10 training camp, regular season predictions

PackerReport.com's Doug Ritchay lists 10 training camp and regular season predictions as the team officially embarks on its 2006 season today at Clarke Hinkle Field. GM Ted Thompson may be making some major moves in the next few weeks. Agree? Disagree? Let us know!

Packers training camp is under way, and entering this period of the NFC calendar we all have ideas on what is going to happen before the regular season kicks off Sept. 9.

But when final cuts are made, there's always a few names on that final cut list that catch our attention. This summer will be no different. The surprises normally don't stop there. For example, who thought the Packers would be 4-12 last season? Not me.

With that in mind, I have listed 10 things which may happen this season. Some are training camp-related, some are regular season-related. So here it is:

Don't be surprised if ...

1. The Packers cut Ahman Green. The veteran has yet to show he has come back from his quad injury, not having practiced during off-season camps, and prior to getting injured last season he was struggling. If he starts slow, the Packers could say thanks. This move also revolves around Samkon Gado and Najeh Davenport showing they have returned from injury.

2. The Packers cut Robert Ferguson. He has never lived up to his second-round draft status, and he suffers an injury seemingly every season. With the No. 2 receiver position wide open, this is Ferguson's last chance (at least it should be) to show he's a capable NFL starter. If he fails, he could be cut.

3. Greg Jennings starts. The rookie second-round pick has looked good in the off-season, but that means nothing. He has to show he can handle the job in pads and preseason games. Few rookies make impacts at the receiver position, but Jennings has a chance, since the Packers' receiving corps is so poor.

4. Aaron Rodgers truly looks like the future QB. With a second off-season under his belt and one regular season, Rodgers should be able to show something during the preseason. He has the confidence to do the job, and now it's time to spread that confidence to the rest of the team, coaches and even fans.

5. The Packers start two rookie linebackers. First-round pick A.J. Hawk is a lock to start, and third-round pick Abdul Hodge very well could join him in the lineup. Hodge is a natural middle linebacker, so if he can show early in camp he's one of the three best linebackers on the team, regardless of position, he could push Nick Barnett outside (where he could really tear it up). The only player standing in Hodge's way is journeyman Ben Taylor.

6. Billy Cundiff kicks better than expected. This may be a reach, but Cundiff is a veteran, who kicked the last four seasons for Dallas. Maybe he isn't Adam Vinatieri or Ryan Longwell, but guess who was one of two NFL kickers who made a 56-yard field goal last season? Cundiff.

7. Coach Mike McCarthy catches early heat. The Packers open with two home games - NFC North favorite Chicago and offensively-loaded New Orleans. Both should be challenges, and if the Packers don't at least split their first two home games, McCarthy could catch early heat. The Packers, with a new coaching staff, will be better later in the season than early, which makes them susceptible to a slow start.

8. Ahmad Carroll gets cut. The former first-round pick has talent and athleticism, but until he proves he can play cornerback without holding onto a receiver like he's slow dancing, he remains a liability. It may seem far-fetched for Carroll to get cut, but if a younger cornerback steps up, he may be shown the door.

9. The Packers double their win total from 2005. If Brett Favre plays smart and the defense plays better than last season (when it was ranked in the top 10), plus the additions of Hawk, Ryan Pickett and Charles Woodson, eight wins is possible. If things go wrong, four wins is possible.

10. Scott Wells plays ... well. The Packers always seem ready to replace their departed center with another up-and-comer. Wells replaces Mike Flanagan, who replaced Frank Winters. Wells started eight games at left guard and two at center last season, giving him experience. Now moving inside permanently, Wells will be counted on to lead the interior of the line, which likely will include two rookies in Daryn Colledge and Jason Spitz.


Doug Ritchay

Editor's note: Doug Ritchay is a longtime sportswriter and former Packers beat writer for the Green Bay News-Chronicle. E-mail at dritchay@sbcglobal.net.


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