Green Bay Packers: James Starks

Each week, I will ask for questions via Twitter with the hashtag #PackersMail and then will deliver the answers over the weekend. Demovsky: Nick Perry is a lock. The Packers still have high hopes for the third-year outside linebacker. He has only played in 17 games during his first two seasons due to injuries but when he has played, he's flashed pass-rush ability (six career sacks). Jerel Worthy and Derek Sherrod are in a different class. Worthy wasn't playing great before he blew out his knee in Week 17 of his rookie year and even when he did return late last season, he could barely get on the field. The Packers have plenty of other options on the defensive line if Worthy can't produce. Sherrod has another year in the NFL on Perry and Worthy, but the Packers might know even less about him because of the broken leg he sustained in late 2011 that kept him out for nearly two years. That's why this preseason is so big for Sherrod. He has to finally show whether he can play left tackle in the NFL. Demovsky: Make no mistake about it, the Packers plan to use Eddie Lacy as their workhorse back. And they want to keep him on the field for all three downs this season. But that doesn't mean there's not a role for DuJuan Harris and James Starks. Look for coach Mike McCarthy to give Harris and Starks full series of their own while giving Lacy a breather. Also, perhaps the Packers will put in a special package for Harris to take advantage of his quickness and elusiveness. Demovsky: Micah Hyde looks like one of those players who always puts himself in a good position to make plays. He's not super fast, but he plays quick. He's not overly big (6-0, 197), but he plays bigger. At 6-1 and 208, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, is bigger and perhaps more of a prototypical free safety in size and range. Clinton-Dix's upside is probably greater, but Hyde might be more steady at this point. Maybe someday they will be the Packers' two starting safeties. Demovsky: Well, we haven't heard about anyone in a while because the players have been off since minicamp wrapped up a month ago. But even before that, Colt Lyerla did not do much to stand out in the offseason. That does not mean we should write him off. He's an impressive-looking tight end prospect (6-4, 247) who looks like he can run. He just has not had the chance to show it off yet. He will get that chance in practice and in preseason games. Then we'll have a better feel for whether he can be a serious contender for a roster spot. 
Examining the Green Bay Packers' roster:

Quarterbacks (3)
The Packers have not kept three quarterbacks on their opening-day roster since 2008, but they might be inclined to do so this season in order to avoid a situation like last year, when Rodgers broke his collarbone. Coach Mike McCarthy is high on Tolzien, who made two starts last season, but Flynn has proved he can win as a backup in Green Bay.

Running backs (4)

The return of Harris, who missed all of last season because of a knee injury, gives the Packers insurance behind Lacy and Starks. Kuhn is valuable both as a fullback and on special teams. It's possible they'll keep a fourth halfback, but the loss of Johnathan Franklin to a career-ending neck injury has left them without a strong in-house candidate for that spot.

Receivers (6)

The Packers often keep only five receivers, but given that they drafted three -- Adams (second round), Abbrederis (fifth round) and Janis (seventh round) -- there's a good chance they will keep six. Abbrederis and Janis will not only have to show they're better prospects than second-year pros Myles White and Chris Harper, but they also could help themselves if they can return kicks.

Tight ends (4)

McCarthy likes tight ends (he has kept five before), and the wild card is undrafted rookie Colt Lyerla.

Offensive linemen (8)

The Packers typically only activate seven offensive linemen on game day, so they can get away with keeping just eight on the roster. Barclay's ability to play all five positions also allows them some freedom. Lane Taylor could be the ninth lineman if they go that route.

Defensive line (7)

Worthy and Guion have work to do to make the roster, but there's room for them if you count Julius Peppers and Mike Neal among the outside linebackers, which is where they lined up more often in the offseason.

Linebackers (8)

There will be some tough cuts here. Second-year pros Nate Palmer and Andy Mulumba both played last year as rookie outside linebackers. It also may be tough for highly touted undrafted rookie Adrian Hubbard to make it.

Cornerbacks (6)

Hayward's return from last season's hamstring injury means he likely will return as the slot cornerback in the nickel package, a role played last year by Micah Hyde (who may primarily play safety this year).

Safeties (4)

The major question here is whether Hyde or Clinton-Dix will be the starter alongside Burnett. Chris Banjo, who played primarily on special teams last season, might be the odd man out.

Specialists (3)

There's no competition at any of these spots.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Between now and the Green Bay Packers' first training camp practice on July 26, we will break down each position group.

Next up is running back.

Returning players: Eddie Lacy, James Starks, DuJuan Harris, Michael Hill, John Kuhn.

Gone from last season: Johnathan Franklin, Kahlil Bell.

New this season: Ina Liaina (street free agent), Rajion Neal (undrafted rookie from Tennessee), LaDarius Perkins (undrafted rookie from Mississippi State).

