Before I get into the '08 vibe, I had to give a quick reflection on the past - Kiln is my Graceland. Sorry, I had to get that out of my system.
Each year, it's fun to buzz into undrafted, unknown guys that may not make the team. Yet, you pull for them. In some ways, they become favorites. Last year, we talked Rory Johnson, T-Mon Williams, and Daniel Muir as names that we hoped would make the squad. Long shots. We hoped they'd make it.
As of today, Rory Johnson was just cut by the Giants. T-Mon is a fast rising player. Gotta like his game and development. Daniel Muir remains a work in progress. I expect Muir to be a useful back-up at DT this year.
In the early stages of the '08 season, I'm looking at 4 guys: Kregg Lumpkin, Rod Harper, Marcus Riley, and Kyle Ward.
Lumpkin is fresh blood. Vernand Morency has brought frustrations. So has DeShawn Wynn. If the Packers keep 5 RB's these three backs could be fighting for one spot. Grant is a lock. So is B-Jack. The Packers used the double FB set a lot last year, which would mean Korey Hall & John Kuhn will probably make the team. Unless one of the other backs outperforms a DB or WR on special teams, I expect the Packers to only keep 5 players. At this point, wishful thinking has me pulling for the Bulldog.
I'm choosing Rod Harper over Jake Allen. Other than the youtube clips, I've never seen either of them run before. But, when I look into the eyes of Harper on his Packer profile, he looks intense. He looks focused. He looks like he's going to battle. He looks confident. He looks determined. In college, he had 8 TD's in '06 and 10 TD's in '07. Combine that with my unforgiving attitude towards Ruvell Martin and that's enough for me to pull for him.
Marcus Riley is a wild card for the Packers this year. On paper, the LB position appears set with Hawk, Poppinga, Chillar, Barnett, White, and Bishop. If Riley is anything like the videos that Stack posted on the blog, he could stir the pot. From what I read, Riley is good in pass coverage and attacks with a vengeance. I've always been hard on Tracy White. Last year, I was overly critical of his play prior to the '07 campaign. I did not want him to make the team. He proved me wrong. Now, we gave him a contract, which probably makes him a lock. In 1996, we kept 6 LB's: George Koonce, Brian Williams, Wayne Simmons, Lamont Hollinquest, Bernardo Harris, and Ron Cox. Hollinquest, Harris, and Cox dominated on special teams. In 2007, the Packers kept 5 LB's. Could we keep 6 in 2008 and see Poppinga, Riley, Bishop, and White all attacking on special teams? This will be interesting to monitor throughout the mini camps and training camp.
I've also got my eye on Kyle Ward. I'm choosing him over Condrew Allen. Much like the WR competition, I do not know much about either of them except that I like their size. I'm thinking that there is a possibility that T-Mon & Ward might develop a Louisiana connection. Ward is a Ragin' Cajun from Louisiana-Lafayette. I also like the way Ward presents himself on his Packer profile. There'll be more to come on this in the future as I'm sure that Chuckie & Al will have limited action in the mini camps and the early parts of training camp/pre-season games.
I have high excitement for the fresh blood at the Don Hutson Center this summer.