What Holes Remain on Packers Roster After the Draft?

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Packers Draft Pick Jerel Worthy
New Packers D-lineman Jerel Worthy should help the team's feeble pass rush.

So all those holes on the Packers defense are patched now, right?

Someone to get after the quarterback opposite Clay Matthews? We got Nick Perry for that.

A defensive lineman to fill the void left by Cullen Jenkins? Say hello to Jerel Worthy.

Defensive backs that can cover and won’t shy away from making a tackle every now and then? Welcome to Green Bay, Casey Hayward and Jerron McMillian.

If only it was that simple. Unfortunately, none of the Packers shiny new toys acquired in the draft have played a snap in the NFL. As excited as Packers fans are to have so many new faces — especially on defense — there’s no guarantee that they’ll make the team any better.

Right now the only tangible asset these draft choices provide is hope. What else does a football team have to sell in April?

But let’s be extra positive and assume that the Packers aced this draft and everyone they selected in rounds 1-4 does what they’re supposed to do and makes the Packers better.

Even if all the rookies fit right in, what other holes remain on the Packers roster?

Inside linebacker
Desmond Bishop is fine, but it’s going to be tough getting through the upcoming season without hurling a brick through my TV if A.J. Hawk doesn’t play better than he did last season. Yes, D.J. Smith and Robert Francois showed promise when they filled in, but it’s still fair to call one of the two inside linebacker positions on this team a hole if Hawk doesn’t bounce back.

Backup interior offensive line
Evan Dietrich-Smith did fine when pressed into action at guard in 2011, but I’d rather not see him snapping the ball to Aaron Rodgers in 2012. Thompson didn’t find a backup center or a center for the future in the draft, which means Dietrich-Smith is likely next in line if Jeff Saturday gets hurt (Sampson Genus also could factor in).

There’s more to playing center than snapping the ball and blocking guys. Centers are usually in charge of setting the pre-snap pass protection, calling out blitzes and acting as the quarterback of the offensive line. Is Dietrich-Smith or some other inexperienced player ready to fill that role on a Super-Bowl caliber team? I’d rather not find out.

If Dietrich-Smith is forced to play center, that leaves a gap at backup guard. Ray Dominguez is the only other guard with any experience on the roster.

Running back
Personally, I’m fine with James Starks, Alex Green and Brandon Saine in the backfield. But it’s hard to argue that running back shouldn’t be considered a hole.

Starks has been unreliable. Green is coming off major knee surgery. And Saine barely played last season. I’m not overly worried about Green Bay’s running backs, but if someone is, I’d say those worries are justified.

Backup safety
Remember, we’re assuming that players drafted in rounds 1-4 are going to step right up and fill in, which means Jerron McMillian will plug right into safety opposite of Morgan Burnett. That leaves Charlie Peprah as the backup. I’d rather not have to watch Peprah back there ever again.

Backup quarterback
Dear God, please keep Aaron Rodgers healthy all season. That is all.

Honorable mention
I thought about including tackle, but decided I was fine with Marshall Newhouse, Derek Sherrod and Bryan Bulaga.

Otherwise, that’s it. Only five areas that concern me and three involve backups, not starters.

What say you? Has my post-draft euphoria clouded my judgement and turned me into an overconfident homer? Am I missing any other glaring holes on this team?

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Adam Czech is a freelance reporter and a Packers fan living in the Twin Cities. Follow Adam on Twitter. Read more of Adam\\\'s writing on the Packers here.

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  • ThomasMagnumPI

    I would put interior Offensive Line at #1, but whatever.

    It seems that alot of people are talking about how GB drafted lots of 4-3 (one-gap) players this year, which begs the question of whether they will be running some type of hybrid 1-gap/2-gap defense this year. If they are indeed planning on a hybrid, then maybe that would bring into question whether they really have the depth required at each position. For instance, will Neal really be switching to OLB and backing up Perry on the 1-gap side?

