Training camp battles to watch

Competition will be heated at a number of positions, says's Bob Fox

The Green Bay Packers start training camp a week from today, and there will be a lot of battles for various positions.

The Packers also will bring some past tradition into camp as Green Bay will practice at old City Stadium off the banks of the Fox River on July 31 as part of the 50th anniversary of Lambeau Field celebration this year.

Finally, will Ted Thompson make a move to bolster the offense, as former Packer George Koonce predicted? Time will tell, but here are some battles to watch during training camp.

Vernand Morency vs. Brandon Jackson
Unless Ted Thompson acquires Larry Johnson, as some have speculated, the battle for starting tailback will be between Morency and Jackson.

Morency, who backed up Ahman Green last year, rushed for 434 yards and had a 4.5-yard avg. Jackson had a nice junior year at Nebraska where he rushed for 989 yards and scored 10 touchdowns. Jackson looks to be a natural zone-blocking scheme type halfback as he runs inside very well and is a reliable pass catcher. Jackson needs to remain injury free (a problem before his junior year), if he has a chance to become the starter.

Both Morency and Jackson have similar size as they compete for this golden opportunity. Noah Herron will probably be the 3rd down halfback again this year.

James Jones vs. Robert Ferguson or Ruvell Martin
Thompson did not trade for Randy Moss as some speculated during the 2007 NFL draft. Instead, Thompson drafted two wide receivers, including Jones. Jones has good size, and built along the lines of Sterling Sharpe.

Jones has excellent hands and can make things happen, but doesn't have excellent speed. Neither did Sharpe.

Ferguson will try and prove for the last time that he isn't a bust. Ferguson has talent, but he always seems to be in the training room due to injuries.

Martin will try to build on his 2006 season which included 21 catches and a 17.0 yard per catch average.

Brandon Miree vs. Korey Hall or Ryan Powdrell
This year's training camp just won't be the same without William Henderson. But there will be plenty of competition for his starting spot at fullback. Miree, the incumbent, started three games in 2006, and is an excellent lead blocker. Hall played linebacker at Boise State, but will probably make the team as a special teams standout.

Powdrell has also turned some heads in the minicamps. Powdrell was also a former linebacker that was off to a good start at USC last year before he suffered a leg injury.

Dave Rayner vs. Mason Crosby
The kickers battle might be the best one in training camp. Rayner had a solid season in 2006, scoring 109 points and making 26 out of 35 field goal attempts. Rayner also was consistent kicking the ball deep on kickoffs.

Crosby has made 12 of 23 field goal attempts from more than 50 yards during his college career at Colorado, and was about 85 percent accurate inside 50 yards. Also, he had an impressive 68 percent of his kickoffs become touchbacks.

Corey Williams vs. Justin Harrell
Defensive tackle was not a place where most observers thought the Packers might go in round one of April's NFL draft, but Thompson selected Harrell.

Williams had a career-high 7 sacks last year, but the Packers also allowed 4.0 yards per rushing attempt. Harrell has the ability to be a force stopping the run and freeing up the talented linebackers that the Packers possess.

Marquand Manuel vs. Aaron Rouse or Marviel Underwood
Manuel struggled out of the gate during the 2006 season as he battled a leg injury. He improved as the season wore on, but some thought he was not solid as a strong safety in deep pass coverage.

Rouse is a former linebacker that can lay the lumber, but also has questions about his coverage skills.

Underwood might have eventually been the starter instead of Manuel had he not injured his knee during the 2006 pre-season.

Charles Woodson vs. Shaun Bodiford or Will Blackmon
Woodson was reliable as punt returner for the Packers, averaging 8.9 yards a return. However, he got nicked up a lot during the 2006 season, and he is no spring chicken.

Bodiford showed the coaching staff some excellent return ability as a punt and kick returner before he was injured last year.

Blackmon will also get a chance this year as a punt returner as he was very good in college returning punts and kickoffs.

James Jones might get a shot as well, but even though he has great hands, his lack of speed hurts him.

Shaun Bodiford vs. David Clowney
Bodiford has a chance to be the return man at both punt and kickoff units. Clowney has a chance to open some eyes here as well as Clowney has world class speed.

Bodiford and Clowney will also battle for one of the last wide receiver spots as well.

Will Blackmon vs. Frank Walker
The Packers are looking to get more youthful at the cornerback position behind veterans Charles Woodson and Al Harris.

Green Bay is also looking for better competition at both the nickel and dime coverage units. Blackmon, who had injury issues last year and Walker will be battling for the No. 3 cornerback spot in pass coverages.

Bob Fox is a frequent contributor to E-mail him at

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