Potential is everything to Thompson

As the first cutdown nears, PackerReport.com's Steve Lawrence analyzes the type of player that Packers general manager Ted Thompson prefers to keep on the roster this season. The GM is seeking durable 'football players,' which might eliminate a few once highly regarded veterans.

What can a veteran member of the Green Bay Packers learn from an underachieving punter and a journeyman kicker? A lesson.

When Packers general manager Ted Thompson released punter B.J. Sander and kicker Billy Cundiff last week in favor of young, untested players, the message should have been loud and clear to players like Najeh Davenport, Ahmad Carroll and Kenny Peterson.

The message is this: We know what you can do, and it's nothing special. We don't know what the young guys can do, but they are worth taking a chance on.

In Dave Rayner, not even Thompson has much of an inkling on what he's getting at kicker. He can't possibly be as wild as the kicker who clanked one off the scoreboard a good 25 yards off target the other day in practice, can he? Still, Rayner's strong leg and potential made him the choice over Cundiff, whose career field-goal accuracy of 73 percent while kicking half his games in Dallas' half-covered dome wasn't going to make anyone forget about Ryan Longwell anytime soon.

In Jon Ryan, at least Thompson knows he has a model of inconsistency. But, oh that potential. There's that word again, but every time Ryan drives a punt 65 yards in practice, you can't help but think what a weapon that would be if it could be harnessed consistently.

Football is about field position, and Ryan has the potential to flip it every time he steps on the field. So what if, after dropping a punt snap in the preseason game against Atlanta, he learned his lesson so well he did it again at practice earlier in the week?

The point is, Thompson knew what he would get in Sander and Cundiff, wasn't thrilled, and cast them aside.

If Thompson maintains that same tact, then guys like Davenport, Carroll and Peterson will be out of a job soon.

In Davenport, the Packers have a big running back. He used to be big and fast, but the explosiveness that intrigued the Packers and fans alike seems to have disappeared. What they have now is a frequently injured running back who's averaging barely 2.5 yards per rush during the preseason. He's a poor blocker and an unreliable receiver. There isn't a thing he does better than Samkon Gado, who he's battling to be the No. 2 running back. Maybe he'll be trade bait, and the Packers can land a role-playing, third-down type with good hands.

In Carroll, the Packers have a player who if they bought him for what he's worth and sold him for what he thinks he's worth, they'd have enough money to retire the debt service on Lambeau Field. Carroll is all talk and no action, unless you're talking about getting flagged for defensive holding. Carroll just doesn't get it, and you get the feeling he'll never get it. Whether it's talking trash while getting beat in coverage or trying to kick a teammate during a fight, Carroll is doing plenty more harm than good. Coach Mike McCarthy and Thompson constantly say they want "Packer People." It's hard to imagine Carroll comes from that mold.

In Peterson, the Packers have another one of those players Mike Sherman just had to have. In 2003, Sherman gave up two picks to move into the third round to grab Peterson, and the Packers have been rewarded with all of three sacks and few other plays of note in his three seasons.

That Davenport may be better than Arliss Beach, that Carroll may be better than Jason Horton and that Peterson may be better than Jason Hunter isn't necessarily relevant if Thompson thinks the youngsters could potentially be better than the veterans at some point down the road.

As Thompson showed by tossing aside Cundiff and Sander, mediocrity isn't acceptable when the standards you're trying to set are much higher.

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

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