    Also, even if they are not planning on running a hybrid defense, I don’t know if some of these guys really fit as 2-gap 5 technique ends? I’ve read that he’s a one-gap only guy so I guess that could be concerning.

    • Adam Czech

      Listed in no particular order.

  • Gerard

    Bot sure why you think AJ Hawk is a hole??? Although he doesn’t usually make the spectacular play, he is rarely ever out of position, makes the fundamental tackles and plays solid. He doesn’t celebrate every minor play like an idiot and draw attention. He calls the plays with calm professionalism and reads the offense. I consider him a definite strength.

    • Adam Czech

      “He doesn’t celebrate every minor play like an idiot and draw attention.”

      You mean like flipping the bird on national TV?

    • FireMMNow

      hawk missed the second most tackles on the team last year. last year was his worst year as a packer. he was not a + player and was outperformed by dj smith.

    • Elle

      The majority of his career, you are correct. Last year? You are incorrect. He missed more tackles than I did sitting at home on the couch watching the games.

      • Adam Czech

        I have you down for 38 missed tackles from your couch, Elle. Not a good season for you.

  • Ed Schoenfeld

    The problem with a ‘natural’ 5-technique is that they don’t get pressure against the passer. Guys like Pickett, Wilson, Muir, and Neal are already on the roster (no way Neal goes to OLB, I just hope he can be a serviceable backup if they need one after his suspension).

    Worthy, Daniels, Hargrove were all brought in to take on that RDE position that Jenkins used to play — enough run stopping to be worth adding to the line in short yardage, but primarily to create pressure on passing downs (in a 2-4-5 or 1-4-6 scheme like they play on 70% of the downs anyway) while providing run support than Jerious Wynn.

    Raji can do both. If Worthy decides to work up to his talent, he is talented enough to eventually do both. That gives 6 guys who can play true 5-techniqu (and two, Raji and Pickett, who can play nose) on a roster that needs 4 like that.

    Plenty of depth and competition, and 3 potential replacements for Jenkins, also plenty of depth and competition.

    • Adam Czech

      Agreed Ed. There’s no rule against 3-4 DEs putting some pressure on the QB. In order to free up Matthews (and Perry), a good 3-4 DE provides enough of a rush to at least get the other team’s attention.

      • ThomasMagnumPI

        I agree 100% that GB needs a pass rush from the 5 techniques. When I read that a guy is a one-gap player, I don’t see how that translates very well to the traditional 5 technique’s roll of stacking and shedding blockers and commanding double-teams.

        If Jenkins was more of a one-gap 5 technique then no worries–give me his and the 2010 defense’s production any day!

        • PackersRS

          I don’t remember Jenkins playing the 5 technique, not in base. He played it in jumbo situations, and maybe some nickel, but never in base, and never with the traditional 2 gap responsabilities that Pickett has played.

          In fact, thinking about it, I don’t remember a stance where the Packers used their 3 DLinemen, in base, all with 2 gap responsabilities, and with the 2 DEs playing outside the Tackle.

          I know that McGinn keeps talking about the Packers wanting longer DEs, but the only guy they’ve gotten bigger than 6’4″ is Lawrence Guy…

    • PackersRS

      Well, some guys do, but they’re the exception to the rule. Like Ngata and Seymour.

      I’ve had this discussion before. All around great 5 tech DEs, there aren’t a lot in the league. Lots of guys that can rush the passer, lots of guys that can hold the point well, but to do both? It’s rare.

      The Packers are obviously going with situational Dlinemen. Intrigued by how many they’ll carry for the 53 man.

  • Ed Schoenfeld

    Generally, I agree that OL depth is a concern (I would not skip Tackle, we don’t know how Sherrod is recovering from a really nasty broken leg). I also wish they would pay a little more attention to RB.

    I think there is room for another prospect at D-Back, especially if they move Woodson to S.

