Thomas and Jason Horton were the Packers' top reserves last year. But the Packers have been frustrated with Carroll, who has continued to struggle this off-season to keep his hands off of receivers. Plus, while Carroll worked out with a personal trainer in Atlanta, Thomas remained in Green Bay to take part in all of the team's organized team activities as well as the off-season conditioning program.
"(Thomas) deserved that opportunity and earned the right to have the nod going into training camp," safeties coach Joe Baker told the Green Bay Press-Gazette. "Joey was on a little bit of a personal mission this off-season. He talked a lot about being the best player he could and dedicated himself to it."
Thomas and Carroll will be pushed by third-year pro Chris Johnson, who has yet to play in a regular season game, free agent Leigh Torrence, who received a lot of reps with the first team in the June minicamp, and free agent Chris Day. All will competing for the left cornerback position.
The Packers' one drafted cornerback, Mike Hawkins (fifth round), rookie free agent Patrick Dendy and Horton will be battling for a backup spot behind Harris at right cornerback.
Hawkins has impressed the coaching staff with his blazing speed, but he needs a ton of work on technique because of his limited experience. Hawkins' only played in five games at the University of Oklahoma as a freshman before he was kicked off the team. It didnt' help that he sustained a knee injury while working out in late May and had to undergo arthroscopic surgery, causing him to miss the June minicamp.
"We knew he was fast," defensive coordinator Jim Bates said after one of Hawkins' first practices with the Packers. "But when he came out here and just ran through the first drill you could tell, my gosh, he was like a thoroughbred. With his catchup speed and two interceptions in two days, he jumped out at you. Does he have a lot to learn? Wow."
Dendy of Rice pulled a hamstring shortly before the 2004 draft and sat out the entire season. He was signed after the draft and showed the speed to cover. He played often with the first-team defense during the June minicamp.
"It's incredible that that young man wasn't in a camp last year," Bates said.
Harris is entering his third season as the starter at right cornerback. Last year, he often covered the opponents' top receiver. He finished with a team-record 28 passes defensed and made 67 tackles.
Carroll struggled in his first season, often getting flagged for pass interference as the NFL enforced its "no chuck" rule. Carroll was slowed by an early season groin injury, then took over as the starter at LCB in place Michael Hawthorne, who was released this off-season.
Projected starters: Al Harris (LCB), Ahmad Carroll (RCB)
The Packers placed Thomas ahead of Carroll on the depth chart to wake Carroll up. Carroll is the better athlete but has to build confidence in himself to cover receivers without mugging them.
Projected reserves: Joey Thomas, Jason Horton, Mike Hawkins
All three are up-and-coming cornerbacks. Thomas has a good chance to start if he makes the most of his opportunity in training camp. Hawkins is coming off a knee injury and will be questionable. Horton also is coming off off-season chest surgery, so he is no lock for a backup spot.
On the bubble: Chris Johnson, Patrick Dendy, Leigh Torrence, Chris Day
Dendy and Torrence were impressive in the minicamps. If they can continue to make plays in preseason games, they'll have a good chance to make the team.
Note: Todd Korth is managing editor of PackerReport.com and Packer Report. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.