Training Camp Countdown: 10 Days

Whether it's fighting for a starting job or battling to earn a roster spot, 22 second-year players are primed for bigger and better things after participating in their first offseason program.

There are 10 days remaining until the Green Bay Packers kick off training camp.

Every day until the start of camp on July 26, we'll be giving you one juicy nugget to whet your appetite for the return of football. We'd give you more but the CBA forbids two-a-days. Sorry.

Year 1 to Year 2 improvement

With the Packers' draft-and-develop mind-set, Mike McCarthy and his coaching staff constantly bang the drum of how important the offseason is for the players who are transitioning from rookies to second-year veterans.

That's especially true for this year's group, which was robbed of a rookie camp, organized team activities and minicamp, along with individual sessions with their position coach and the training staff, because of the lockout.

There are 22 second-year players on the 90-man roster — or, more accurately, there are 14 second-year players and eight players who officially are first-year players but spent last year on the practice squad.

Of them, three 2011 draft picks — Randall Cobb (second round), Alex Green (third round) and Davon House (fourth round) — have a chance to earn major roles, as does undrafted safety M.D. Jennings. More will be expected of tight ends D.J. Williams (fifth round) and Ryan Taylor (seventh round), especially if Andrew Quarless isn't ready to go after sustaining a serious knee injury on Dec. 4 at New York.

Perhaps last year's first-round pick, Derek Sherrod, will push Marshall Newhouse at left tackle, even though he had to sit out the offseason practices because of a broken leg sustained on Dec. 18. Maybe last year's sixth-round pick, impressive inside linebacker D.J. Smith, will force the coaches to find a role for him on defense. Maybe Brandon Saine, an undrafted running back, will press for more playing time after impressing in limited action last year.

The others:

— QB Graham Harrell: McCarthy says Harrell's arm is stronger. If that shows up in the preseason, he'll be the No. 2 quarterback entering the regular season.

— WR Diondre Borel, Tori Gurley and Shaky Smithson: Borel and Gurley appear ready for prime time, but is there room on the roster beyond the Big Five?

— FB Jon Hoese: Hoese faces an uphill battle to unseat veteran John Kuhn.

— OL Sampson Genus and Ray Dominguez: The only experienced backup interior lineman is Evan Dietrich-Smith. Dominguez spent most of the season on the active roster but never played. Genus can play center and guard; Dominguez looks like he's only a guard.

— S Anthony Levine: This will be Levine's third training camp. He was signed in 2010 after trying out at the rookie camp.

— CB Brandian Ross: The undrafted Ross, who had a pick-six of Aaron Rodgers on Family NIght, spent the year on the practice squad. To make it, the Packers will have to break from the norm and keep seven cornerbacks.

— LB Jamari Lattimore and Vic So'oto: Between these two undrafted rookies, more stories were written about So'oto but it was Lattimore who was active more often (nine games to seven). Lattimore, who will play inside and outside, is the better special teams player. So'oto is a big guy with pass-rushing potential.

— DL Lawrence Guy and Johnny Jones: Guy, a seventh-round pick last year who spent the season on injured reserve (concussion), will battle C.J. Wilson, Philip Merling and Daniel Muir for a run-stopping role in the base defense. So Will Jones, but he's a long shot after missing the offseason work with an unspecified injury.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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