In the third of this multi-part series, I will examine the Green Bay Packers 2010 undrafted free agent offensive linemen (Nick McDonald and Chris Campbell) and their chances of making the 53-man roster or practice squad.
Will one of these offensive linemen spin the wheel of fortune and land a big jackpot or will they hit bankrupt and go away empty-handed?
In each of the last five years, at least one UDFA has made the Packers’ 53-man roster. In 2009, it was offensive lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith. Lets look at the 2010 UDFA OL candidates and evaluate their chances…
Part Three – OFFENSE – Offensive Linemen
Nick McDonald: Grand Valley State, 6’4”, 316lbs, 5.21 40yd time, 1.85 10yd time, 27” vertical, 27 reps@225lbs, and a 8’6” broad jump. He pulled a hamstring during his 40, so he could not participate in the short shuttle or cone drills.
Scouting Report: Quick and strong – often leads ‘around the corner’ on sweeps. 300+ pounds but still agile and able to get position on LB/DBs. Makes solid contact and destroys his opponent. Great footwork and mechanics in pass protection against some of D-II’s best pass rushers.
McDonald played special teams and multiple positions along the line during his career, making him a versatile player that should make a roster because of his versatility and ability to help in multiple positions.
Signed by Green Bay as a non-drafted free agent on April 30, 2010… A four-year letterman, he played in 44 games with 29 starts during his career at Grand Valley State (Allendale, Mich.)… Started all 15 games at LT for the Lakers as a senior, and was named the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Offensive Lineman of the Year… Was named Division 2 first team All-American, Helped the Lakers rush for 227.5 yards per game (11th in the country) and have two RBs eclipse the 1,000-yard rushing mark on the season… Anchored a line that allowed only 0.6 sacks per game, which ranked No. 3 in the nation… Earned second-team All-GLIAC honors as a junior in 2008 when he started all 12 games at RG… McDonald had a better 40 time then top guard prospects, Iupati, Petrus, Johnson, Beadles. Only Iupati had a better 10 yard time at 1.84 seconds.
McDonald’s mother died when he was 14, and father abandoned him and three siblings, who were forced to split up. Much like Michael Oher, he was taken in by a family who treated him like a son and still does to this day. He had trouble handling independence and nearly drank himself off the team as a freshman. The coaches had an “intervention”. set him on the right path. He says he has matured and that he’ll join the Marines if an NFL career doesn’t work out.
Scouting Report: Campbell has the talent to become a good starting left tackle, but he has a lot of work to do first. He is a tall, well-built prospect with the long arms, quickness and athleticism to slide out and block edge pass rushers. He also has the agility to move outside and block effectively in space. Despite these positives, Campbell won’t be a high pick because his technique is very raw and he gets beaten too often. He won’t be able to contribute any time soon, which is why he’ll most likely be a seventh-round pick or a free agent.
Signed by Green Bay as a non-drafted free agent on April 30, 2010… Came to Eastern Illinois as a walk-on and finished his career as the starting LT… Played in 30 games with 12 starts during his senior year. Earned second-team All-Ohio Valley Conference honors as a senior… Played in the Texas vs. The Nation all-star game following his senior season… As a junior in 2008, played in all 12 games on special teams while also serving as a backup LT… nickname is ‘Big Baby’… Born in Chicago.
High school and college coaches have always talked about Campbell’s “potential”, but not until senior year in college did the player nicknamed “Big Baby” start to realize his potential. Even then, his college coach was unsure if he could play at the next level. in stepped agent Joe Linta.
Linta’s reputation in 20 years as an agent has been made by identifying unknowns and turning them into knowns. He’s located the likes of Pro Bowl center Matt Birk from Harvard, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco from Delaware, Steelers starting offensive tackle Willie Colon from Hofstra and Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher from Maine.
Linta was convinced Campbell had the needed talent and worked hard to get him into the Texas vs. the Nation All-Star game. Campbell did well there, opened some eyes and quickly rose up NFL draft boards. (Read the full story from Scott Powers, ESPN Chicago.)
Campbell is a definite project, a kid with all the physical tools that has to prove he really wants to work hard to earn an NFL career. An underachiever until senior year in college, you have to wonder about a huge guy nicknamed “Big Baby” that could only bench press 225lbs 14 times. Heck, there were 25 wide receiver prospects this Spring that performed at least that many reps.
Despite the doubts, many NFL teams were enamored with his potential and he was a hot commodity after the draft ended. The Packers outbid six other teams for Campbell, with the Jets being the primary competition.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy has been hinting this off-season that he is finally looking to designate a primary position for all his OL, where they would take the majority of their practice reps. This also includes backups, so if a starter goes down, there will be a ready substitute who has practiced mostly at that position.
This would be as opposed to what the Packers did last season, when they chose to disrupt multiple OL positions by moving starters around when injuries hit. The end result should be a player that is more assignment sure, which can often more than compensate for a slightly lower talent level.
The Packers kept 10 offensive lineman (including snapper Bret Goode) coming out of training camp last season, along with an eleventh, Jamon Meredith, being signed to the practice squad. I would look for the Packers to try to hold onto 12 linemen this year, assuming McDonald, Campbell and draft choice Marshall Newhouse, all show evidence of the “potential” they’ve been tagged with.
Lets look at the Packers 15 OL candidates currently on the roster…
Sure Things: Clifton, Wells, Sitton, Tauscher, Bulaga, Lang, Spitz, Colledge, Goode
Maybes: Barbre, Giacomini, Dietrich-Smith, Newhouse, McDonald, Campbell
Looking at the tackle position, It’s Clifton and Tauscher as starters with Bulaga and Lang, respectively, as their backups. I don’t believe Barbe will ever line up as a tackle again, so he’s out of the picture at that position. So that leaves Giacomini and Campbell as other competitors at the tackle position.
