By Ben Schumacher @SchuBomber21 on August 8, 2014
The Green Bay Packers are poised to contend for the NFC crown this season. Their ability to do this will depend on whether or not they can keep key players healthy and have depth behind guys who happen to get hurt. These five reserves will likely play big roles in 2014 and be vital to the team's success.
In a league dominated by offense and big-time quarterbacks, it’s important to have a formidable secondary – just look at what Seattle was able to do last season. In years past, the Green Bay Packers have had solid players at the starting cornerback positions, but really struggled once they got down to their nickel and dime packages. That’s why it's crucial that Casey Hayward returns to his Defensive Rookie of the Year form of 2012.
After a productive and healthy 2013 season, Mike Neal finds himself sitting behind Clay Matthews on the depth chart. With Matthews always in and out of the lineup, it’s imperative that the Packers can count on him to provide production similar to that of last season, when he notched a career-high five sacks. Even if Matthews is healthy, the team needs to be able to count on Neal to generate a consistent pass rush when he's on the field.
After missing most of last season due to injury, former first-round pick Nick Perry finds himself sitting behind a future Hall-of-Famer on the depth chart. With the addition of Julius Peppers in the offseason, Perry will have less pressure to be the counterpart to Clay Matthews on the Packers’ pass rush. However, he should have plenty of opportunities to produce as the Packers try to limit the number of plays for the 34-year-old Peppers.
Former first-round pick Derek Sherrod is fully healthy for the first time since his rookie year, and could be depended upon in a starting capacity if one of the starters goes down with an injury. The Green Bay Packers recently lost their most versatile backup lineman, Don Barclay, to a season-ending knee injury, so if any of the starters go down, Sherrod will likely be moved to one of the tackle positions.
The Green Bay Packers are driven by their dynamic offense, and that won’t change this season as long as quarterback Aaron Rodgers can remain healthy. If Rodgers is healthy, he has a plethora of weapons at his disposal including third-year-pro Jarrett Boykin. As defenses key on Eddie Lacy, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, it will be up to Boykin to take advantage of one-on-one matchups. Expect big numbers from Boykin in 2014.
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