Setting Realistic Training Camp Expectations for Each Packers' Rookie
In this slideshow, I'm going to discuss the expectations in training camp for the nine rookies who were part of the 2014 NFL draft class for the Packers, as well as two other undrafted rookies who the team signed after the draft.
Expectations like whether or not a particular rookie will have a legitimate opportunity to start. Or if the rookie doesn't start, how much playing time will they receive. Also, which rookies look to be candidates for significant special teams play.
I've listed 11 rookies in this slideshow. I expect everyone of them to make the final 53-man roster. But for that to happen, all will have to leave a favorable impression of their play on the coaching staff throughout the summer.
Safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
I expect Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to become a starter at safety, even if he wasn't one at the OTAs and the recent minicamp. For now, the Packers have Micah Hyde playing safety opposite Morgan Burnett.
I expect that to change over the course of training camp. Clinton-Dix is too talented to sit on the bench. He has exceptional ball skills that need to be utilized this year at the safety position. The Packers did not have one interception last year among anyone who played the safety position.
Hyde also did not have an interception last year as a rookie either, although he mostly played the slot-corner position for the team due to Casey Hayward's hamstring issues that ended up putting No. 29 on injured reserve.
Hyde had a solid season overall, though, as he had 61 tackles, three passes defended, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
I expect Hyde to still have a significant role in the secondary this year, especially when the team plays in dime coverage, but I expect to see Clinton-Dix on the field at all times.
Clinton-Dix showed off his pass coverage ability at Alabama the past two seasons, where he had 88 tackles, seven interceptions and 13 passes defended.
I also would not be surprised if No. 21 has as many as six interceptions this season and becomes a candidate for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2014.
Wide Receiver Davante Adams
Davante Adams has an opportunity to become the third wide receiver for the Packers in 2014. That's if he can wrestle away that job from Jarrett Boykin. The two main receivers for the Packers will continue to be Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb.
Adams has the size (6'1", 212 lbs) and talent to quickly climb up the depth chart. In his last two years at Fresno State, Adams had 233 receptions for 3,031 yards and 38 touchdowns.
Even with those receiving skills, it will be difficult to put up big numbers in Green Bay his rookie season, if recent history is an example.
Greg Jennings only had 45 catches for 632 yards and three touchdowns his rookie year in 2006. James Jones had just 47 receptions for 676 yards and two touchdowns in his rookie campaign in 2007. Nelson only had 33 catches for 366 yards and two touchdowns in his rookie season in 2008.
Most recently in 2011, Cobb had just 25 receptions for 375 yards and one touchdown in his rookie season.
Head coach Mike McCarthy has put together a high-powered offense, and it is a very difficult scheme to comprehend as a rookie receiver. I believe Adams will be a fairly quick learner in adapting to the offense, but don't expect huge numbers from the rookie.
If I had to make a guess, I would say Adams will have 46 receptions for 660 yards and three touchdowns in 2014.
Tight End Richard Rodgers
If one judges how a player will do in his rookie year based on OTAs and minicamp, Richard Rodgers has a good shot to get some significant playing time at tight end, and he may actually have the inside track in being the starter.
Rodgers stood out during those workouts and received some praise from another player who also played at Cal and also has the last name Rodgers (no relation). Quarterback Aaron Rodgers said this recently about his new rookie tight end, via Packers.com:
When we made the pick, some of the so-called experts on the draft channel said that he was a late sixth round pick, they had him, as far as a grade. Which is pretty laughable when you watch the talent that he’s got and the ability.
It’s helmets and shorts, but you’ve got to be excited about his body type and the hands. He’s made some incredible catches. He makes it look easy. I think he's really going to push for some playing time if he can transfer what he has done in the spring to the fall and have the potential to be an impact player.
Rodgers has the size (6'4", 257 lbs) and ability one is looking for at tight end. In his career at Cal, Rodgers had 59 receptions for 896 yards, two touchdowns and an average of 15.2 yards a catch.
The competition at tight end for the Packers will be rigorous, as there are seven tight ends currently on the roster, including last year's starter for the second half of the season, Andrew Quarless. I would expect the Packers to keep four tight ends on the roster in 2014 and at least one on the practice squad.
Even if Rodgers does not become the starting tight end for the Packers in 2014, I expect him to get ample opportunities to play, especially in the red zone.
Defensive Lineman Khyri Thornton
I would expect Khyri Thornton to follow a similar course in his rookie season just as Josh Boyd did last year as a rookie defensive lineman. Thornton will make the team, but he won't become a regular in the defensive line rotation until later in the season.
Thornton is very quick off the snap, and his production in college at Southern Mississippi showed that. No. 94 had 116 tackles, 30 tackles for a loss and 5.5 sacks.
I would expect to see Thornton to get most of his playing opportunities in short-yardage situations for the Packers on defense.
Linebacker Carl Bradford
I expect to see Carl Bradford on the field quite often for the Packers in 2014. I see him as a regular contributor on special teams, and I also believe he will turn some heads in training camp to receive some pretty significant playing time on defense as well.
Where that will be is the ultimate question. Will it be at outside linebacker? Will it be at inside linebacker? Will it be at the "elephant" defensive end position? Will it be a combination of all three of those positions?
