Packers Training Camp Countdown: 2 Days

One day after examining the top battles on the offensive side of the ball, we turn our attention to the defense. The biggest battle of camp, regardless of position, will be for No. 3 quarterback.

There are two 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.

Top training camp battles: Defense

No. 1: No. 3 cornerback

This is the biggest battle in training camp, regardless of position.

The last two seasons, the No. 3 cornerback was on the field for about 72 percent of the defensive snaps. That number isn't going to come down, not with defensive coordinator Dom Capers' reliance on his three-cornerback nickel package. In fact, that number might rocket to upwards of 95 percent if Woodson is moved to safety in the base defense – a package Capers calls "corner okie."

Sam Shields was the third corner for much of his two seasons in the league but shared time with Jarrett Bush in the playoffs and was behind Bush in the offseason practices. The other key names in the mix will be Davon House, a much-improved fourth-round pick last year, and second-round rookie Casey Hayward. Shields probably is the favorite, though the Packers are fortunate to have options if he doesn't find the willingness to tackle.

No. 2: Starting safety

The void left by three-time Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins is about as large as the amount of space he could cover in the defensive backfield.

Charlie Peprah started the final 14 games in Collins' absence and likely will take the first rep on Thursday. He's smart and an excellent communicator – no small thing considering the problems in the secondary last season. However, opposing offenses took advantage of his lack of elite range.

The top competition entering training camp is M.D. Jennings, who took the first-unit reps during the offseason practices as Peprah recovered from minor knee surgery. He didn't look out of place, but is he physical enough and a good enough communicator? They'll be pushed by three rookies – fourth-round pick Jerron McMillian and undrafted free agents Micah Pellerin and Sean Richardson – and Anthony Levine, a first-year player who will be participating in his third training camp.

With all of that said, how much does the winner of this battle play? Will he be an every-down player or will he be replaced by Woodson in the base defense?

No. 3: Nickel defensive line

The lack of an interior pass rush is why the Packers used a second-round pick on Jerel Worthy and signed Anthony Hargrove in free agency, though Hargrove won't be available due to his eight-game suspension. If Worthy regularly is one of the two defensive linemen in nickel, who's the other during the first half of the season? B.J. Raji, who went from 6.5 sacks in 2010 to three last season? Jarius Wynn, who had three sacks in the first three games but none the rest of the way? Fourth-round pick Mike Daniels, a quality pass rusher at Iowa who was sidelined for offseason practices while recovering from surgery on a torn labrum?

No. 4: Starting right defensive end

The Packers hope their investment in Worthy will net a three-down player, but if Worthy is going to be a staple in the nickel package, the coaches probably would want to limit him in the base defense. The front-runner is C.J. Wilson, who was the Packers' best run-stopping defensive lineman on a per-snap basis last season. He ran with the starters during the offseason work. However, can Philip Merling, a bust as the 32nd pick of the 2008 draft, resurrect his career? Lawrence Guy, a seventh-round pick last year who missed his rookie season with a concussion, has plenty of upside.

No. 5: Backup outside linebacker

Barring some sort of calamity, Clay Matthews and Nick Perry will be the starters. However, outside linebacker is a demanding position, and the top backup here will get some reps, whether it's a few here and there or for a game or two because of injury. Obviously, the Packers couldn't find a solid starter opposite Matthews last year, so depth is a real question mark. Erik Walden, who had just three sacks in 15 starts, and Frank Zombo, if healthy, are the early front-runners. However, it would be no surprise if Vic So'oto, a year wiser after a strong camp last year, or Dezman Moses, one of the stars of the no-pads offseason practices, emerges as that guy.

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

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