Worth a peek: Five longshots on defense

While most railbirds' eyes will watch the likes of Brett Favre and Donald Driver, PackerReport.com's Steve Lawrence will be watching five young defensive players who hope to buck the odds and make an impact.

For every Brett Favre, there's an Ingle Martin. For every Donald Driver, there's a Leo Bookman. For every William Henderson, there's a Ben Brown.

All Green Bay Packers fans know Favre, Driver and Henderson. When training camp opens in 2 1/2 weeks, they'll be among the players most closely watched by the railbirds. In my next two columns, I'll tell you who I'll be watching, and why. Most of them won't make the final roster — almost certainly, none will start — but the 10 players I'm going to tell you about are young guys with intriguing upsides.

I start today with five defensive players.

No. 25, Marviel Underwood, safety

Last year about this time, there was hope Underwood would pair with fellow rookie draft choice Nick Collins to form the Packers' starting safety duo. That, of course, didn't happen, with Underwood vanishing into the abyss of the Packers' depth chart. Still, Underwood is a rare member of the Packers' secondary who likes to hit people, and he looked a lot more comfortable in coverage during the minicamps and OTAs. At worst, expect Underwood to become a demon on the special-teams coverage units. At best, Underwood could challenge veterans Marquand Manuel and Mark Roman for a starting job at some point.

No. 47, Kevin Schimmelmann, linebacker

OK, maybe it's because the name Schimmelmann just sounds like a football player. He played at Stanford, so you know he's got a good head on his shoulders, and he was a three-year starter in the Pac-10 Conference, so you know he can play a little. At 228 pounds, he's probably too small, and with the Packers drafting A.J. Hawk and Abdul Hodge and signing Ben Taylor and Tracy White in free agency, there's probably no room for him on the roster. Still, if for no other reason than to see how the equipment guys can fit "Schimmelmann" on a jersey, he's worth a peek.

No. 52, Kurt Campbell, linebacker

As is the case for Schimmelmann, Campbell faces long odds to make the roster because of the Packers' off-season makeover at linebacker. Still, Campbell — a seventh-round draft pick out of Albany in 2005 — must have something the Packers like, otherwise they would have released him last fall after a knee injury put an early end to his training camp. In college, he was a cross between a linebacker and a safety. He started his college career at cornerback. So, it should go without saying that this kid has some serious athletic ability. Whether that can translate to the playing field remains to be seen.

No. 57, Jason Hunter, defensive end

OK, so it's tiny Appalachian State. But the Packers need pass rushers, and Hunter sacked the quarterback 11 1/2 times during his senior season, and added interception and fumble returns for touchdowns. Hunter was named the defensive MVP of the NCAA Division I-AA playoffs, with the Mountaineers winning the national championship. At about 240 pounds, he's not big enough to be an every-down player, but he's got plenty of athleticism to be a situational pass rusher. It'll be interesting to see his first encounters against the Cliftons and Tauschers of the world.

No. 91, Dave Tollefson, defensive end, Northwest Missouri State

Did I mention the Packers need pass rushers? Like Hunter, Tollefson is a small-school player with a nose for the quarterback. A seventh-round draft pick in April — the third-to-last pick of the draft — Tollefson tallied 12 1/2 sacks en route to Division II All-American honors. He's not nearly as fast around the corner as Hunter, but Tollefson, at 255 pounds, sports a much more NFL-ready body.

Lawrence is a regular contributor to PackerReport.com. Send comments to steve_lawrence_packers@yahoo.com.

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