Predicting Packers' Starting Lineup After the 1st Wave of Free Agency
While the Green Bay Packers haven't been too active in free agency, there have been some moves that will certainly affect their starting lineup once the 2014 regular season rolls around.
For example, the Packers will now need to find a replacement for wide receiver James Jones, who is now a member of the Oakland Raiders. There's also the issue of finding out where to play Julius Peppers. Will he continue to be a defensive end or is he best suited as an outside linebacker?
Today we'll navigate through the losses, signings and re-signings to let you know what the Packers starting lineup looks like through the first wave of free agency.
Starter: Aaron Rodgers
This one shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. As long as Rodgers is capable of tying his cleats up, he'll be the starting quarterback for the Green Bay Packers.
Rodgers spent a good chunk of last year injured with a fractured collarbone, and it was easy to see why he's the most important player in Green Bay. The Packers struggled without Rodgers, going 2-4-1 without him in the lineup.
The biggest question at this position is what will the Packers do at backup quarterback. Scott Tolzien is the only one on the roster, but re-signing Matt Flynn is certainly still a possibility at this point.
However, as long as Rodgers is healthy and under center, Green Bay will have little trouble being competitive.
Starter: Eddie Lacy
No rookie running back was as important to his team's success as Lacy was for the Green Bay Packers. And he's likely going to continue to be an important part of the Packers' success for years and years.
Lacy finished the year with 1,178 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns as a rookie. A good chunk of that damage came when quarterback Aaron Rodgers was injured, but his numbers are still extremely impressive.
As long as Lacy can stay healthy, the Packers should be able to attack opposing defenses with an extremely balanced offense.
Here's the first change to last year's starting lineup. James Jones is officially out and Boykin takes his place as the No. 3 receiver for quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
What will be interesting with this group here is seeing which receiver plays outside opposite Nelson and who the Green Bay Packers have play the slot receiver. Cobb is probably the more dangerous slot receiver, but Boykin doesn't quite have the size or skill to play on the outside.
With that said, this trio should be one of the most dangerous in the league in 2014. Both Cobb and Nelson are two of the better receivers in the league, and Boykin proved last year he has the potential to break out in a major way with more playing time.
Look for this group of wide receivers to be some of the most productive in the entire NFL this season.
Starter: Andrew Quarless
This is the first troubling position for the Green Bay Packers. With Jermichael Finley still a free agent, the Packers' starting tight end is Quarless.
Now, Quarless did have a career year last year, but he still only recorded 32 receptions, 312 yards and two touchdowns. Those numbers came while playing all 16 games and starting 10.
Quarless certainly has the talent to be a productive tight end, it's just unknown whether he'll be able to be dangerous enough as the No. 1 tight end on a roster. The Packers do have an intriguing option behind Quarless in Brandon Bostick, and the duo of Quarless and Bostick could turn into a good one for Green Bay.
However, don't be surprised if the Packers look to add a legitimate No. 1 tight end in free agency or the NFL draft in May.
Starters: David Bakhtiari, Josh Sitton, J.C. Tretter, T.J. Lang, Bryan Bulaga
There are two huge questions that the Green Bay Packers need to answer about their offensive line before the 2014 season starts.
The first revolves around what to do with Bulaga. He was scheduled to be the starting left tackle last season before an injury in the offseason knocked him out for the year. The Packers had to go to Bakhtiari and he played well enough to keep his job at left tackle, which will move Bulaga to right tackle.
The second question is a much bigger and more important question and it revolves around the center position. The Packers were unable to re-sign Evan Dietrich-Smith, who is now a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and now they have a huge hole without him on the roster.
As of right now, the only person on the roster capable of playing the center position is Tretter. However, the Packers will almost certainly draft a center or look to free agency to bring in some competition.
The good news for Green Bay is that Sitton and Lang are two of the best at their position and will bring stability to the offensive line.
Starters: Datone Jones, Mike Daniels
It's going to be a new age for the Green Bay Packers at the defensive end position. They'll be going younger and more athletic as they attempt to get more production from this position.
Jones is entering his second season in the league and head coach Mike McCarthy is expecting him to make a "huge jump," according to Jason Wilde of ESPN.com. Jones certainly has the overall athleticism to be a dangerous and impactful player for the Packers.
As for Daniels, he experienced a breakout year last season in limited action. In fact, Daniels finished the year as the sixth-best 3-4 defensive end, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
With Jones and Daniels holding down the defensive end position, the Packers should have little trouble getting pressure on the quarterback from this spot.
Defensive Tackle/Nose Tackle
Starter: B.J. Raji
The Green Bay Packers re-signed Raji to a one-year deal early in free agency. It wasn't the deal that Raji was likely hoping to get, but after an unproductive 2013 season it's probably the best one for him.
The key for the Packers is to get Raji back to the position where he's most comfortable. He was awful as a defensive end last year, but he proved early in his career to be a rather dominant nose tackle. This is the position where his size can really be a factor.
By moving Raji back to nose tackle, the Packers now have the potential of fielding a truly dominant defensive line.
Starters: Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers
As of right now, it looks like Peppers will be best suited to play outside linebacker for the Green Bay Packers.
He'll likely be used solely as a pass-rusher because his abilities in pass coverage probably aren't very good. However, the combination of Peppers and Matthews attacking an offensive line should put fear in the rest of the NFL.
There are some major questions surrounding Peppers' ability with his run defense and his down year last season, but hopefully a change of scenario can rejuvenate his career. If Peppers can get back to being a dominate player, he could end up being the steal of free agency.
With a healthy Matthews and a revived Peppers, Green Bay should be set at outside linebacker.
Starters: A.J. Hawk, Brad Jones
The Green Bay Packers shouldn't be overly pleased with who their starters are at inside linebacker.
Yes, Hawk is coming off a career year, but he's still extremely limited in what he can do for this team. As for Jones, he simply didn't make the leap he was expected to last year.
It's definitely possible that the Packers will have at least one new starter at inside linebacker before the regular season actually begins. That player could be Jamari Lattimore, who the Packers re-signed, or a rookie like C.J. Mosley of Alabama.
The point is that the Packers should be looking to ultimately upgrade this position to add more athleticism and playmaking ability.
Starters: Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, Casey Hayward
By re-signing Shields to a huge offseason contract, the Green Bay Packers are now pretty set at the cornerback position. The trio of Williams, Shields and Hayward has the potential to be very, very good.
Both Williams and Shields have proved in the past to be lockdown defenders. Shields proved it last year after completely shutting down one of the best receivers in the game in Josh Gordon of the Cleveland Browns. Williams has had a few down years, but he started to get back to his 2010 form near the end of the season.
The biggest difference between this group and last year's group will be having a healthy Hayward. He was fantastic during his rookie season and should bring much-needed playmaking skills to the secondary.
As long as this group can stay healthy, they should be able to greatly improve the struggles from last year.
Starters: Morgan Burnett, Micah Hyde
This is, without a doubt, the weakest starting position for the Green Bay Packers. In fact, we could have easily left the second safety position opposite Burnett blank because the Packers legitimately don't have another starting safety on their roster right now.
However, we'll predict that Hyde make the position switch from cornerback to safety. He did prove capable of locking down tight ends last year, so he could have a future as a safety with quite a bit more training.
The best move for the Packers is too bring in some serious talent at this position. Drafting a free safety like Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix of Alabama or Louisville's Calvin Pryor would be ideal. However, any free safety is going to be an upgrade over who the Packers currently have on their roster.
This position has the potential to be the downfall of the Packers' 2014 season unless the Packers draft or sign some talent.
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