It's that heavenly time of life again. Where life is at blissful peaks. As I write, I sit in a hammock with "The Bitter End" sitting next to me. "The Bitter End" is a Pale Ale from Two Brothers Brewing out of Warrenville, IL. Coincidentally, it's a fitting name for the 2011 NFL Season. But, onward and upward my Packers Kinsfolk. And, as the String Cheese Incident has famously belted out, "the roller coaster rolls to the bottom before it climbs to the top again." Yes, we're spoiled as Packers fans. Barring injury, with Ted Thompson, Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers at the helm, a devastating Divisional Round home loss in the playoffs is as low as I presume it'll get.
Thus, we move forward with intense anticipation. Excitement at heightened levels as I follow the twitter accounts of Brian Carriveau and Ty Dunne. If you're a Packers fan and you don't read EVERY word that they write, well, you're potentially missing a Ruby-like gem, which might enhance your emotional energy with immense vitality. With that, I gently encourage you to follow both of them on twitter. Sadly, my daily Railbird days in Titletown are behind me. But, through their first-class journalism, I stay current.
As I turn my attention to the 2012 version of the Green Bay Packers, I become ecstatic. I feel close to this team. There's a bond in the locker room. A closeness with the fans. In many ways, it feels communal. And, if we play defense, the Green Bay Packers will, once again, be SUPER BOWL CHAMPIONS.
Since I won't be at practice each day, I'm going to be paying extra attention to these 10 players.
10.) BJ Coleman. Coleman has the confidence and the cannon to become a legitimate NFL QB. But, can he command a huddle and learn the offense. While it is unlikely that we will find out these answers in 2012, I will be curious to hear how he performs. For those that have followed this blog, you know I thought highly of him prior to the draft. I believe he has all of the tools to be as good as Weeden, Tannehill and Cousins. He'll have to work on his footwork, but he will be an ideal project for Mike McCarthy.
9.) Diondre Borel. If Borel is going to justify a roster spot, it is going to have to come via special teams. The Packers are loaded at WR. But, there is an open competition at the gunner spot opposite J-Bush. When P-Lee left to Oakland via Free Agency, a starting spot on the special teams opened up. In the past, the Packers have had good success using a WR as a gunner. Both Terry Mickens and Ruvell Martin did admirable jobs previously.
8.) Tori Gurley. Gurley is a more experienced WR than Borel. Additionally, his physical tools add a dimension that no one else on the team offers at the WR position. The most comparable player is probably J-Mike even though Finley has 15-20 lbs on Gurley. Additionally, Gurley also has the potential to make a significant difference on special teams. Last year, during training camp, we often heard about Gurley's ability to block punts. Can this transition to the real action during the preseason? If so, it might be enough to warrant a roster spot.
7.) Davon House. When House was drafted in the 4th round last year, we were told that he'd remind us of Al Harris. So, he was gifted the #31 jersey and with his dreadlocks flowing beneath the helmet, it felt as though we cloned the physical playing Rastaman. But, injuries derailed his rookie season and though the sample size was small; what we saw was a far cry from the CB who locked down opposing teams #1 WR at Lambeau Field for much of the first decade in the current century. Last year, Harris looked soft and lacked technique. He didn't use his hands well and failed to stand up WR's atthe line of scrimmage. Regardless, House has an enormous opportunity in front of him. The outside CB spot is up for grabs. Sammy Swagga is coming off of a poor season and J-Bush played better in the slot than on the outside. House's development will be fun to follow.
6.) Mike Daniels. The Packers pass rush needs to improve. Wynn & Wilson had their opportunities to establish lengthy careers last year. Both failed. Miserably. Neither is any pass rush threat. The images of Eli Manning having all day to throw are etched the brain. We saw their best, it wasn't good enough. Enter Mike Daniels. Daniels' bowling ball figure would seem to position him well in the battle for leverage. The Packers need two players to elevate the pass rush to take the pressure off CM3 & The Freezer. While it is natural to expect Worthy & Perry to be the impact rushers, do not discount Daniels. He will see time in the rotation and it'll be interesting to watch his role on this defense.
5.) Casey Hayward. "Showcase" has come to Titletown to showcase his skills. Kid is legit. Jordan Rodgers, Aaron's brother and Casey's college teammate, called Showcase the best player he faced last year. I believe that - righ now - Hayward is a better playe than Sammy Swagga and J-Bush. He plays the ball well. I fancy that h will be making plays early in camp.
4.) Terrell Manning. Most believe that the battle at ILB is between DJ Smith and AJ Hawk. While I agree that the competition is a worthwhile discussion (for the record, I hope Smith beats out Hawk), the real story is how the Packers will get off the field on 3rd down. And, in that situation, I don't believe either player is the solution. Maybe it is wishful thinking, but this role might be best suited for Manning. We are often reminded of the Darren Sproles v AJ Hawk play in Week 1 last year. Manning could prove to be the solution. Don't be surprised if the Packers play a fair amount of dime defense with the athletic Manning being the lone LB on the field. Manning looks the part. Can he master these situational defensive schemes? If so, Manning might see important playing time in his rookie season.
3.) Jerel Worthy. It's still hard for me to believe that Worthy will done the Green & Gold. The college enemy has a chance to be a fan favorite at the professional level. He'll be well rested on a DL that is sure to use a heavy rotation. Can Worthy get to the QB at this level? I've often reminded you that Worthy was on the bench on a number of crucial 3rd downs at the college level. The Packers see him as a solution to the porous DL pass rush. If so, Worthy will make us all forget about Cullen Jenkins.
2.) Jerron McMillan. McMillan ran a gazelle-like 4.36 '40' at the Combine. Now, he's going to have to use that speed to show he has the range to play Safety in the NFL. In order to win the starting role, he will have to beat out the Doctor, MD Jennings. Jennings is a good karma player. He finds the ball and the ball finds him. Still, Jennings likely lacks the ize to be an every down player. From what I've heard, McMillan has the athleticism that we severely lacked at the safety position last year. In my mind, it's McMillan's job to lose.
1.) Nick Perry. Sometimes, as a fan, you get what you wanted. In this years draft, the Packers landed two premier players along the front 7 with Perry being the foreman. Most of the attention on Perry will focus on his ability to drop in coverage. How Perry adjusts to the 2-point stance is anyone's guess. Here's my prediction: on 3rd down, when Perry is needed to get to the QB the most, Perry will have his hand in the dirt. He will be attacking the QB in the same fashion that the Ravens have used Terrell Suggs in the past. Perry will be put in position to succeed, even if it means we see the Claymaker dropping in coverage more than we've seen previously.
It's football season. A glorious feeling. And Family Night, which will be my first glimpse of this years team, is only a week away!
GO PACK GO!