Position coach: Sam Gash (first season), replaced Alex Van Pelt (who became quarterbacks coach).

Biggest issue: Lacy set the Packers' record for rushing yards by a rookie (1,178) on the way to winning offensive rookie of the year honors and in the process became one of the most promising running backs in the NFL. But with a year's worth of film on Lacy, teams will be better prepared for the Packers' running game this time around. How does Lacy counter that? For starters, the Packers would like to keep him on the field longer. That does not necessarily mean more plays or more carries in total. However, coach Mike McCarthy wants Lacy to be able to stay on the field for all three downs in order to prevent substitutions from slowing down the offense. That means Lacy will have to perfect his pass blocking skills. It also could mean more opportunities to catch the ball coming out of the backfield.

Player to watch: The small and speedy Harris was supposed to team with Lacy to give the Packers a different look out of the backfield, but a knee injury ended Harris' season in August. Harris was a full participant in the offseason program and will get the chance to compete with Starks for the top backup job.

Medical report: The Packers had high hopes for Franklin, who flashed some ability with a 103-yard performance last season against the Cincinnati Bengals, but the neck injury he sustained late last season turned out to be career-ending. He was released last month after doctors determined it would be unsafe for him to keep playing.

Help wanted: If five running backs make the roster, it means there's at least one spot that is wide open behind Lacy, Starks, Harris and Kuhn. Hill had two different stints on the practice squad last season sandwiched around two weeks on the active roster before finishing the season with the Buccaneers and re-signing with the Packers in the offseason. Neal and Perkins are both slashing backs similar Harris. Liaina would give the Packers a younger option at fullback but there/s no indication Kuhn's job is in jeopardy.

Quotable: "We haven't sat down and figured out 'X' number of carries for Eddie," offensive coordinator Tom Clements said. "We want to get him touches, trying to get him more involved in all aspects of the game, but Eddie was a workhorse for us last year. And then when James got in there last year, he ran very hard. That was a great one-two punch. Now you factor in DuJuan and the other guys, it's going to be interesting to see how that plays out."

Previous installments

Monday: Quarterbacks

Packers want to speed up offense

July, 14, 2014
Jul 14
GREEN BAY, Wis. – The faster the better.

That's what Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy has planned for his offense this season.

And why not, especially with Aaron Rodgers on board with the idea?

[+] EnlargeAaron Rodgers
AP Photo/Mike RoemerAaron Rodgers and the Packers are determined to play faster and thus run more plays in 2014.
McCarthy and his quarterback have one primary goal in mind for 2014: Run 75 plays per game.

Do that, and everything else -- big numbers for Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson, Jarrett Boykin and possibly one of the new rookie receivers; another 1,000-plus-yard season for Eddie Lacy; solid pass protection -- will fall into place.

"That seems to be the answer to some of the different things that defenses are doing," Rodgers said during an interview this offseason.

The first hint of McCarthy's plans came in February, when he stood at the lectern at the NFL scouting combine and declared that he wants Lacy -- and all of his running backs -- to turn into three-down players in order to limit the need for substitutions, which, of course, slows down the game.

"We play pretty fast, but you always want to play faster," McCarthy said during an interview near the end of the offseason program last month. "With a guy like Aaron, he plays faster than anybody I've ever been around."

McCarthy's offense isn't Chip Kelly's, which averaged 80-plus plays per game when he ran the fastest game in college football at Oregon. But Kelly's offense in the NFL -- despite 53 plays in the first half of his first game as the Philadelphia Eagles' coach last season -- wasn't Kelly's offense in college, either.

The Eagles finished last season 13th out of 32 teams in total offensive plays with 1,054, an average of 65.875 per game.

The Packers ranked 11th with 1,074 total plays (67.125 per game) -- their second-highest total in McCarthy's eight seasons as head coach -- but averaged nearly 69 plays in the games Rodgers finished last season.

"Aaron Rodgers is a beast the way he plays the game, the way he attacks the defense, whether it's his cadence, his ability to recognize defenses to take advantage of a certain pressure, and then on top of it he's so well-rehearsed in this offense," McCarthy said. "If anything, you worry about him just sometimes playing too fast. Not that he's playing too fast, he has the ability to play at such a fast level, it's keeping everyone coordinated to be able to play with him."

And that's where the running backs come into the picture.

As Lacy pounded his way to well-earned yards on first and second down last season, he usually came off the field on third down -- not because he needed a blow but because McCarthy and his offensive staff felt better about using another back (often fullback John Kuhn) in pass protection. That plan usually worked (remember Kuhn's game-saving block on Julius Peppers in the Week 17 division-clinching win over the Bears), but the Packers had to downshift in order to make the change.

This year, McCarthy sees no need to change speeds and no reason to give the defense time to adjust.

