Breaking down three burning issues

Is Rodgers for real? Can Bigby beat out Manuel? Will Franks make the roster? Here are PackerReport.com's Steve Lawrence's takes on this week's issues.

It's been an eventful few days. Aaron Rodgers looked like a legitimate NFL starting quarterback. Safety Atari Bigby got a few snaps with the No. 1 defense. Speculation began anew about Bubba Franks' spot on the roster.

Here's some perspective on the burning issues of the day.

Rodgers plays like a star
Before Saturday's preseason game at Pittsburgh, the jury was out on Aaron Rodgers. But not with, I'd say, a large, vocal/e-mail savvy minority of the fans, who had written Rodgers off as a pretender to Brett Favre's throne.

Time and again, I told them Rodgers deserves a chance to show whether he'll sink of swim. And, no, that ugly performance against New England didn't count.

After Rodgers' impressive performance Saturday, the same thing has to be said. Just like Rodgers' horrible performance against the Patriots didn't show he was incapable of being a productive starter once Favre retires, Rodgers' accurate and athletic outing against Pittsburgh didn't show he was ready for stardom, either.

We won't know a thing about Rodgers until he is given the starting job. When he takes the lion's share of training camp reps with the first-teamers. When he takes the 95 percent of snaps the No. 1 quarterback gets during the week leading up to a regular-season game. When he's shown whether he can handle success and failure, and the constant adjustments teams will throw at him. When he's been the starting quarterback not just for a week, but for a season.

Bigby's big chance
On Saturday night, if I would have been general manager Ted Thompson, I might have in a loose-cannon moment considered releasing Atari Bigby. On Monday, however, Bigby — for a few snaps, anyway — replaced Marquand Manuel as a starting safety.

Say what?

As bad as Manuel was last season, he never played as poorly as Bigby did against the Steelers. Bigby was partially responsible for two long pass receptions, including one when he went for the big hit instead of using fundamentals, and some guy named Walter Young bounced off Bigby for a 41-yard touchdown. Later, he whiffed on a running play that resulted in a 17-yard gain.

If you can't tackle, you can't play safety. Period.

What Bigby's opportunity means to me is the Packers just aren't comfortable with Manuel. Bigby is sturdy and athletic, and offers considerable playmaking upside over the veteran Manuel. That's apparent from the number of interceptions he's made at practice this summer.

At this point, though, if Bigby doesn't clean up Saturday's big blunders, Manuel will be the opening day starter. Young safeties Marviel Underwood and Aaron Rouse just haven't done enough to warrant an opportunity to challenge Manuel.

Franks in jeopardy
It was a familiar sight. Against Pittsburgh, Bubba Franks dropped a third-down pass that killed a decent-looking drive.

Franks is coming off the worst season of his career, and lost his starting job to underwhelming Donald Lee during the offseason. With a $1.4 million salary, Franks carries a hefty price tag for a backup who isn't a primary special-teams performer.

But, one look at the Packers' tight ends shows Franks' spot on the roster is probably safe. The other backups are Zac Alcorn, rookie seventh-round pick Clark Harris and former small-school college basketball player Joe Werner. Those three have been practically invisible during the practices.

Do you feel comfortable with Lee as your starter? If not, imagine the outlook if the Packers released Franks and Lee went down for a week or two.

At this point, Franks looks like a below-average tight end. But he's better than the alternative.

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


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