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Green Bay Packers

3 key training camp battles to watch for Packers

Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy participates in an NFL football practice Tuesday May 23, 2017, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Matt Ludtke)
AP Photo/Matt Ludtke

The Green Bay Packers will begin training camp next week. They will enter the season once again with Super Bowl aspirations.

Coach Mike McCarthy has stressed competition repeatedly since the team’s season ended in the playoffs at the hands of the Atlanta Falcons. The Packers have added outside help in free agency as well as their usual work in the draft. All of those factors add together to make what should be an intriguing training camp.

While there will certainly be more than three, here are some of the battles to keep an eye on as training camp progresses.

Outside cornerback

This is not strictly a one-on-one battle. Davon House is likely to start on one side, as he was signed as a free agent. Multiple reports have surfaced that he has become the leader of that group. That should come as no surprise, as he is the elder statesmen.

What happens across from him is where the intrigue hits. Damarious Randall was starting on the boundary last season. Injuries and inconsistent play ruined his season. Through OTAs, the Packers have been playing Randall at their “star” position, or in the slot.

That is a position that may suit Randall’s skill set better. He’s got good ball skills, and has made plays in his young career.

Apart from Randall, there are three other players vying for that starting spot opposite of House. Ladarius Gunter is the holdover from last season.

Gunter received a lot of heat for the way his season ended. Honestly, he was placed in a position that he never should have been. Gunter has been a fine player when they’ve been able to cover up his flaws.

By the end of last season, Gunter was being asked to cover Odell Beckham Jr, Dez Bryant and Julio Jones in consecutive weeks. Even if Gunter reaches his ceiling, that’s something that should never happen.

Gunter has competed in his young career as an undrafted free agent. That’s something that carries over to the field. He competes on every play. He has good size, which is something the Packers could favor, to go with his experience.

The final two players battling for this position are a pair of second-round picks. Quinten Rollins is in the same boat as Randall. His 2016 season was ruined by injuries. He flashed during his rookie season, but did little to convince anyone during his second season that he was ready for prime time. Rollins needs to remain healthy and show improvement in his footwork to become a quality player in this league.

Green Bay Packers cornerback Quinten Rollins (24) lines up against the Arizona Cardinals during an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. (Jeff Haynes/AP Images for Panini)

(Jeff Haynes/AP Images for Panini)

The other player was the Packers’ first selection in this year’s draft. Kevin King has drawn some comparisons to Richard Sherman because of his size and speed. It’s unlikely that King will be as good as Sherman in his rookie season, but that raw ability is there.

King is 6-foot-3 and ran a 4.4 40 at the combine. His deep speed is something the Packers sorely missed last season. They are significantly faster in the secondary this season, and King is one of the big reasons why. While he has some polishing to do on his technique, cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt is someone that can get that out of him. King could be a player that is a factor early in the Packers’ season.

Inside linebacker

This is the position that will shape the future of the Packers defense. They have three holdovers at this position. Jake Ryan, Blake Martinez, and Joe Thomas all played significant snaps last season. It’s also possible that none of those guys see the majority of the snaps at inside linebacker.

Ryan is the only one that flashed some above-average ability, but his ceiling is likely just that.

Where this position gets interesting is the Packers’ ideas with hybrid players. Hybrids are nothing new to the NFL, but coordinator Dom Capers finally has the personnel to use them. Morgan Burnett played some inside linebacker last season; he may continue that this season. Josh Jones has been used all over the field since he arrived in Green Bay. He certainly will see some time at inside linebacker.

Clay Matthews is another option to move all over the formation as well. The Packers have a lot of options at this spot. They can play against a variety of formations as well. That’s a luxury that Capers did not have a season ago.

Wide receiver

Everyone around the league knows the Packers have Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams, and Randall Cobb. After that, nothing really is set in stone. Geronimo Allison came on toward the end of last season, but he’s far from a roster lock. Jeff Janis is a folk hero in Green Bay, but he’s never had any sustained success as a receiver. Trevor Davis got lost in the shuffle last season due to mental errors.

The Packers also drafted two receivers. Deangelo Yancey (Purdue) and Malachi Dupre (LSU) were picked in the fifth and seventh rounds, respectively.

Yancey will remind Packers fans a lot of James Jones. Dupre looks like a player who was caught in a bad offense with a bad quarterback.

The Packers have kept seven receivers before, but that is unlikely to happen again. The players behind the main trio are going to have to make the most of their opportunities when they get them.

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