    Harrell will be OK as the backup QB — there isn’t a veteran available who could win out if Aaron goes down, so it’s not worth adding one now. (Your prayer is devoutly seconded.)

    • Ed Schoenfeld

      I wanted to add:

      Free agency isn’t over yet, and Trader Ted has been known to make swaps for RB help during training camp.

      I don’t think the Mad Genius is done yet — we may see moves after the rookie mini-camp, when the coaches will evaluate these guys in person.

      • nkrommen

        Terrell Manning will provide depth at inside linebacker and QB is as good as its going to get. There’s never a good year or good enough QB depth for Aaron Rodgers to get hurt. And I think we will be ok at RB. Check out Duane Bennett highlights on youtube. He’s an undrafted free agent pickup. Looks like he could be a very effective 3rd down back. The depth of the entire O line and the safety position are my only concerns for this team.

        • BirdDogUni

          If you’re so high on Duane Bennett… You shouldn’t be so worried about Safety with FHOF’er Sean Richardson! 6’21/2 216lbs…

          : )

          OLine is going to be awesome! And with FHOF’ers Barclay & Draheim why worry about the line? : )

          Go Pack Go!

          • BubbaOne

            It’s reported they’ll move Richardson to LB, probably to cover the speedy TE’s and RB’s that abused Hawk, and sometimes Bishop.(Hawk better slim down and work on his speed and agility).

            I would argue this is the deepest OL we’ve had under TT. Don’t forget, the staff likes OT Chris Campbell and he was playing well last camp til a knee surgery derailed him. And we may get a backup OC from the UDFA OG/OT’s.

            • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

              that was some media guy theat suggested that. Others have since said it’s not anything the Packers have suggested.

  • jonny

    “…AJ Hawk is a hole”…nice.

  • PackersRS

    I refuse to listen to any reasoning whatsoever. The Packers roster is perfect and that’s it!

    You’ll be watching plenty of Peprah this year, Adam. And Hawk will still be dragged almost every time. Be more patient, or earn more money. ;)

    The D will be much improved, I believe, and the offense will be the juggernaut it is supposed to be, but counting on more than 2 rookies making a significant impact is not wise. McMillian, from everything that’s been said, and taking into consideration that he played in the I-AA, is at least 2 years away of being able to start, and the transition to the pros is hard for CBs.

    I think expecting Perry and Worthy to provide situational rush and relief for tired starters is fine, but IMO it’s better to hope that House, Levine and M.D. Jennings will push the starters than the rookies.

  • Terry

    I don’t think any team is without holes. Green Bay certainly has weak spots. However, they also have strengths to compensate for those weaknesses.

    I agree with your analysis of what those weak spots may be. I think running back is fine for most situations, but really shows its weakness on third and fourth and short. We just don’t seem to be able to cosistently pick those up.

    I would also like to see a cornerback come in and play well. Ted seems to not have the knack of picking good cornerbacks. He has more luck with free agents. I hope that Hayward doesn’t turn into another CB bust.

  • BubbaOne

    ILB: MM said we’ll see more of Lattimore and Jones inside. Terrell Manning is to be moved inside and he can cover as well as blitz. Sean Richardson is to be converted to LB and I have to assume ILB.
    RB: besides the UDFA’s it’s not out of the Q we resign Grant.
    QB: If none of the 3 pan out TT can sign a current FA, one that will be released, or trade for one, like McCoy.
    S: Between Jennings, Peprah, McMillian, Levine, Bush, and Woodson Capers will find someone to pair w/ Burnett.
    OL: I think we’re fine. Deepest we’ve been in the TT era.

  • johnnypackerfan

    I am so tired of A.J. Hawk. Lets not forget that Hawk flipped off the coaching staff from the field last year. He has been middle of the road as a player and makes no game changing plays. I would rather drop off his salary and go with D.J. Smith who in my opinion has a higher ceiling. AJ Hawk will never get better than what he is now. In fact, he hasn’t gotten better from college.

