowing Woodson and Bush can and may play the position. Under this scenario could TT keep 9 DB’s to add an extra LB or DL? Yikes, if there’s injuries in the backfield.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3

  7. Lou says:

    Best case scenario is Jolly, Raji, and Worthy upfront which allows Pickett to spell Raji and replace Worthy in some packages. Smith needs to replace Hawk and Walden has no business getting another chance, I have never seen a linebacker consistently not hold the edge (sucked inside time and time again)and still line up as a starter week to week, what is wrong with Kevin Greene ? Shields has to tackle or be replaced, it has been explained to him he wins or loses the job. Collin’s had more range than any safety ever, Burnett cannot be held to that standard and Peprah must be replaced to move the defense forward.

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    • Nick Perry says:

      So you think the Packers give Jolly another chance should the NFL reinstate him? I do too. I love Jolly. I know there’s people out there who feel he’s already had his 2nd and maybe 3rd chance already and it’s a matter of will power. Sorry friends, not that simple. But I would love to see a line of Jolly, Raji, and Worthy, with Pick mixed in! That would be a hell of a defensive front! Then all that’s left is get rid of Hawk and we could be a top 5 defense again with 45 plus sacks!

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 3

      • Dan "FireMMNow" Blakley FireMMNow says:

        i agree as well. for a player like jolly, removing him from his team and his structure was basically a death sentence for someone of his background. he should be subject to higher levels of testing, but he should be given another chance. seriously if vick can get reinstated after being involved in dog fighting and racketeering and then stallworth and that DE from the rams can get re-instated after they killed people while drunk driving could continue to play, i think jolly should be able to play. i am not saying he is a good guy, and he has a RIGHT to play in the NFL, but other guys with much worse issues are promoted by the league as stars. he will not be the same guy he was and he will have an uphill battle to make the team, but he should atleast get the opportunity to be cut after a fair training camp battle.

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        • Oppy says:

          I tend to agree- Addicts are clearly a different situation than a disciplinary case.

          Yes, they chose to start using, but no one ever believes things will spiral out of control. This guy might not be a great guy- A Packers teammate described him as “a jerk” a few years back- but he needs something to keep him on the up and up, and he could perhaps contribute.

          He should get a shot.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

      • marpag says:

        Giving Johnny Jolly another chance is one thing. Viewing Johnny Jolly as the missing link that will turn a league-worst defense into a good one? That’s an entirely different thing. Let’s just say I’m, um… skeptical, but willing to be proven wrong.

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        • Jersey Al Jersey Al says:

          I agree here. I’m ok with giving him yet another chance, but I don’t think he fits what the Packers need and the direction they have taken this year with the new DL they have brought in. I’d just as soon not use a roster spot on him…

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

    • Oppy says:

      Burnett is actually pretty close to meeting that range standard that Collins set. Not quite, but he made a few eye-opening breaks on balls across 3/4 of the field last year.

      I’m hoping the switch flips and the lights go on for Burnett much like it took Nick a couple years to grasp the pro game before he became productive. Burnett is not Collins, but he is still a VERY athletic safety,

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    • ando says:

      What role do you think Mike daniels would have in the system?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  8. Dan "FireMMNow" Blakley FireMMNow says:

    i would have added aj hawk to the list. it is unlikely, but he has been a long time starter that could lose his spot. maybe not in week 1, but if he tweaks an ankle he may not be able to get his job back.

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    • Dan "FireMMNow" Blakley FireMMNow says:

      i should also read the opening paragraph of the article before i make a comment. face palm.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

    • Nick Perry says:

      Well then lets hope for a tweaked ankle then. I’d love to see D.J. Smith in there with Bishop. If not Smith then Manning. Anyone other than Hawk! Who knows, maybe Manning will really shine once pads on.