"We've always been a fast-tempo offense," he said. "To me, there are two approaches to playing the game of football. Historically, in my opinion because I don't want to offend anybody, defensive coaches want to slow the game down, run the ball, shorten the game. Your offensive coaches more want to pick it up.

"I've always been of the belief of getting as many shots as you can, so we've always emphasized playing as fast as you can. When you have as many three-down players as you can possibly have, obviously your substitution patterns are cleaner. You're not subbing because you have to, you're subbing just when you need to."

That could mean even more no-huddle series this season. Rodgers, who has excelled in the no-huddle offense, likes the plan.

"We always kind of struggle with that, trying to get guys to stay on the field and play all three downs," Rodgers said. "We've had so many injuries over the years, it's made John Kuhn such an irreplaceable guy because he can be the guy who can run and get you a few yards and also be a third-down protection back. He's been amazing at it in two-minute drills. I mean, last year, he made the block of the year. But it would be nice if we could have drives where Eddie can go three plays in a row or James [Starks] could go three plays in a row or DuJuan [Harris] could go three plays in a row and not have to take them out, so we could not have to bring in any subs and you could stay pressuring the defense.

"There’s a lot of substitution that goes on by both teams. The key substitution is usually for third down, because teams run so much on third down. After second down, if you're subbing four or five guys on and off, it's tough to run an offense where you're up-tempo, because everybody has to get the call, and it just takes a little longer. We'd like to play a little faster."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Between now and when the Green Bay Packers report to training camp on July 25, we will spend considerable time looking at the roster from a variety of angles.

In the days leading up to camp, we will break things down by position group. And before that, we will look at several players who need to give the Packers more than they did last year.

But before we do any of that, let's reset the depth chart as it likely stands heading into training camp. This is an unofficial assessment, but it is based on observations during organized team activities and minicamp practices combined with interviews with assistant coaches and scouts.

First up is the offense:

Quarterbacks: Aaron Rodgers, Matt Flynn, Scott Tolzien, Chase Rettig.

Notes: Expect a legitimate battle for the No. 2 job between Flynn and Tolzien in the preseason. Coach Mike McCarthy noted several times how much Tolzien improved thanks to a full offseason with the Packers. The biggest question here is whether the Packers will keep three quarterbacks rather than only two. Rettig looks like a camp arm, at best.

Running backs: Eddie Lacy, James Starks, DuJuan Harris, Michael Hill, Rajion Neal, LaDarius Perkins.

Notes: The loss of Johnathan Franklin to a career-ending neck injury struck a blow to what appeared to be a deep position. But it also sorted out things somewhat, although Harris still needs to show that he can be productive like he was late in the 2012 season. The knee injury that cost him all of last season does not appear to be an issue. Neal and Perkins, a pair of undrafted rookies, both are slashing backs similar to Harris with Perkins (5-foot-7, 195 pounds) also being similar in stature.

Fullbacks: John Kuhn, Ina Liaina.

Notes: There's no reason to think the veteran Kuhn won't be around for another season.

Receivers: Outside -- Jordy Nelson, Jarrett Boykin, Davante Adams, Jeff Janis, Kevin Dorsey, Chris Harper. Slot -- Randall Cobb, Jared Abbrederis, Myles White, Alex Gillett.

Notes: Adams, the rookie from Fresno State, may eventually supplant Boykin, but he will have to catch the ball more cleanly than he did in the offseason. He battled drop issues at times during the OTAs and minicamp. Fellow rookie Janis showed up regularly during team periods. Harper was off to a strong start until a hamstring injury knocked him out. In the slot, Abbrederis looks like a natural fit. White bulked up after contributing some as a rookie last season and should not be ignored.

Tight ends: Richard Rodgers, Andrew Quarless, Brandon Bostick, Ryan Taylor, Jake Stoneburner, Colt Lyerla, Justin Perillo.

Notes: Even if Quarless is healthy for the start of camp, Rodgers might still have the edge for the starting job after a strong offseason. He's more dynamic as a receiver than Quarless, who missed the entire offseason because of an undisclosed injury. Bostick came back late in the offseason from foot surgery. While there are high expectations for Lyerla, the undrafted rookie did not flash often enough during offseason practices.

Tackles: Right side -- Bryan Bulaga, Don Barclay, Aaron Adams, John Fullington. Left side -- David Bakhtiari, Derek Sherrod, Jeremy Vujnovich.

Notes: Bulaga practiced with a large brace on his surgically repaired left knee and has something to prove after missing all of last season, but the fact that he's back at right tackle shows how much the Packers believe in Bakhtiari on the left side. Sherrod made it through the full offseason program for the first time, which is something of an accomplishment considering his injury history. But he's running out of time to show he can play like the first-round pick that he was in 2011. Barclay, who started 18 regular-season games the last two seasons, has split his time between right tackle and guard and looks like the No. 6 offensive lineman.

