Thomas poised to beat out Carroll

The Green Bay Packers' training camp is just around the corner, and with it, stories will develop that will help shape the Packers' 2005 regular season. Brett Favre's return for a 15th season, Javon Walker's and Bubba Franks' contract situations, and the soap opera that is Cletidus Hunt are such stories that are sure to garner immediate attention when full-squad practices begin on the July 29.

Training camp, however, also brings its share of surprises and plot twists. Those stories less obvious now will become clearer and just as important as those mentioned above as the regular season nears. Each Thursday until camp begins, PackerReport.com will analyze those "other" potential headlines which could effectively define this training camp when it is over.

Joey Thomas replaces Ahmad Carroll as a starting cornerback
If the Packers' off-season mini-camps are any indication, then Thomas is about to move above Carroll on the depth chart as the starting cornerback opposite Al Harris. Carroll even said as much at the end of the June mini-camp when took notice of Thomas' improvement.

The knock on Carroll a year ago was his technique, and those flaws seemed to continue in mini-camp. He continued to hold and grab too much and drew the wrath of head coach Mike Sherman for accidentally tackling Donald Driver in a non-contact drill. Still, Carroll, just in his second year, is a great athlete learning a difficult position. Whether or not he will become a great football player remains to be seen. He will not have that much time as the Packers desperately need to have someone step up at cornerback this season.

Meanwhile, Thomas has taken a step forward. He did not get much of a chance to play extended time a season ago when the Packers decided to throw Carroll, their first-round pick, into a starting role in the sixth game of the year at Detroit. Thomas, a third-round pick last year, showed some of his skills, but did not show enough to indicate to the coaches that he was ready to start. He now appears to be more confident and arguably has better technique than Carroll.

What will separate both players is how they grasp new defensive coordinator Jim Bates' scheme and who is better in press coverage. When Bates was in Miami, his cornerbacks made a name for themselves by playing tight, effective press coverage. Furthermore, Bates has indicated that all positions in camp will be treated as an open competition, and that should not give Carroll any advantage because he was a starter a year ago.

Carroll, who started 12 of 17 games as a rookie, was a backup in three others, and was inactive for two, was tagged with seven penalties that were accepted a year ago. Many of those were damaging in that they extended drives, giving the opposition automatic first downs.

Thomas was a backup in 15 of 17 games, was inactive for one, and did not play in another. He was charged with only one defensive penalty.

Editor's note: Matt Tevsh lives in Green Bay and is entering his 10th season covering the Green Bay Packers for Packer Report and PackerReport.com. E-mail him at matttevsh@hotmail.com.


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