If tight end is strong, Packers are weak

Packers general manager Ted Thompson says tight end is "probably our strongest position." That's not exactly a vote of confidence for Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers, PackerReport.com's Steve Lawrence says.

When Ted Thompson told the 20,000 or so fans in attendance at the annual shareholders' meeting that tight end is "considered by most of us on the staff as probably our strongest position," he said a mouthful.

First, what must Packers quarterbacks Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers be thinking? Considering the injuries that limited Bubba Franks to a career-low one touchdown reception last season — remember when he used to be a touchdown machine in the red zone? — is he really better than Favre?

Maybe, maybe not, but the always-injured, always-inconsistent David Martin is better than former first-round pick Aaron Rodgers? Boy, that sure makes you feel comfortable with the Packers' quarterbacking future, doesn't it?

Franks has plenty to prove this season. It should be clear that by this point in his career, Martin will only be a big tease. He'll look great running in shorts, but once the bullets start flying, Martin will revert to his inconsistent self. And that's when he's not nursing who knows what kind of injury. Donald Lee is an intriguing prospect, but that's all he is at the moment. A prospect. Just like the Packers' third quarterback, Ingle Martin.

If tight end is a position of strength for the Packers, then the roster is full of weaknesses.

— As Packers general managers always do at the meeting, they break the roster down by position. While doing so, Thompson offered one more noteworthy observation.

Speaking of the linebackers, Thompson said: "I think it has the potential to be a remarkable group."

There's no denying that. Nick Barnett is a tackling machine, and first-round pick A.J. Hawk figures to be an immediate impact player. The other starting linebacker, however, figures to be Ben Taylor, a so-so veteran.

You know darned well Thompson wasn't lumping Taylor into what he hopes will be a "remarkable" group. He's lumping third-round pick Abdul Hodge into the mix.

One problem, though: Hodge plays Barnett's position, middle linebacker. Of course, Thompson isn't going to divulge the team's plans, especially not at such a forum, but it would be shocking if Hodge doesn't eventually compete with Taylor on the strong side.

— To me, the most interesting battle during training camp will be at running back, where Thompson said injured veterans Ahman Green and Najeh Davenport are on course to be ready to practice well before the start of the regular season.

"Ahman is doing outstanding and Najeh is doing very well," Thompson said. "Ahman is a workaholic. He's feeling really, really good. I think it will be us that will hold him back instead of us trying to push him back out there. ... Sometime during the preseason, maybe not at the very start, we expect Najeh and Ahman to be back. We're going to try to be very cautious."

That's great news, of course, but a big question looms: Who will be the third-down back? Between Green, Davenport and Samkon Gado, Green is best suited for the role because he's the only one who can catch. Green, however, has been the feature back his entire time in Green Bay, and who knows how he'd react to being pulled regularly on first and second downs so he can be ready to pass block on third down.

As became evident during the offseason, Thompson is a man with a plan. Green, Davenport and Gado are in many ways similar players. There's not room on the roster for all three, so here's guessing Thompson has a plan to solve this little dilemma.

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


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