Guard: Right side -- T.J. Lang, Barclay, Lane Taylor. Left side -- Josh Sitton, Barclay, Andrew Tiller, Jordan McCray.

Notes: Barclay likely would be the top back up at both guard spots, although Taylor worked at right guard with the No. 2 offensive line while Barclay played right tackle or left guard.

Center: JC Tretter, Garth Gerhart, Corey Linsley.

Notes: Tretter took all the snaps with the number one offensive line this offseason. It is his job to lose, but his lack of experience makes him something short of a sure thing. Gerhart worked ahead of Linsley, a fifth-round pick, but if anyone is going to challenge Tretter it might be Linsley.
Each week, I will ask for questions via Twitter with the hashtag #PackersMail and then will deliver the answers over the weekend.

Demovsky: Coach Mike McCarthy appears to have curtailed the number of team (11-on-11 periods) during the offseason workouts. There has been a greater focus on fundamental periods in the OTAs that have been open to the media. Whether that's an effort to decrease injuries or simply to focus more on teaching is not clear. McCarthy also has been secretive about how the Packers are gathering the data and what they plan to do with it. All we know is that they're working with Catapult Sports, which uses GPS monitoring to help prevent fatigue injuries, for the first time ever. Demovsky: Rajion Neal, the undrafted rookie from Tennessee, has not gotten a lot of opportunities in team periods. However, even if he had, it's tough to tell much about any running back in practices without pads. We'll get a much better feel for Neal in August, when the pads come on. Also, because the Packers won't want to expose Eddie Lacy, James Starks and DuJuan Harris to much hitting, expect Neal to get a fair amount of work in the preseason games. @RobDemovsky Which rookie WR for the @packers do you project to have the most successful season statistically? #PackersMail Demovsky: I said shortly after the draft that I thought Jared Abbrederis could be the sleeper in the Packers' draft. Not that I don't think second-round receiver Davante Adams could make an impact, but Abbrederis could find a home as a slot receiver, which would free up Randall Cobb to move around more. Demovsky: Evan Dietrich-Smith's best attribute is that he's a fighter; he goes hard all the time, so much so that the Packers were concerned about his ability to hold up with that style over the course of an entire season. Physically, however, EDS has his limitations, and they often show up in the running game. 
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- If you watched our NFL Nation Buzz Video from this week, you heard about how coach Mike McCarthy was encouraged by the fact that the Green Bay Packers have several players who have come back strong after significant injuries last season.

Let's take a closer look at the Packers' health situation as they wrap up the third week of organized team activity practices and head into next week's mandatory minicamp.

We'll put the players into three categories -- those who have returned from injuries that prevented them from finishing last season, those who are still out and those who have been injured this offseason.

Let's look at the first category now and the others in a separate posting coming later on Friday.

Returned from injuries

1. Bryan Bulaga: After missing all of last season with a torn ACL in his left knee -- an injury he sustained last August in the annual Family Night scrimmage – Bulaga is back at right tackle (he was slated to move to left tackle last season) with the number one offensive line. Although he is wearing a large brace on his left knee, he appears to be moving well and taking a full load of snaps in practice. It will be interesting to see whether Bulaga will be limited when the pads go on in training camp. It's an important year because Bulaga has missed all or parts of the last two seasons because of injuries (a hip cost him the final seven games of 2012).

"Bryan Bulaga looks good," McCarthy said. "We're in the OTA practices and I think our pass-under-pressure drill has been good, so we're getting some work there with the sets. So the individual work is what our offensive line coaches do a great job of, so he's getting exactly what he needs. He's stronger. He weighs a little more than he has in the past. So he's having a heck of a spring."

2. DuJuan Harris: Like Bulaga, Harris missed the entire 2013 season because of a knee injury, but his was not an ACL reconstruction. Harris had a patellar tendon injury that bothered him throughout the offseason and flared up in training camp. Before his injury, McCarthy had planned to use Harris in combination with Eddie Lacy as a one-two running back punch. Instead, James Starks became Lacy's primary backup and excelled in the role. It's now a crowded backfield with those three plus Johnathan Franklin (more on him later today), Michael Hill plus undrafted rookies Rajion Neal and LaDarius Perkins.

"I feel good; I feel ready to go, man," Harris said. "Got to get back in the mental department, but I'll be ready."

3. Casey Hayward: A hamstring injury that he sustained while working out on his own last July ruined his second season. It recurred two more times and limited him to just three games. The Packers were expecting big things from Hayward after he picked off six passes (most among NFL rookies) in 2012. He has returned to his slot cornerback position this offseason although it may take time for him to get back to where he was in 2012.

