Thompson chooses youth over mediocrity

By getting rid of Najeh Davenport, Rod Gardner and Kenny Peterson and keeping Noah Herron, Ruvell Martin and a couple rookie defensive linemen, Packers GM Ted Thompson continued to rebuild with young, untested players.

Well, you won't have to worry about the 2006 edition of the Green Bay Packers getting into any after-hours, Minnesota Vikings-type drunken-drinking incidents.

These Packers aren't old enough to get into a bar, much less get drunk and drive 100 mph through downtown Green Bay.

OK, it's a slight exaggeration, but if Packers general manager Ted Thompson gets any better at his younger-is-better facelift, women across the country will be able to pick up tubs of Ted Tonic to get rid of those wrinkles and age lines.

Every one of the "name" players Thompson deleted from the roster is being replaced by someone younger and, hopefully, better.

At running back: Bye-bye, Najeh Davenport. Hello, Noah Herron.

At wide receiver: Bye-bye, Rod Gardner. Hello, Ruvell Martin.

At defensive line: Bye-bye, Kenny Peterson. Hello, Johnny Jolly and Jason Hunter.

When Thompson said bye-bye to fourth-round flop Cory Rodgers, it's partly because second-round sensation Greg Jennings is more than capable of not only catching a punt, but gaining yards afterward.

Heck, in perhaps the most interesting move he made Saturday, Thompson told the always-injured Mike Hawkins to pack his bags in favor of Will Blackmon, who hasn't worn a green-and-gold jersey since the May minicamp. Thompson chose a rookie with a bum foot over a second-year player with bum hangnails.

As it stands, 24 of the 51 players are rookies, first-year players or second-year players.

Of course, none of this should be a surprise. In training camp, Thompson released third-year punter B.J. Sander and veteran kicker Billy Cundiff in favor of a Canadian rookie and an untested second-year player, respectively.

Time and again, Thompson has chosen young and unproven potential over older (even slightly older) and proven mediocrity.

Thus, nobody should have been even a little bit surprised that Davenport was released. Talk about a guy who stuck with the team because his combination of size and speed came together for exactly one big game: a nationally televised showcase against St. Louis in 2004 when he rushed for 178 yards.

Thompson rightly gave up on Davenport because he seemingly was always slowed by injuries big and small; he missed 25 of 64 games in his four seasons. Not to mention the fact his per-carry average this preseason was better measured in feet than yards.

Thompson rightly gave up on Gardner because the sixth-year pro has never lived up to his first-round draft billing. After six training camps, you are what you are.

Thompson rightly gave up on Peterson for many of the same reasons he gave up on Davenport, with the one exception being Peterson never had a big game while Davenport at least can watch that Rams game with his grandchildren when he's 70 years old. Peterson missed much of training camp with an ankle injury, and his release means Thompson has purged the Packers of all but one of Mike Sherman's 2003 draft picks: starting linebacker Nick Barnett.

Is Herron better than Davenport? Can Martin be better than Gardner? Can Jolly and Hunter make the type of impact Peterson failed to make? Who knows, but by Thompson's line of thinking, he knew what he had in Davenport, Gardner and Peterson, and it wasn't anything great.

Thompson's work is not done. Far from it. His cuts left the Packers with 51 players, or two short of the league limit. No doubt, as I'm typing this, he's scouring the waiver wire to see who's young and has ability.

Thompson left himself with eight offensive linemen, which is one or two less than most teams carry. Depth? What depth? His backups — Daryn Colledge, Junius Coston and Chris White — have exactly three snaps of professional experience. Thompson almost certainly will have to break from the norm and sign someone with experience, especially considering he's starting two rookies.

The Packers have only four receivers — Donald Driver, Jennings, Robert Ferguson and Martin — and three safeties — starters Nick Collins and Marquand Manuel and sixth-round pick Tyrone Culver.

Thus, the roster you see today won't be the one you see on Sept. 10 against Chicago. One thing's for sure, though: The Packers aren't aging like a fine wine. Which is fine, because most of the players wouldn't be old enough to drink it.

Lawrence is a regular contributor to Send comments to

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