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  9. Big T says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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  10. Ron LC says:

    There will be serious competition for the ROLB, DL and DB spots. That’s great – let the best players survive. Last year’s defense was an abomination. Work hard Capers, a serious improvement is expected for 2012.

    Newhouse needs to improve his performance against speed rushers. He was awful at that job last year (see KC and Giants). The Oline deptth scares me once again. If Sherrod can recover and up his strength and playing speed, I’d feel a bit better about it.

    The WR’s at GB operate as a high functioning unit. With Jennings and Jordy at the top, Cobb filling many roles including some we have yet to see, and the rest used to provide more flexibility in given situtations the Packer WR’s are a potent group.

    It will be hard, if not impossible to improve last year’s offensive performance. However, with AR at the helm, I wouldn’t bet against it. The defense? It damn well better improve. TT and MM gave Capers a whole lot more depth in the D this off-seson. Use it well Dom.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

    • Turophile says:

      Ron LC, there will be little competition for starting ROLB. Perry will be handed the starter position, as near as dammit. Moses and So’oto might make the backup OLB fight interesting.

      However, there will be serious competition for ILB. Bishop, Hawk, D.J.Smith, Francois, Manning, Jones, Lattimore. That is seven talented guys and we will not keep more than five, maybe only four.

      The other position of interest to me is the O line. Genus*, Draheim and Dietrich Smith (*my money is on Genus) are fighting for what is probably one backup spot at center.

      *Dominguez, Cook, Brooks and Barclay are going for probably one backup guard spot (I’m going for the huge Dominguez). If that isn’t tough enough, the three contending backup centers will also want to prove they can back up at guard. Tackle looks to be Datko and Sherrod backing up (bad luck to Allard, McCabe and Herb Taylor). I don’t expect anyone to beat out Newhouse as starting LT at the start of the season.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  11. Mojo says:

    Of those Adam listed, I see Walden, Wynn, Wilson and Peprah cut outright and Newhouse and Hawk as opening day starters on short-leashes. Also, DD is not necessarily a lock to make the roster despite the guaranteed cash. The Pack might think if DD shows enough in practice then it’s worth it, if not then the guaranteed $’s are a nice parting gift that expresses the teams gratitude and looks good PR wise. If certain players come to this site and read how some of us have them cut, I hope they use it as motivation and not despair (like they would care what we think).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

    • Adam Czech says:

      I think Walden will get every opportunity to make the team. He’ll have to be really bad to get cut.

      The Packers must see something in him, otherwise they would not have resigned him.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

      • Dan "FireMMNow" Blakley FireMMNow says:

        they resigned him before the draft. he was insurance if the draft did not fall right. it was a one year minumum deal right?

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        • Jersey Al Jersey Al says:

          yes, he’s cheap insurance. But I still think he has potential as a pass rusher. Ge got a lot of pressures in the first half of the season. of course, if he can;t learn to properly hold the edge in the running game, he’ll be back on the street.

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          • Adam Czech says:

            You can find “emergency” guys after the draft if you need them. The Packers see something in Walden. We might not know what, but they see something.

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      • Oppy says:

        Yeah, they saw the gaping hole across from Clay Matthews. :/

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  12. Zeman says:

    Go Smith go! Bench Hawk. Smith needs to show
    Some leadership, almost anyone can out play Hawk.
    Where DJ might come up short is command of the d and leadership. If he can take charge Hawk should be 2nd team, and them redo that stupid big fat contract that Thompson gave him. I say gave him because Hawk certainly did not earn it or desire it. Remember; there’s not a offensive coordinator that gives a crap about Hawk.

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  13. ereeser says:

    It’s not just Smith that has to play well for Hawk to be dumped. Two of the three of Jones, Manning, Francois must look really good for Hawk to go. They will need to trust 4 ILB’s as injuries do happen. Also, I don’t think Walden has to play poorly to lose out. Simply put, Moses. So’oto or Zombo must play better than he does and he is gone. They will only keep 4 OLB’s.

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