"If I can get out there and be 90 percent, which I'm feeling great out there right now, if I can get to training camp and be 100 percent, I'll be fine," Hayward said. "I'll be ready to go."

4. Sam Barrington: A seventh-round draft pick from South Florida in 2013, Barrington was active for seven of the first eight games and played on special teams until a hamstring injury ended his rookie season. Barrington has tried to work his way back into the rotation at inside linebacker this offseason.

"Sam came in and tried to establish what he can bring to the table before anything he tweaked his [hamstring] a little bit ... and we ended up putting him on IR so there's a lot of still unknowns about him," linebackers coach Winston Moss said. "He's working hard, great attitude, all of our guys are working hard and trying to get the right thing done on a day-to-day basis. The only thing with Sam is you can just continue to give him as much opportunities as possible so that at the end of the day there's going to be an opportunity to evaluate him."

5. Brandon Bostick: The second-year tight end missed the first two weeks of OTAs while waiting for clearance to return from foot surgery. He finally returned this week. Bostick, a former college receiver, showed some signs of playmaking ability late last season after Jermichael Finley's season-ending neck injury. He averaged 17.1 yards on seven receptions before landing on injured reserve in December. Bostick had a screw placed in his foot to repair a broken bone.

"I thought Brandon made some real strides by the end of the season," tight ends coach Jerry Fontenot said earlier this offseason. "His effort level was really high. He seemed to have a better understanding of what he was being asked to do. As with everything, great effort can overcome a lot of bad technique. In his case that was happening at a much greater level as his technique improved. Obviously, it's a setback, being not able to practice and getting the timing with the quarterback, getting the timing with the blocking unit up front and getting in protection mode. So he's going to have some hurdles when he gets back and he's able to go full speed just to get his body angles right, his alignment in order and being able to trust his fundamentals again. I think it's going to take some time. The sooner we get him back, the better."

6. Kevin Dorsey: The seventh-round pick in 2012 missed all of last season because of a toe injury and has returned to a crowded receiver group. The Packers drafted three receivers -- Davante Adams (second round), Jared Abbrederis (fifth round) and Jeff Janis (seventh round) -- and return three of their top-four receivers from last season. Dorsey has been able to participate in all of the OTAs so far.

7. Myles White: After being promoted from the practice squad in Week 7 last season after Randall Cobb went on the temporary IR list, the former undrafted rookie played in seven games and caught nine passes for 66 yards before a knee injury ended his season. White said it was a meniscus tear that would not require surgery, and he has shown no signs that it has limited him this offseason.
Each week, I will ask for questions via Twitter with the hashtag #PackersMail and then will deliver the answers over the weekend.

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- If you're a fantasy football player, then you're probably already thinking about your roster for this season.

And if you're a Green Bay Packers' fan, which is safe to assume since you’re reading this, you have decisions to make. Do you draft with your heart and select Packers players or do you draft with your head and take the best player available?

Perhaps there's a way to do both.

We have unveiled our latest fantasy rankings for the 2014 season. Among the top 200 players overall regardless of position were seven Packers.

Here's a breakdown of where they fell on the top 200 list:

6. Eddie Lacy: After rushing for 1,178 yards last season, the reigning offensive rookie of the year could top that if he can stay healthy for the entire season. He missed one full game and significant parts of two others because of injuries (concussion, ankle) last season. Running backs occupied the top six spots, and Lacy was behind Adrian Peterson, LeSean McCoy, Jamal Charles, Matt Forte and Marshawn Lynch.

12. Aaron Rodgers: Only one quarterback, Peyton Manning, ranked ahead of Rodgers. That says it all.

22. Jordy Nelson: Nelson is hoping to avoid his every-other-year pattern. In 2011 and 2013, he had big seasons with 1,200 yards or more in each season, combined to catch 23 touchdowns and did not miss any games. But in 2012 he missed four games and managed just 745 yards and seven touchdowns. Ranked seventh among receivers.

30. Randall Cobb: After an 80-catch season in 2012, he was poised for another big year last season before a fractured leg limited him to six games. Like Nelson, Cobb is in a contract year, which could help his production. Ranked 10th among receivers.

122. James Starks: Had his most productive season last year as Lacy's primary backup, posting career highs in touchdowns (four -- three rushing, one receiving) and yards per carry (5.5). Ranked 51st among running backs.

154. Mason Crosby: Saved his job last season by making 33-of-37 field goals (89.2 percent) after a career-low 63.6 percent conversion rate in 2012. Has tallied at least 100 points in seven straight seasons. Ranked fourth among kickers.

161. Jarrett Boykin: Emerged last season as a viable No. 3 with 49 catches for 681 yards and three touchdowns over the final 12 games but could see reduced playing time this year after the Packers drafted three receivers. Ranked 54th among receivers.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Let's get this out of the way from the top; we know Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson does not draft for need -- or so he says.

