Sometimes, when you merge Three Floyds & Stone hops with New Glarus fruit, your buzz accentuates to joyful places.
Last year, I caught great flak for saying that the Packers would finish '9-7, 10-6 at best.' I felt the team lacked depth. We weren't braced to cope with injury. This year, my views couldn't be more different. I believe that the Green Bay Packers will be the 2014 Super Bowl Champions.
Heading into Training Camp, the 2014 Packers roster looks to have a plethora of depth. Outside of the 1996 Packers roster, I'd stack the 90-man 2014 Training Camp roster against any Packers team in my life.
From 1993-1999, I might've attended more Training Camp practices than I missed. In 2003, the same applied. I paid attention to the lesser known stories. If I were in Titletown, U.S.A. for the 2014 Camp, I'd be less concerned about how Peppers was used and what was the status of Rodgers' fitness level. I'd be more concerned about how the 53-man roster rounded out. With that said, here are 10 things I'd be studying if I were a Railbird this summer:
10.) Jayrone Elliot & Adrian Hubbard. Both UDFA's. Both are more natural 3-4 OLB's than Nate Palmer & Andy Mulumba. Both have rushed the pass rusher with success at the college level. Both have played in space. Both are comfortable dropping into zone coverage. If Elliot can learn to use his length (he often short arms tackles), he could push for a spot. If Hubbard can consistently play with a mean, tough, pursuant mind; it'll be tough to leave him off the roster. I've said it before and I'll say it again: 'Bama players have found great success in Green Bay previously. It's in the water.
9.) Demetri Goodson. Dude is unsalted. Fully raw. Sublimely athletic. Ready to be coached up. With gifts that cannot be taught. In a similar fashion to Sammy Swagga prior to the 2010 season, he's still learning the position. Goodson has the natural talents that could allow him to blossom into a legitimate NFL starter.
8.) Khyri Thornton & Letroy Guion. In past years, we'd be jonesin' for Jerel Worthy to find his college form. This year, he appears to be abandoned from the plans. The depth is too grand. I believe Thornton will show the "juice" that we thought we'd see out of Worthy off the snap. I also believe Guion will show the toughness in the run game that we were yearning for Worthy to provide.
7.) Carl Bradford. From a talent perspective, Bradford was one of the more intriguing players in the Draft. The biggest question: where do you play him? The Packers have to find a spot. Will it be as an OLB? Will it be at ILB? Will he be a situational pass rusher? Or will he simply be used as a mentally tough attitude-induced injection into what's been a fairly soft special teams core?
6.) LaDarius Perkins & Rajion Neal. In the past, Lacy, Starks & Harris have all battled injuries. Therefore, I expect all three to receive extended rest in the early part of camp. Enter Perkins & Neal. While it'll be thrilling to see how Harris' role evolves in the offense, it'll be equally exciting in the early portions of camp to track how Perkins & Neal make the most of their opportunities. In 2012, Perkins rushed for 1,000 yards in the SEC. In 2013, Neal rushed for 1,000 yards in the SEC. Neal & Perkins' presence in camp tells me that the Packers have known that Franklin's future was in doubt. It wouldn't shock me if either Perkins or Neal were to make the team. It might come down to the Kick Return job. Both will likely get an opportunity to compete for the job. In college, I thought Neal was a better player than Perkins and based on from what I've seen from there games, Neal seems to fit the Packers spread offense to perfection. The Kick Return job will be interesting to follow. Neal & Perkins will be in the thick of the mix. Will one of them seize the job?
5.) Jake Doughty. Most die-hard fans are concerned with the depth at ILB. Last season, prior to Camp, Andy Mulumba was my preseason undrafted darling that I thought would make the team. This year, I'm really hoping Doughty becomes that man. In college, Doughty was a tackling machine. In a similar fashion as Chris Borland. For years, I've heard that Ryan Taylor was a special teams guru. I never saw it. With increased competition at TE, I wonder if Doughty might evolve into a special teams beast and take a roster spot from Taylor and Stoneburner. In some ways, Doughty reminds me of Larry Izzo. Undersized. Not necessarily fleet of foot. But, he plays with conviction and he understands the game. Doughty finds the football. Also, if Doughty performs and Lattimore outplays Jones, does Jones become expendable? If so, it'd free up much needed cap room.
4.) John Fullington. I'd argue that the depth of the 2014 OL is greater than any in my life. The top 6 in 2003 might have been better, but they couldn't get 4th & 1 when it mattered most. The 2014 team will get that 1st down. While most will pay deep attention to the Linsley v Tretter battle for the starting C spot, I'd be watching Fullington. With Bulaga in a contract year, I envision Fullington as a similar player as Barclay. He can play 4 positions. I wonder if his feet could be become a hot topic in camp. Look for Fullington to make a strong push for a roster spot.
3.) Colt Lyerla & Richard Rodgers. There's great promise with both players. Lyerla is rich in talent. He's going to have an environment that'll put him in position to succeed in his personal life. I wholeheartedly feel that Lyerla will be a stud for the Packers for the foreseeable future. He is going to offer the Packers a physical dimension after the catch that hasn't been seen since Chmura left. Couple Lyerla with Rodgers and there's great cause for optimism with respect to the future at the TE position. It's noteworthy that Aaron Rodgers highlighted Richard Rodgers' performance in minicamp. Maybe it's because they share the same last name and both wore #11 at Cal, but probably not. There's reason to be stoked!
2.) WR. Yes, I'm keeping this broad. We're stacked at WR. Rich with goodness. A group that's been thoroughly compiled. Do not be surprised if the Packers keep 7 WR's. We have kept 5 TE's previously. We've kept 3 FB's before. It is in the realm of possibility to keep 7 WR's. Nelson is a Superstar. Cobb is a star. Boykin is among the fastest ascending WR's in the game. Adams is a 2nd round pick who is poised to prosper. Jared Abbrederis is a 5th round pick this year. Jeff Janis is a 7th rounder. Chris Harper was a 4th round pick by the Seahawks last year. The Packers selected Kevin Dorsey in the 7th last year. Myles White looked like he had potential with limited repetitions last year. Could Abbrederis, Janis and Harper all be included on the 53-man roster? I think so. Especially if Abbrederis wins the kick returning gig.
1.) Micah Hyde & HaHa. Thus far, Morgan Burnett has yet to show us that he can play in the NFL. I still cannot get the Vernon Davis TD in the playoffs out of my head. Just as it is tough to forget Hyde's drop. Sorry for the bad buzz. What I'm saying is this: Micah Hyde is a better compliment to HaHa than Burnett. He's better in the box. He can cover the slot better than Burnett. He's a better zone blitzer than Burnett. If HaHa is going to play deep, it's logical to think that Hyde might get an opportunity to line up next to HaHa. Further, he's significantly less expensive. I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.
It all begins today. Vibe On. With excitement. Let's enjoy this journey.
Go Pack Go!