The track record of Bradford at Arizona State tells you that he will definitely get some opportunities to help the Packers on defense. In college, 6'1", 250-pound Bradford had two very good back-to-back years for the Sun Devils.
In those two seasons, No. 91 had 142 tackles, 39.5 tackles for a loss, 20 sacks, two interceptions (one for a touchdown), one fumble recovery and six forced fumbles.
That type of excellent production will eventually get Bradford on the field for the defense of the Packers in some type of capacity.
Center Corey Linsley
Center Corey Linsley is the epitome of being as strong as an ox. No. 63 can bench press over 500 pounds—and he showed that strength at the combine with 36 reps in the bench press.
Linsley also started 26 games for Ohio State at center and was first-team All-Big Ten in 2013.
The former Buckeye will be battling with JC Tretter for the starting center position this season. Tretter has a leg up on Linsley because he has a year's experience in the offense, but Linsley will push Tretter hard.
This will be the fourth straight season that quarterback Aaron Rodgers will be taking snaps from a different starting center.
I expect Tretter to be that center, but I would not be surprised to see Linsley win the job at some point this season either.
Wide Receiver Jared Abbrederis
Like I normally do each week, I get the opportunity to talk to scout Chris Landry. Before the 2014 NFL draft, Landry gave me his take on wide receiver Jared Abbrederis of the Wisconsin Badgers:
"Jared Abbrederis. I like him. I think he's a really good X receiver. Can be a three or a four in the league. He's smart, and he runs good routes. He's got good quickness.
"He's sneaky vertical. Listen, he's one of the many guys, maybe as many as 16, 17 or 18 wide receivers that I think can be starters eventually in this league out of this draft class."
I agree with Landry that Abbrederis has the ability to become starter in the NFL. His production as a member of the Badgers proves that.
In his career at Wisconsin, No. 84 had 202 receptions for 3,140 yards and 23 touchdowns. He was also a very accomplished returner for the Badgers, averaging 10.7 yards per return on punts (including a touchdown) and 25.8 yards per return on kickoffs.
Although I see Abbrederis getting some opportunities at wide receiver for the Packers his rookie season, I see him getting more of an opportunity in the return game, much like Randall Cobb did his rookie season.
Cornerback Demetri Goodson
Demetri Goodson will have to utilize the playing time he receives in the preseason to prove he will eventually become a solid option in the secondary of the Packers.
The Packers have a very deep secondary, especially at the cornerback position, so I do not see Goodson getting many opportunities for significant playing time in the defensive backfield this season.
No. 39 will have to bide his time for that opportunity and will have to earn his stripes with solid special teams play.
Wide Receiver Jeff Janis
If there was ever a year that the Packers would keep six wide receivers on the 53-man roster, 2014 looks like the year. In fact, I see Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Jarrett Boykin and all three wide receivers (Davante Adams, Jared Abbrederis and Jeff Janis) taken in the 2014 NFL draft all making the team.
Chris Landy told me this about Janis:
"Jeff Janis is a kid from Saginaw Valley who has super measurables. To me, he can get vertical and he's an excellent red-zone target. Little bit inconsistent hands. He's a 4.42 guy at 220 pounds [and] he can really run."
Janis dominated at the Division II level, with 83 catches for 1,572 yards and 14 touchdowns last season.
Janis will get limited opportunities at wide receiver this year, but he should be in the running as one of the returners on the kickoff return unit, plus he should be utilized with the coverage units on special teams.
Linebacker Adrian Hubbard
It was somewhat surprising to see outside linebacker Adrian Hubbard of Alabama go undrafted in the 2014 NFL draft. In fact, CBSSports.com, had Hubbard rated as a possible fifth-round pick.
We eventually learned that the reason Hubbard did not get drafted was because of a minor heart abnormality that Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wrote about in this story.
Hubbard had a nice career with the Crimson Tide, as he had 83 tackles, 18 tackles for a loss, 10 sacks and three forced fumbles.
No. 49 plays the run well and also has some pass-rushing ability. He also has pretty good speed (4.69) for his size, which he showed at the NFL Scouting Combine.
The competition will be fierce at the outside linebacker position, but Hubbard has enough measurables to make the squad. He will have to be a major contributor on special teams to make that happen, however.
Tight End Colt Lyerla
Scout Chris Landry told me that Colt Lyerla was just as talented as any of the top tight ends taken in the 2014 NFL draft.
His physical ability was not the reason why Lyerla went undrafted and was forced to try out for the Packers just to get the team to sign him.
It was the off-the-field issues that have put up red flags for the former Oregon star. Lyerla was dismissed from Oregon early last season, and then he compounded that issue with a cocaine possession charge weeks later.
In his career as a Duck, Lyerla had 34 receptions for 565 yards and 11 touchdowns. No. 46 showed his athletic ability at the NFL Scouting Combine by running a 4.61 40-yard dash and also by leaping 39 inches in the vertical jump.
If Lyerla can stay out of trouble off the field, he will have an excellent chance to make the final roster of the Packers this year.
All combine results courtesy of NFL.com's results tracker. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
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