But in the months leading up to this week's draft, Thompson and his scouts have spent hundreds of hours not only discussing the prospects who will be available to them but also their current roster and its strengths and weaknesses.

With that in mind, let's break the 12 position groups that make up the roster into four parts based on the following categories of draft needs.

We will define them this way:
  • Part 1: Negligible -- positions where there is little or no need.
  • Part 2: Non-essential -- positions where there is a need but it is not paramount to fill.
  • Part 3: Secondary -- positions where there is a need but not at the critical level.
  • Part 4: Pressing -- positions where it is imperative that help be found.

First up are the negligible needs.

10. Defensive line: Whether you count recently signed pass-rusher Julius Peppers here or as an outside linebacker, it's still a deep position with the return of nose tackle B.J. Raji (who signed a one-year contract), a pair of draft picks last season in first-rounder Datone Jones and fifth-rounder Josh Boyd, and an emerging star in Mike Daniels. If the Packers need short-term help, they could re-sign veterans Johnny Jolly and Ryan Pickett. That said, Thompson has never been one to pass up a big-bodied player so it wouldn't be a total shock to see him take a defensive lineman high in the draft if the right one fell into his lap.

Possible players of interest: Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota; Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame; Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State; Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame.

11. Running back: This could be as deep a group as coach Mike McCarthy has had in his nine seasons thanks to reigning offensive rookie of the year Eddie Lacy plus the return of James Starks, DuJuan Harris, Johnathan Franklin and John Kuhn. The only issues here would be if Harris' knee injury that kept him out all of last season and Franklin's neck injury that ended his rookie year in November remain problematic.

Possible players of interest: None.

12. Specialists: The Packers are set at all three spots -- kicker, punter and long-snapper. Mason Crosby's bounce-back year means the Packers may not even bring another kicker to training camp. Crosby is signed through 2015. Punter Tim Masthay is signed through 2016 and snapper Brett Goode through 2015. There are no issues with either one.

Possible players of interest: None.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Since he took over as general manager of the Green Bay Packers in 2005, Ted Thompson has drafted 87 players.

Leading up to this year's draft, in which Thompson currently has nine selections, we will look at his best and worst selections in each round.

We'll start at the bottom and work our way up over the next week. After discussing the seventh round on Monday, we look at Round 6.

Total players drafted: 14.

By position: Linebackers 3, defensive tackles 2, cornerbacks 2, defensive ends 1, safeties 1, guards 1, receivers 1, running backs 1, fullbacks 1, kickers 1.

Best pick: Mason Crosby, K.

Crosby (No. 193, 2007) had his best season last year, when he made 89.2 percent (33 of 37) of his regular-season field goals. He also made both of his postseason kicks. That followed his worst season, when he made just 63.6 percent of his field goals in 2012. Without that season, Crosby would have a career average of 81.2 percent. He still has two more years left on the five-year, $14.75 million contract he signed in 2011.

Honorable mention: James Starks, RB (No. 193, 2010), Johnny Jolly, DT (No. 183, 2006), Desmond Bishop, LB (No. 192, 2007).

Worst pick: Ricky Elmore, OLB.

The Packers tried to convert Elmore (No. 197, 2011) from a defensive end at Arizona to an outside linebacker in their 3-4 scheme, but it did not work. They cut him at the end of training camp and thought so little of his potential that they did not bother even bringing him back to the practice squad.

Dishonorable mention: Craig Bragg, WR (No. 195, 2005), Brandon Underwood, CB (No. 187, 2009).

Notes: The Packers traded one of their sixth-round picks, Caleb Schlauderaff, G (No. 179, 2011) to the New York Jets for a seventh-round pick in 2012. That pick was eventually packaged in a draft-day 2012 trade with the New England Patriots so the Packers could move up in the fifth round to take LB Terrell Manning, who lasted only one season. … Tyrone Culver, S (No. 185, 2006) played one season for the Packers and was released. He went on to play 66 games for the Miami Dolphins from 2007-2012. … Among the other sixth-round picks who became contributors were D.J. Smith, LB (No. 186, 2011), Jarius Wynn, DE (No. 182, 2009) and Mike Montgomery, DT (No. 180, 2005).
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- There are several ways to judge an offseason.

The ESPN Insider team took one approach late last month, when it assigned grades to every team’s free-agent moves Insider. In that project, it gave the Green Bay Packers a C-plus.

Here's another way to do it -- by the Las Vegas odds.

In that regard, the Packers fared even better.

Two months after the LVH SuperBook listed the Packers' odds to win Super Bowl XLIX at 16-1, those odds have improved. In its latest figures released this week, the LVH SuperBook listed the Packers as 12-1 to win the Super Bowl.

