Players who have stepped it up in camp's Bob Fox provides a list of players the Green Bay Packers and their fans can be excited about watching this season, and why

Atari Bigby
It appears that Bigby has replaced Marquand Manuel as the starter at strong safety. It's early, but Bigby looks like he has some similar attributes as LeRoy Butler, especially blitzing the quarterback. If Bigby can play like he has played the last two weeks of the pre-season in the regular season, then the Packers will be elated.

James Jones
WHO did Ted Thompson draft at WR? The was the response from Packer fans when the Packers selected Jones in the third round of the 2007 NFL draft. Thompson looks like he knew what he was doing right now. Jones has had a very strong camp showing great physical ability and nice hands. Jones needs to refine his route running more thoroughly though.

Aaron Rodgers
Rodgers may languish on the bench again this season if Brett Favre continues his consecutive starts streak that is now at 237 games (257, including playoff games). But Rodgers has shown in the pre-season that he is now DEFINITELY the heir apparent to Favre when he hangs up his cleats. Rodgers is mobile and fully understands coach Mike McCarthy's offensive system.

Cullen Jenkins
Like Aaron Kampman the year before, Jenkins is not letting a new, big contract stop his development as a football player. Jenkins has been the Packers' best defensive linemen in camp and Green Bay may now have its best defensive line since the 1996 season.

Will Blackmon
Blackmon had injury issues as a rookie in 2006, but he has been excellent this year in training camp. Head coach Mike McCarthy basically said that Blackmon is his return specialist this year for both kickoffs and punts, and Blackmon will also play a key role in Green Bay's nickel and dime defensive packages.

Brandon Jackson
Jackson has won the role as starting halfback by default due to injuries to players like Vernand Morency, but Jackson has shown enough to get the coaching staff excited. Jackson has shown good cut back moves as a runner and has also shown that he has excellent hands out of the backfield. Jackson has struggled as a blocker though, and has to improve that requirement if he ever wants to be a complete back.

Korey Hall
Hall has not played fullback since high school, but Hall might win the starting fullback job and will be a key special teams player. Hall showed good hands in college as a linebacker as he intercepted 11 passes and that is important as the Packer fullbacks need to be able to catch the ball. The Packers are also very excited about what Hall will bring to special teams as he was a head hunter at college on all four special team units.

Bubba Franks
Franks looks like he could be turning back into the player he was from 2000-2004. Franks has had an excellent camp and is catching almost everything thrown his way. Franks looks more chiseled than he has the last couple of years and his production this year, along with fellow TE Donald Lee, will be an immense help to the Packers passing game.

The kickers (Dave Rayner and/or Mason Crosby)
This has been one of the best battles in recent camp memory. Both kickers have been virtually flawless in field goal attempts, and both have done well on kickoffs. There is a chance that the Packers will keep both of them on the roster, especially if the Packers only carry two quarterbacks.

Nick Barnett
Barnett finally got the long-term contract that he was seeking this off-season, and his production thus far has been outstanding. In fact, the Packers may have the best set of linebackers in the division, with A.J. Hawk and Brady Poppinga on the outside of Barnett. The defense as a whole looks like it will be the straw that stirs the Green Bay drink in 2007 as it has been dominant this pre-season, much like it was in late 2006.

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

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