Green Bay Packers Face Key Changes at 3 Position Groups
Change. Songs are written about it, companies live or die based on whether or not they can see it coming and adapt to it.
NFL teams are forced to deal with tremendous personnel change every year. Rosters turn over with the influx of seven rounds of draft choices, rookie free agents and veteran free agents every offseason, plus more in-season roster moves.
The Green Bay Packers are dealing with significant changes at three position groups as they kick off the 2013 season training camp practice schedule today.
The Packers offensive line is slated to start new players at all five spots, compared to 2012′s Week 1 starting lineup.
With last year’s Week 1 starters flipping sides (former right tackle Bryan Bulaga and former right guard Josh Sitton are now on the left; former left tackle Marshall Newhouse and former left guard T.J. Lang are now competing on the right) and Evan Dietrich-Smith replacing the departed Jeff Saturday at center, the Packers’ offensive line will be all new in 2013.
That is some serious change. And it indicates two things: the Packers are intent on reducing the amount of abuse Aaron Rodgers will receive, particularly from his blind side, and the Packers want more push up front for their running game.
The Packers selected two running backs in the draft for the first time since 1995. Rookies Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin are expected to lead the revamped running backs corps as the Packers are expected to actually deploy a more balanced attack — despite similar promises in the past. The Packers hope that the sheer number of running backs they were forced to use last year (Cedric Benson, Ryan Grant, Alex Green, DuJuan Harris, John Kuhn, James Starks, Johnny White) due to a litany of injuries is behind them.
Three running backs from last season are already gone and two new arrivals guarantee a new-look running attack in Green Bay. Lacy and Franklin are roster locks. Late-season surprise Harris is also likely to stick around. A battle may be brewing for one remaining roster spot between former third-round pick Alex Green and former sixth-round pick Starks. Kuhn should remain as the team’s only true fullback, but does have a high cap number. Undrafted rookies Angelo Pease and Jonathan Amosa (fullback) are on hand if injuries should continue to befall this unit.
The Packers generated 47 sacks in 2012 — good enough to rank fourth in the NFL. Still, they recognized the need to get more athletic and stout along the line. The Packers selected defensive end Datone Jones from UCLA in the first round of the draft. Jones is expected to provide the kind of pressure from the end position that can take the focus off of outside linebacker Clay Matthews, who led the team with 13 sacks.
Despite not investing in the linebacker corps with any high-round draft picks or veteran newcomers, the Packers will feature a new look among their ‘backers. Former starters Erik Walden and Frank Zombo were allowed to leave in free agency. Former preferred starter Desmond Bishop and fill-in starter D.J. Smith were released due to injury concerns. For continuity, the Packers opted to restructure A.J. Hawk‘s contract to continue his services alongside Matthews again in 2013. Nominal starter Brad Jones was re-signed and is expected to now be the full-time starting interior linebacker, after toiling mostly as an outside ‘backer. Second-year linebacker Terrell Manning is expected to provide quality depth at inside linebacker after his rookie season was significantly disrupted by a mysterious ailment.
The remaining outside linebacker spot will see the most change of all. Second-year linebacker Nick Perry is the likely starter. His rookie season ended after only six games due to injury. Defensive end Mike Neal will split time at this outside linebacker spot and his customary position. Significant snaps will likely also go to Dezman Moses as he backs up both outside linebacker slots.