Second rounders will fill roles

With their two second-round selections in the 2005 NFL Draft, the Packers took players not expected to compete for starting positions this season, but rather fill roles.<p>

Defensive back Nick Collins (51st overall selection) of Bethune-Cookman and wide receiver Terrence Murphy (58th overall) of Texas A&M will come to Green Bay with some work to do, but have the type of versatility that will give them at least a chance to play this year.

Collins, who can play several defensive back positions, will enter his first mini-camp with the Packers at safety, a position the Packers are overhauling with the loss of Darren Sharper, Bhawoh Jue, and Michael Hawthorne this off-season. Mark Roman is the only holdover at safety from a year ago. The Packers signed veterans Arturo Freeman, Earl Little and Todd Franz to compete for starting spots this season.

Coming from a Division 1-AA school, however, Collins will have much to learn playing at the NFL level and is not likely to earn a starting spot over Roman or free agent newcomers Arturo Freeman and Earl Little.

"It would be a challenge from a learning the defense part," explained head coach Mike Sherman, "but I think physically he bodes very well in regard to his speed, his vertical leap, he has good hands… he has good downhill range. So I think from a physical standpoint, he'll be okay, but mentally certainly there will be some challenges particularly from the safety position. Our defensive staff feels confident that they can teach him our scheme and get him on the field at some point.

"He is skilled to play either position (cornerback or safety). He is an excellent man-to-man cover player. He could actually play corner, he can play in the dime package, and he has excellent skills in coverage which separates him from a lot of the other safeties."

The Packers now will be anxious to see whether Collins can pick up the mental side of the safety position where communication will be crucial with a majority of new coaches on defense and several new players.

"We wanted to know what his mental capabilities were in relationship to learning our defense, and Joe (Baker, the Packers' new secondary coach) spent some time with him and felt that this young man could learn our defense and get on the field," said Sherman. "Whether he'll be the communicator initially remains to be seen."

Murphy, by all accounts, appears to be a natural leader and a possible return man for the Packers, but with Donald Driver, Javon Walker, and Robert Ferguson, he does not figure move higher than the No. 4 wide receiver spot. Instead, Murphy's most immediate impact will be as a return man. In 2003, he averaged 27.2 yards per kick return and though he has returned just one punt in his career at Texas A&M, the Packers' scouting staff believes he can excel at that job in the NFL.

"He's a very good kick returner," said Sherman. "He has done that and been successful. We've had a couple coaches go there and watch him catch punts in practice. He hasn't done it I think, but a couple times in games, and I think part of that is for health reasons. A lot of times in college they won't put their starting receivers back there. There's confidence among the scouts that that would in fact not be a problem."

Murphy was a two-time team captain with the Aggies and became their all-time leading receiver this year, breaking the records of Bethel Johnson, who now plays for the New England Patriots. Additionally, he played quarterback at Chapel Hill High in Tyler, Texas, before becoming a standout wide receiver his freshman year at Texas A&M.


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