Youth movement's Steve Lawrence grabs a six pack of the Packers' young veterans whose success — or failure — will dictate the fate of the upcoming season.

When offensive lineman Kevin Barry suffered what very well come be a season-ending thigh injury during Sunday's minicamp practice, it made clear that the Packers must look toward the future, and that future is now.

That's not to say Aaron Rodgers should be promoted to starting quarterback, but a number of the team's young veterans must make an impact if the Packers are to make an impact in the 2006 NFL season.

Here's a six pack of Packers whose success — or failure — will define the team.

Junius Coston, guard

With Barry likely out of the running — and overweight, anyway — Coston is the favorite to win the starting job at right guard. The second-year player and former fifth-round pick from little North Carolina A&T barely got on the field last year — playing all of three snaps on offense — but he's more athletic and mobile than Barry and last year's starter, Will Whitticker. In other words, he's what the Packers are looking for in their new zone-blocking scheme, which stresses athleticism more than brawn.

"I played center in college but that's all we did, zone block," Coston said, adding later, "This new scheme fits me a lot better."

Samkon Gado, running back

The Packers brought back Ahman Green and Najeh Davenport, both of whom were unrestricted free agents who suffered season-ending injuries last season. Neither participated in the minicamps, and there's no guarantee they'll be ready for the regular season. Even if they are, there are big questions.

Green, even when healthy last season, didn't look like the explosive back he had been while climbing to No. 2 on the Packers' career rushing list, averaging 3.3 yards per rush compared to his career average of 4.6. Davenport, meantime, has played in only 39 of 64 career regular-season games, so it's not like the Packers can count on him.

That leaves Gado, who rushed for at least 100 yards in three of his eight games, and averaged 4.1 yards per rush — a decent number considering the problems up front. He's as green as grass — he only started twice in four years at Liberty — but he's probably the Packers' most reliable back.

"You can never get too many reps, especially with somebody in my shoes," Gado said of having to carry the minicamp workload. "I'm still learning. I don't have a lot of reps under me, in college and even here. So, the more I can get, the better prepared I will be."

The wide receivers

Donald Driver is a fantastic talent, but the Packers desperately need someone to emerge opposite of him. History says it won't be one of the rookies, no matter how great they looked running in shorts at the minicamp. Since 1990, only five of the 546 receivers drafted posted a 1,000-yard season as a rookie.

So if not the rookies, then who? Mark Boerigter, who caught all of 39 passes in his first four seasons playing at receiver-deprived Kansas City? Robert Ferguson, who despite being surrounded by the likes of Driver and Javon Walker and having Brett Favre as his quarterback has averaged 22 catches per season in his first five years? Rod Gardner, who was released by a Carolina Panthers team that was starved for someone to start opposite Steve Smith?

Somehow, one of these three players must step up, or else Driver will see quadruple coverage.

"We've got big guys, Boerigter, Gardner. ‘Fergie' and Driver are solid," Rodgers said. "It'll be real competition once we get to camp, I'll tell you that."

Scott Wells, center

The center is the quarterback of the offensive line, and that will be especially true if rookie Daryn Colledge and second-year player Coston surround him at the guard positions. Not only must Wells know his job, he must know the jobs of his guards, who are NFL novices.

Beyond that, Wells has flashed potential but hasn't shown he's ready to be a consistent, reliable starter. Given the Packers' youth up front, Wells had better mature quickly, lest Favre spend another season running for his life and the running backs spend another season running in self-defense mode.

Defensive linemen Corey Williams, Mike Montgomery and Kenny Peterson

Like Wells, Williams has flashed potential but hasn't shown he's a player who can be relied on. Unlike Colin Cole, who is strong against the run, and Cullen Jenkins, who can rush the passer, Williams can actually do both things. If all his hard work on the practice field pays off, the Packers' defensive line will have greatly improved.

Defensive end is perhaps the Packers' weakest position. Beyond starters Aaron Kampman and Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, the Packers don't have any proven depth. Montgomery, a sixth-round pick last season, could be the complementary pass rusher the Packers have been looking for for years.

Meanwhile, it's a make-or-break season for Peterson, a third-round draft choice in 2003 who had three sacks last season but has been mostly invisible. With his draft pedigree and three years of experience under his belt, Peterson should be, at worst, a reliable backup. Because he can play end and tackle, the Packers need him to be just that.

Ahmad Carroll, cornerback

Even with Charles Woodson presumably replacing him in the starting lineup, this is a big year for Carroll. If he doesn't make it in this, his third season, then he's probably never going to make it.

While Carroll no longer is a starter, he'll be on the field a lot as more and more teams choose to spread the field with three and four wide receivers. And, given Woodson's recent history of injuries, there's a good chance Carroll will be in the starting lineup several times this season, anyway. If Carroll finally has grown up and learned from his repeated mistakes, then the Packers will have an enviable trio at a vital position. Otherwise, quarterbacks will find Carroll and throw at him mercilessly, rendering Al Harris and Woodson as nothing more than frustrated bystanders.

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