Starting Tuesday, the Green Bay Packers hit the practice field for their three-day minicamp.
Attendance is mandatory — though coach Mike McCarthy will excuse his veteran players for the second consecutive year. Last year, that meant players with six-plus years of experience got to start their summer vacation a week earlier. If McCarthy follows the same formula this year, quarterback Aaron Rodgers (13 years), guard Jahri Evans (12), kicker Mason Crosby (11), tight end Martellus Bennett (10), receiver Jordy Nelson (10), defensive tackle Letroy Guion (10), outside linebacker Clay Matthews (nine), defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois (nine), safety Morgan Burnett (eight), right tackle Bryan Bulaga (eight), receiver Randall Cobb (seven), cornerback Davon House (seven), tight end Lance Kendricks (seven), outside linebacker Nick Perry (six), center/guard Don Barclay (six) and defensive tackle Mike Daniels (six) will not be going through drills at Clarke Hinkle Field.
Without those 16 players, big opportunities await for some of the younger players. Such as:
Quarterbacks Brett Hundley, Joe Callahan and Taysom Hill. This is a big offseason for Hundley, who never recovered from the ankle injury that sidelined him for most of training camp and the preseason last summer. He hasn’t been great when reporters have been present this spring but he’ll get extra reps and a chance to really take charge of the offense.
“Is it unfortunate? Yes. Do we have a chance to get him back to where he’s going to go? Yeah, absolutely,” quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt said last month. “That’s what this offseason is for, and that’s what we’re working with him on his footwork to catch him back up. But, yeah, it definitely can set you back physically.”
Rodgers’ absence means more reps for Callahan and Hill, who figure to battle in training camp to be the No. 3 quarterback.
Receivers Trevor Davis, DeAngelo Yancey, Max McCaffrey and Malachi Dupre. Without Nelson and Cobb, the Packers will be without their top wide receiver and top slot receiver. If Nelson, Cobb, Davante Adams, Geronimo Allison and Jeff Janis are the front-runners for the top five spots, then these four are leading the pack to be No. 6. Davis, a fifth-round pick last year, has shown his speed more than once in OTAs. Yancey’s strength is obvious, and McCaffrey’s route-running is excellent.
Said receivers coach Luke Getsy when asked about Yancey and Dupre: “The character that we have in the room and those two guys, they really fit that room really well. They are high-character young men, so I’m really excited to get to see their growth throughout this offseason and see where they can take it.”
Tight end Beau Sandland. Richard Rodgers, the fourth-year veteran, received a playing-time-based pay raise to $1.797 million. That’s a nice perk from what was supposed to be $690,000. But will Rodgers be around to collect that extra $1.1 million? With the additions of Bennett and Kendricks, do the Packers really need a highly paid backup? The play of Sandland might provide the answer to those questions.
Offensive linemen Kofi Amichia and Lucas Patrick. Corey Linsley is recovering from offseason ankle surgery and Barclay figures to be excused. That’s the team’s top two centers. Patrick, an undrafted free agent who spent his rookie year on the practice squad, and Amichia, a sixth-round pick this year, will be the top centers this week.
Defensive linemen Christian Ringo and Brian Price. As is the case with Amichia and Patrick, little will be gleaned in the three no-pads practices. Still, it’s extra opportunities without Jean Francois, Guion and Daniels if there’s room for another lineman behind those three, second-year pros Kenny Clark and Dean Lowry, and third-round pick Montravius Adams.
Outside linebackers Reggie Gilbert and Johnathan Calvin. There’s room on the roster behind Matthews, Perry, Kyler Fackrell, Jayrone Elliott and injured rookie Vince Biegel. Gilbert, an undrafted free agent last year, and Calvin, an undrafted rookie this year, will get ample snaps this week.
Safeties Marwin Evans and Josh Jones. Without Burnett, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Kentrell Brice should form the No. 1 pairing this week. Evans, who had a strong training camp last summer, will be fighting for a roster spot at a deep position this summer. Jones, on the other hand, will be battling for playing time. He’s been one of the top performers during the offseason. “I like everything that I see about Jones right now,” Daniels said.
Cornerbacks Damarious Randall, Quinten Rollins and LaDarius Gunter. Without House (and probably without top pick Kevin King's participation in team drills as he arrives from school), Rollins will move into the No. 1 unit alongside Randall and Gunter. Will any of those three take advantage of the first-unit reps? Will Herb Waters or Josh Waters turn this week into a launching pad for training camp? Will one of the rookies make a splash?
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.