Waiting in the wings

Daniel Muir? Noah Herron? Tony Palmer? These players barely played for the Green Bay Packers in 2007, or not at all, but may have bigger roles this season, along with a few other players who have been patiently rehabbing from an injury, or trying to make the climb from the bottom of the depth chart into the regular rotation. PackerReport.com's Todd Korth explains why.

While another offseason goes by with the Green Bay Packers making few appearances on the NFL transaction wire, keep in mind that general manager Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy may already have players fully capable of reinforcing depth at a few positions.

The Packers are expected to address the offensive and defensive lines, running back, and linebacker in the upcoming NFL draft, but don't forget about a few players already on the team's offseason roster that may have spent part or most of last season on injured reserve, or on the practice squad, and are in position to make a bigger impact this year.

Daniel Muir, Conrad Bolston, Noah Herron, and Tony Palmer are hardly household names among Packers fans, but they are younger players who displayed potential in training camp last season either with the Packers or a different team, and are chomping at the bit at an opportunity to play.

Here's a look at those players, plus a few others, to keep an eye on this offseason and in training camp. Although they may be long shots to start, all are in line to make the team as top reserves with the potential to play a bigger role with the team in the future.

Offensive line
? Tony Palmer is a backup guard entering his third NFL season, but he missed all of last season with a neck injury that he sustained in training camp. A powerful blocker, Palmer was claimed on waivers by the Packers from St. Louis in Week 1 of the 2006 season. The Rams wanted to keep Palmer, whom they selected in the seventh round of the 2006 NFL draft, on their practice squad, but the Packers liked Palmer's potential well enough to sign him to their 53-man roster.

The 311-pound Palmer played in six games in 2006 at the right and left guard positions, and special teams. In between, he improved his conditioning, dropping about 15 pounds to fit Green Bay's zone blocking scheme. Many felt he was in line to be Green Bay's top backup at guard in 2007.

Palmer underwent surgery last fall to fuse together vertebras. He is expected to participate in the Packers' offseason conditioning program, which begins today in Green Bay.

? Depending on how he plays during the offseason, Orrin Thompson has a chance to be Chad Clifton's regular backup. Thompson went between Green Bay's practice squad and active roster a couple of times last season after signing on as a free agent last offseason.

At 6-6, 320 pounds, Thompson has the size to play left tackle, but still needs to show improvement in order to surpass backup Daryn Colledge. Can Thompson do it?

Running back
? Noah Herron may be the top candidate that many have forgotten about to fill the Packers' need for a third-down running back. Herron spent all of last season on injured reserve after sustaining a knee injury in the final preseason game.

Herron remained in Green Bay throughout the season to rehab his knee and will be ready for training camp. Herron played in all 16 games for the Packers in 2006, finishing third on the team with 150 yards on 37 carries (4.1 avg.). He also had 29 catches for 211 yards and two touchdowns.

? Corey White, a big and strong runner, just missed making the team's 53-man roster last season after a strong training camp. Because of injuries to other backs in camp, White received a long look from the Packers, then spent the 2007 season on the team's eight-man practice squad. He rushed for 108 yards on 34 carries (3.2 avg per carry) and caught one pass for no yards.

White (6-1, 239) is in position to take another step forward in his career this offseason. How big of a step remains to be seen, but he has the size and speed to be an effective backup behind Ryan Grant. The Packers coaches were impressed with what they saw from White last training camp. The Packers are expected to address the running back position in the draft and free agency, but look for White to be pushing for a backup spot this season.

Defensive line
? Daniel Muir (6-2, 298) had an impressive training camp and was the team's only rookie free agent to make the roster. Muir plays mainly defensive tackle, but also can play defensive end.

It can be argued that if Justin Harrell was not Green Bay's top draft pick last year, Muir would have received more playing time. Instead, Muir only saw action in three games. Yet he is in position to increase his playing time in 2008 after Corey Williams was traded to Cleveland in late February.

? Conrad Bolston (6-4, 300) was claimed off waivers by the Packers from Minnesota on Dec. 12 and only saw action in the regular season finale. Stuck behind Pat Williams and Kevin Williams in Minnesota, Bolston was expendable. Still, the Packers feel that he can make an impact, if given a chance.

Bolston will get more of an opportunity to show what he can do this offseason with the Packers. If he can make the most of his opportunities in minicamp practices and in training camp, he also could see more playing time in 2008.


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