Only four teams were listed ahead of the Packers -- the defending champion Seattle Seahawks (4-1), the runner-up Denver Broncos (5-1), the San Francisco 49ers (6-1) and the New England Patriots (8-1).

Vegas apparently likes the direction general manager Ted Thompson has gone this offseason, signing pass-rusher Julius Peppers to bolster the defense and retaining some of his own key free agents such as cornerback Sam Shields, nose tackle B.J. Raji, outside linebacker/defensive end Mike Neal, fullback John Kuhn, tight end Andrew Quarless and running back James Starks.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- When free agency began a month ago, the Green Bay Packers had the sixth-most salary-cap space among all NFL teams.

A month later, even after re-signing several of their own free agents and adding Julius Peppers, their salary-cap situation remains healthy.

They are currently $15,636,891 under their adjusted salary cap for the 2014 season. That ranks as the seventh-most cap space available, according to the latest figures from ESPN Stats & Information contract data.

The Packers will need about $5 million in cap space for their rookie salaries.

At this time of year, only the top 51 contracts count toward the salary-cap.

With that in mind, here's a position-by-position look at the Packers' salary-cap situation under the top 51 rule. Let's start with the offense:


Percentage of salary-cap space used: 14.26

Total cap charge: $18,195,000

NFL average: $11,667,289

Biggest cap hit: Aaron Rodgers, $17.55 million

Biggest bargain: Scott Tolzien, $645,000

Outlook: The Packers are expected to re-sign Matt Flynn but that won't change their salary-cap significantly because it's likely to be a low-cost contract. Last year, Flynn returned in midseason for the veteran's minimum. Although Rodgers is under contract through 2019, his cap number does not increase significantly. At its highest, it is $21.1 million in the final year but does not exceed $20 million until 2017.

Running backs

Percentage of salary-cap space used: 3.84

Total cap charge: $4,904,558

NFL average: $7,750,422

Biggest cap hit: James Starks, $1,370,313

Biggest bargain: Eddie Lacy, $771,003

Outlook: The situation at running back illustrates why it's so important to hit on draft picks. Lacy, a second-round pick last year, is the team's best running back and should be for the foreseeable future. His rookie contract keeps his cap figure low throughout. It doesn't exceed $1 million until its final year, 2016. That prevents the Packers from having to pay big money for a running back for a while. Other than Starks, fullback John Kuhn is the only other player at this position with a cap charge in excess of $1 million ($1.026 million).


Percentage of salary-cap space used: 6.45

Total cap charge: $8,230,391

NFL average: $13,535,504

Biggest cap hit: Jordy Nelson, $4,375,000

Biggest bargain: Randall Cobb, $1,021,179

Outlook: The majority of the remaining cap space likely will be spent on this position. Nelson and Cobb both are entering the final season of their current contracts and will be in line for extensions, perhaps as soon as the next few weeks or months. If Jarrett Boykin ends up being the No. 3 receiver and produces like he did last year, when he had 49 catches over the final 12 games, he will be a bargain with a cap number of just $570,000.

Tight end

Percentage of salary-cap space used: 2.27

Total cap charge: $2,899,794

NFL average: $6,117,287

Biggest cap hit: Andrew Quarless, $1,250,000

Biggest bargain: Brandon Bostick, $495,000

Outlook: The Packers almost certainly aren't done adding players to this position. If they don't re-sign Jermichael Finley, who is awaiting medical clearance following last year's neck surgery, they likely will draft a tight end perhaps even in one of the early rounds. Quarless was a free agent but re-signed for the modest price of $3 million over two years. The Packers have high hopes for the athletic Bostick, who was originally an undrafted free agent.

Offensive line

Percentage of salary-cap space used: 16.62

Total cap charge: $21,202,414

NFL average: $21,430,114

Biggest cap hit: Josh Sitton, $6,400,000

Biggest bargain: David Bakhtiari, $608,850

Outlook: While the Packers guards, Sitton and T.J. Lang, are signed through 2016, right tackle Bryan Bulaga ($3,839,000) is entering the final year of his rookie deal. The Packers will have to decide whether to extend Bulaga, who missed all of last season because of a knee injury and the second half of 2012 because of a hip injury. If JC Tretter ends up being the starting center, the second-year former fourth-round pick will be a bargain ($598,777).
GREEN BAY, Wis. – If there's a common denominator among the Green Bay Packers' free agents that remain unsigned, it's that none played more than 50 percent of the team's snaps last season.

That's in contrast to the six unrestricted free agents the team has re-signed in the last month. Of the six, four were on the field more than half the time last season.

Six of the Packers' unrestricted free agents remain on the market.