    • tlvincent4

      Hawk is getting worse every year, he put forth one of the worst seasons at LB I have ever watched. The guy is the exact opposite of a “physical” trend setter or a “playmaker”, if he were a 3rd round pick he would be out of the league by now.

    • Bubbaloo

      johnnypackerfan, Hawk flipped off the coaching staff? Where do you get your information son? I’m not a big Hawk fan, but C’mon man, all you need to do is pick up a newspaper, check the internet, or turn on the radio to find out that you don’t know what you’re talking about. Even we California Packer fans were able to hear the facts. Obviously you didn’t!

  • Jy

    Looking at the DL, it seems like we’re heavy on pass rushers (Worthy, Neal, Hargrove) and less stout on run defense (Pickett and WIlson being the only two who are run stuffers.) Is this intuition wrong?

  • James david Marsh

    Look for a lot of changes in the 53 players on the active roster : WR’s D. Driver and J.Jones ; LB’s A. Hawk, F. Zombo, J. jones ; DL J.Wynn, C. Wilson, J. Jones ; DB’s C. Peprah, A. Levine. Already gone are Flynn, Clifton, Collins, and Grant.

  • Chad Lundberg

    The Packers never got an “ace in the hole” type of pick, but maybe they don’t need one. They just needed some players that are good and can do the job as capable starters. And I believe we got more than just that.

    I’m just gonna say it. The defense is fixed.

  • tlvincent4

    You are right on the mark about AJ Hawk, I don’t understand how the coaches can watch him on film and continue to trot him out there. What does he bring? Zero big plays, missed tackles, always falling down, etc. Before anyone sticks up for him, I ask you to just watch him for 12 plays in a row, he is terrible. He can’t even blitz effectively and he is always a step late. Please Terrell Manning beat him out this summer, pretty please:)

  • marpag

    If you’re assuming McMillian will step right in and unseat Peprah, well, I hope you’re right, but I have serious doubts.

    You’re saying that BACKUP safety is a problem. I would say that we could very well have legitimate issues with our STARTING safeties. I’m not sure we had one truly legit starter at safety last year. I’m still optimistic about Burnett in the future, but to say that we are set with our starting safeties is quite a reach in my opinion.

    • Bubbaloo

      marpag, I agree! I do think Burnett will be OK, he did play half the year with a cast. But who’s next to him? To me, that is the BIG question mark. I’m not fond of moving Woodson as I feel he’ll need time to adjust, so we gotta hope one of last year’s guys or a rookie steps up!

      • tlvincent4

        Morgan Burnett, heading to pro bowl after next year, wait, there isn’t going to be a pro bowl…

  • packernik

    Adam, I think you mostly nailed it. Except you sold DJ Smith short (no pun intended). He’s the one who might improve, not Hawk. AJ is who he is at this point, if anything he will get slowly worse. DJ has upside, and is already a better gap filler and penetrater. I think Manning will be the new Chillar in nickel. Also, this udfa Jaymes Brooks has potential to convert to center, and so expect him to give Dominguez a run for that roster spot behind EDS.

    • Adam Czech

      Can’t say I disagree. I’m just not ready to proclaim Smith good enough to throw out ILB as a potential hole.

      (I apologize for overuse of the word hole in my post)

  • Shavager

    Saw DJ Smith out of position numerous times against the Chiefs in the first loss, matter of fact it was his failure to control end of the line against the run game late in the game that clinched the win for Chiefs with a first down run, ironically it was Hawk from his inside position who ran down the runner from behind. Smith shined on a few plays in one game, just as Francois did and Walden did in SB year. Likely backing up again this year with Manning while Walden, Zombo, Jones, Francois fight for position on the 53 man roster. Interesting will be who starts on the D-line, big Howard Green’s gone leaving Wilson, Wynn, Worthy, Muir, Hargrove among top competitors for roster spots.