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Five Positions of Concern for Green Bay Packers

If this is the 90-man roster the Green Bay Packers are taking to training camp, here are the potential trouble spots.

The Green Bay Packers’ 90-man roster at the end of offseason workouts likely will be the 90-man roster they take into training camp in six weeks.

“That’s an ongoing focus,” coach Mike McCarthy said of the roster before Thursday’s final minicamp practice. “I don’t see us making any changes. We have guys coming in and working out next week. That never stops.”

Nonetheless, here are five positions where the Packers might be looking to upgrade the depth chart at some point during training camp.

Punter: This is one of the two obvious positions, with undrafted rookie Justin Vogel being the lone punter on the roster. He punted twice while reporters were present. The first was underwhelming, to put it kindly. The second was much more successful.

“The first thing I look at is, does he get the ball of fast? His block point?” special teams coordinator Ron Zook said on Tuesday. “He’s got a strong leg. The thing with most kickers or punters is consistency. If he lengthens a step that much or the change is different on the drop, the ball doesn’t go where he wants it to go. The one thing is, there’s no question he has a strong leg. Now, it’s like any other thing, you’ve got to become consistent.”

If Vogel can’t find consistency, then the ending might be like it was last summer, when the Packers ditched Tim Masthay in favor of Jacob Schum at the end of camp.

Long snapper: This is the second of the obvious positions, with undrafted rookie Derek Hart being the lone snapper on the roster. He had a couple of low snaps on punts but no disasters with reporters present; there were no place-kicking sessions to judge Hart in that phase. “I think he’s built himself a nice foundation,” McCarthy said. If that foundation crumbles, Brett Goode is a phone call away.

Outside linebacker: You know the depth chart. Nick Perry and Clay Matthews will start, with Kyler Fackrell, Jayrone Elliott and rookie Vince Biegel in reserve. Fackrell made about as many impact plays as anyone on defense in the no-pads practices, so that provides optimism he’ll be a factor as the No. 3 outside linebacker. Can Elliott go from special-teams standout to legit defensive contributor? How will Biegel fare after sitting out the offseason following foot surgery? The team’s had success with undrafted free agents at this position, so perhaps there’s a gem to be found between Reggie Gilbert, who was on the practice squad last year, and rookies Johnathan Calvin, David Talley and Josh Letuligasenoa. Outside linebacker is such a demanding position, and Matthews and Perry have ample injury histories, so the Packers almost certainly are going to lean heavily on their backups at some point or points in the season.

Guard: Over the last nine-plus months, the Packers have released Josh Sitton and lost T.J. Lang. They replaced those two Pro Bowlers on the roster with 12-year veteran Jahri Evans and sixth-round draft pick Kofi Amichia. Presumably, Evans will join Lane Taylor as the starting tandem. But where’s the depth? Can Amichia contribute immediately? Will Don Barclay have to serve as the primary backup at all the interior positions? Will Lucas Patrick, who spent last year on the practice squad, or Geoff Gray, an import from Canada, surprise during camp? Or will the Packers be monitoring the waiver wire to bolster the depth?

Running back: You know the situation, with Ty Montgomery surrounded by five rookies. Until the pads go on and the backs have to actually break a tackle or block a blitzer, the jury is out on whether the young guys can provide reliable depth behind Montgomery. Of the draft picks, fourth-rounder Jamaal Williams had a good spring but fifth-rounder Aaron Jones and seventh-rounder Devante Mays might be works in progress in the passing game.

Bill Huber is publisher of 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 www.twitter.com/PackerReport.


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