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.
Last season, the Packers' rookie class didn't make much of an impact. Of the 10 draft picks, there were just three starts — all by sixth-round pick D.J. Smith as a fill-in for the injured A.J. Hawk and Desmond Bishop.
This season, the Packers might not get 35 starts from their eight-man draft class and any undrafted rookies who beat the odds, but they do need a 2010-like impact.
In 2010, where would the Packers have been without first-round pick Bryan Bulaga replacing Mark Tauscher or fourth-round choice Andrew Quarless playing for Jermichael Finley? Mike Neal and Morgan Burnett, the second- and third-rounders, had their moments before sustaining season-ending injuries. Sixth-round pick James Starks was a savior in the playoffs after spending most of the regular season in the training room. Seventh-round pick C.J. Wilson's hit on Brett Favre resulted in Desmond Bishop's pick-six and provided a pivotal win for a squad that was struggling at 3-3.
The Packers wouldn't have won the Super Bowl without Bulaga and Starks coming to the rescue on offense and Shields and Zombo coming out of nowhere to fill gaping holes left by ineffective veterans on defense.
The Packers bring back an experienced team, but they won't win the Super Bowl without similar impact from their rookies.
A pass rush that ranked last in the NFL in sacks per pass play last season badly needs outside linebacker Nick Perry and defensive linemen Jerel Worthy and Mike Daniels to make their mark immediately.
The Packers drafted Perry to start opposite Clay Matthews, Worthy to be a strong run-pass defender in their nickel package and Daniels to rush the passer. Daniels missed the offseason with a torn labrum, which puts him behind at a position in which the Packers need early-season help because of the suspensions to Mike Neal and Anthony Hargrove.
Plus, there are jobs to be won for second-round pick Casey Hayward and fourth-round pick Jerron McMillian. There's an opening at cornerback for Hayward, whether it's unseating Sam Shields as the third cornerback — an every-down position if Charles Woodson moves to safety in the base defense — or being the fourth corner in dime. And there's an open competition at safety, where opposing offenses exploited veteran Charlie Peprah's lack of range.
"Believe me, we'll be working overtime with all these guys," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said at the draft. "We know how important they're going to be to our success defensively this year. So, you want to give them every chance to go out and compete. Part of our job as we go along is figure out how much they can handle, and then take it out on the field and perform."
Agree or disagree?: Discuss hot Packers topics in our, free forums. Leave Bill a question in the subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum.
Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.