Giacomini is the big mystery at that spot. The question being, why did he occupy a roster spot for the entire season, but never saw the field, even when Clifton and Tauscher were out and Barbre and Colledge struggled as fill-in replacements. On the one hand, the Packers obviously wanted to keep him on the team, yet they wouldn’t use him, even in a time of dire need.
Packers OL coach James Campen recently commented that Giacomini had a chance to beat out Tauscher for the starting job. From what we’ve seen of Giacomini, that pretty hard to believe. Is he looking to motivate Giacomini, or maybe Tauscher? And what would that mean for Lang? If Giacomini plays well enough to be #1 or #2 at RT, is Lang then allowed to compete for the left guard position?
Campbell has the physical measurables, but is too much of a project to take a roster spot. If he shows enough in camp, perhaps the Packers stash him on the practice squad, but more likely, he’s a camp cut.
Looking at the guard position, only one spot is set. Josh Sitton is the starting right guard.His backup will probably come form either Marshall Newhouse, Evan Dietrich-Smith or Nick McDonald. Newhouse is a very smart player, but will have a tough time making this roster unless a guard is moved or Spitz’ back is still a problem. Newhouse would be an excellent practice squad addition (unless Buffalo needs a guard, in which case, never mind…).
Last summer, I predicted that an UDFA OL would make the Packers roster (I picked Andrew Hartline over Dietrich-Smith, but the ability to play center was the deciding factor). The need was there and Dietrich-Smith took advantage of the opportunity.
Unfortunately, I think Dietrich-Smith is beaten out this year by a better version of himself, Nick McDonald. The Packers were seen giving McDonald some reps at center during OTAs, so I believe this is already on the Packers coaches’ radar. On the other hand, Dietrich-Smith is not practice squad eligible, which works in his favor. If the Packers think McDonald would be safe on the practice squad, perhaps they go that route as a way to keep both players.
As for left guard, there are many options. Colledge, Spitz and Newhouse will be the initial combatants there, but Alan Barbre and TJ Lang have also been mentioned as possibly getting looks there. Barbre is always talked about as the most athletic lineman on the Packers (special teams value), but I feel Lang would be the ideal choice, if he isn’t needed at T.
Colledge comes in as the returning starter and someone will have to take his job. His argument is, if you stop moving me around and just let me play left guard, I’ll be fine. I tend to agree with him. He has played well at guard for the Packers in previous years, so there’s no reason to think he can’t do it again. On the other hand, if the Packers are happy with their overall OL depth and Jason Spitz’s back is not an issue, Colledge would certainly bring the most value in a trade.
At center, Scott Wells solidified his hold on the job last season. While he’s not going to make any Pro Bowl teams, he took charge when he played, something the more talented Spitz did not do. When wells comes up to the line, you can see him pointing things out and giving directions to his teammate. Spitz would just come up to the ball, bend down over it and snap. You just can’t underestimate the importance of a center being the QB of the offensive line.
Spitz would act as the backup to Wells, unless he wins the left guard spot or his back is still an issue. In either of those cases, Dietrich-Smith or McDonald becomes the primary backup at center.
While Mike McCarthy would like to have a set starter and backup at each position, I don’t think that will be 100% possible. For one thing, that would mean carrying one more OL than last year. But even with that scenario, it’s very likely there will be at least two backups that will have more than one position responsibility.
Attempting to predict the OL unit that breaks camp, with all the possibilities discussed above and more, is fairly futile. But that won’t stop me from trying.
First, I will give you the OL unit results I think would be best for the Packers. (similar to Brian Carriveau’s Best Case / Worst Case series he’s been doing over at CheeseheadTV, except there’s no worst case.) Then I’ll give you my prediction for what will actually happen.
WHAT I HOPE HAPPENS:
Giacomini rewards the coaches’ faith in keeping him around for 2 years by showing he can be a capable backup to Tauscher. That allows TJ Lang to compete at left guard and win the starting job. Jason Spitz’s back is healthy and becomes the primary backup at C, while also covering the guard spot.. That allows for Daryn Colledge, to be traded for a need, as Tony Moll was (hopefully the player obtained is not cut, though). Now let’s be clear, I have nothing against Daryn Colledge. In fact, I think he has the most value in a trade, which is why I’ve gone in this direction. For this scenario, I am taking one more OL than last season, so sorry 3rd fullback, you’re out of here…
LT: Clifton, Bulaga
LG: Lang, Barbre
C: Wells, Spitz
RG: Sitton, McDonald
RT: Tauscher, Giacomini
Practice Squad: Newhouse and/or Campbell
WHAT WILL HAPPEN:
Lang is needed at RT, as Giacomini does not step up and is finally let go. Colledge easily holds onto his starting LG spot, as the Packers are still concerned about the ability of Jason Spitz’s back to hold up under a heavy load. They keep Spitz as a primary backup at C with ability to fill in at either guard spot. McDonald take Dietrich-Smith’s all-purpose spot. As in my previous scenario, the Packers keep one more OL than last season.
LT: Clifton, Bulaga
LG: Colledge, Barbre
C: Wells, Spitz
RG: Sitton, McDonald
RT: Tauscher, Lang
Practice Squad: Newhouse and/or Campbell——————
Jersey Al Bracco is the founder and editor of AllGreenBayPackers.com, and the co-founder of Packers Talk Radio Network. He can be heard as one of the Co-Hosts on Cheesehead Radio and is the Green Bay Packers Draft Analyst for Drafttek.com.