In order of playing time from last season, they are:
  • Defensive tackle Ryan Pickett (535 snaps, 48.0 percent of the defensive plays)
  • Quarterback Matt Flynn (324, 27.3 percent of the offensive plays)
  • Defensive tackle Johnny Jolly (287, 25.7 percent)
  • Tight end Jermichael Finley (252, 21.3 percent)
  • Quarterback Seneca Wallace (58, 5.0 percent)
  • Linebacker Robert Francois (12, 1.1 percent)

Pickett was the only one to appear in every game but he will turn 35 just a month into this coming season, so his time could be over. Flynn is expected to re-sign, and Jolly could too if he recovers from his neck surgery as expected. Francois is still recovering from a torn Achilles' tendon. Finley still has not received medical clearance following his neck surgery, and Wallace will not be re-signed.

Of their own free agents that they re-signed, only two were on the field less than half of the time. They were:
  • Fullback John Kuhn (333 snaps, 28.1 percent of the offensive plays)
  • Running back James Starks (235, 19.8 percent)

Four played well over half the plays. They were:
Also, of the five former Packers' players who signed with other teams, three played more than half the snaps last season.

They were:
The other two were:
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- With the bulk of the free-agent work done, it's a good time to recheck the Green Bay Packers' depth chart leading up to the May 8-10 NFL draft.

First up, the offense:

Quarterback: Aaron Rodgers, Scott Tolzien.

Analysis: Coach Mike McCarthy said at last week's NFL owners meetings that he not only hopes to bring back Matt Flynn but also would to take a fourth, developmental quarterback into training camp.

[+] EnlargeEddie Lacy
Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY SportsLed by Eddie Lacy, the running back position is expected to be a key strength for the Packers in 2014.
Running back: Eddie Lacy, James Starks, Johnathan Franklin, DuJuan Harris, Michael Hill, Orwin Smith, Ina Liaina (fullback).

Analysis: This could be the deepest backfield McCarthy has had in his nine seasons as head coach, and they still may re-sign fullback John Kuhn. Starks excelled in a backup role last season behind Lacy, while Franklin showed some signs during a 100-yard game against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 3 before a neck injury ended his rookie season. Harris looks to bounce back after missing all of 2013 because of a knee injury. Hill spent time with both the Packers and Buccaneers last season. Smith was on the practice squad last year. Liaina was signed off the street early in the offseason.

Receiver: Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson, Jarrett Boykin, Myles White, Chris Harper, Kevin Dorsey, Sederrick Cunningham, Alex Gillett.

Analysis: Boykin is expected to take over as the No. 3 for James Jones, who signed with the Oakland Raiders as a free agent. White and Harper both spent time on the roster last season. White could be Cobb's backup as a slot receiver. Harper is an intriguing prospect. He was a fourth-round pick of the Seattle Seahawks last year and has good size. Dorsey, a seventh-round pick last season, and Cunningham spent all of 2013 on injured reserve. Gillett spent last season on the practice squad.

Tight ends: Andrew Quarless, Brandon Bostick, Ryan Taylor, Jake Stoneburner, Raymond Webber.

Analysis: There's not an established big-time playmaker to replace Jermichael Finley, who remains on the free-agent market but has not been medically cleared following last season's neck injury. Quarless is the starter until someone beats him out. Bostick, a former small-college receiver, is raw but has some playmaking ability. Taylor and Stoneburner played mostly on special teams, while Webber was signed off the street early in the offseason.

Center: JC Tretter, Garth Gerhart, Don Barclay.

Analysis: Not one of those players has ever taken a regular-season snap at center. Only Barclay has played in the regular season, and that has been almost exclusively at tackle. But after losing Evan Dietrich-Smith to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency, the Packers will see if Barclay can transition to center. There are high hopes for Tretter, a former college tackle who did not play last season as a rookie after sustaining an ankle injury. Gerhart only has practice squad experience.

Guard: Josh Sitton, T.J. Lang, Barclay, Lane Taylor, Andrew Tiller.

Analysis: The starters are set with Sitton on the left side and Lang on the right. Barclay also could be in the mix for a backup job. Taylor made the team as an undrafted free agent last season but played mostly on special teams. Tiller was on the practice squad last season.

Tackle: David Bakhtiari, Bryan Bulaga, Derek Sherrod, Barclay, Aaron Adams, Jeremy Vujnovich.

Analysis: Bakhtiari, who started every game at left tackle last season as a rookie, will stay in his spot even with the return of Bulaga from the knee injury that kept him out all of last season. Bulaga will go back to the right side. Sherrod returned late last season after missing all of 2012 following the broken leg he sustained on Dec. 18, 2011. He likely will compete with Bakhtiari on the left side. Barclay started all but two games last season at right tackle but the Packers want to upgrade. Adams was on the practice squad last season, while Vujnovich was signed as a street free agent early in the offseason.