Beyond the big battles: the offense

While the battle at running back will get the most attention, here are four players or matchups to watch during training camp.

Being the astute Packers fan that you are, you know the big battles that are looming during training camp.

While the focus will be on Vernand Morency vs. Brandon Jackson, Dave Rayner vs. Mason Crosby and the battle at safety, here are some other players and matchups worthy of your attention when training camp kicks off Saturday afternoon. I start with the offense today, and continue with the defense later this week.

Tight ends

I never thought the day would come when I'd wonder what the Packers would do without David Martin.

I'm not about to start today, but obviously, tight end was a huge problem last season, and the Packers elected to let Martin sign with Miami in free agency while adding only seventh-round pick Clark Harris.

Donald Lee opens training camp as the starter, which should be cause for major concern considering he caught 10 passes last season and probably dropped half that many.

Bubba Franks returns after the worst season of his career — 25 catches and none for touchdowns. He stayed home in Miami to work out with a bunch of former Hurricanes. Possibly, he'll regain that step he seemed to have lost last season. None of the others — Zac Alcorn, Tory Humphrey or Harris — inspire much awe.

What Brett Favre wants to know is this: Can any of these guys get open on third-and-5 and convert a key first down?

Reserve wide receivers

Donald Driver is one of the best receivers in the league, and Greg Jennings flashed plenty of skill before a bum ankle derailed his rookie season.

Beyond that, who can catch a pass from Favre?

Scouts Inc. recently ranked the Packers' receiving corps as No. 28 in the league. That's because there isn't a truly proven receiver on the roster other than Driver.

Can journeymen Ruvell Martin or Carlyle Holiday take another step forward after periodically flashing some promise last season? Rookie third-round pick James Jones looked great during the offseason, but how will he do when he knows he might get hit by a safety? Does Robert Ferguson have a place on a youthful roster? Can rookie fifth-round pick David Clowney do anything besides run fast in a straight line?

Really, what I want to know, is can any of these guys beat Al Harris off the line of scrimmage and catch a Favre laser while a safety is ready to plant his facemask in the receiver's chest?

Fullback Korey Hall

Hall is the most intriguing rookie on the roster. He was a standout linebacker and big-time special-teams player at Boise State, but the sixth-round pick will have to make the roster as a fullback.

With the game-day roster limited to 45 players, there almost certainly won't be a spot for Hall as merely a special-teams player — no matter how many tackles he makes during practices and preseason games, and no matter how badly the Packers need help on the coverage teams.

Hall's ability to block, catch and make the right reads will determine whether he can stick on the roster at one of the team's weakest positions. Training camp only lasts about five weeks. That's not much time to show the guy who used to tackle running backs can block for them.

Offensive lineman Allen Barbre

The Packers spent a valuable fourth-round pick on the small-school lineman as the possible left tackle of the future.

The athletic Barbre was a monster at Missouri Southern State, but he's never faced the likes of Ryan Pickett one-on-one in the trenches or had to go out and get a linebacker the caliber of Nick Barnett or A.J. Hawk.

It's always fun watching Favre throw bullets across Clarke Hinkle Field, but nothing beats the often-spirited one-on-one battles between the linemen. It will be interesting to see if Barbre is capable of blocking professional defensive linemen.

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


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