Down to their Last Chance
Last Updated on Monday, 29 November 1999 19:00 Written by Mike Davidsen Tuesday, 10 August 2010 23:30
Only about a month ago, I was about to write a bit about who was more likely to don the bust label between Justin Harrell and Pat Lee. We're only less than a week into camp, but it appears that there's a very legitimate chance that neither one will wear that hat out of Green Bay.
Both Harrell and Lee were early-round picks in recent drafts by Ted Thompson and both were relatively unknown by fans when they were selected. On top of that, both have had trouble staying healthy for the past several seasons and likely face their last real chance with the Packers. With fans about ready to give up on the injury-plagued youngsters, the two have shown progress this offseason and look very capable of making the team.
Harrell and Lee were dealt favorable hands going into this camp. Both are part of positional groups where the Packers are relatively thin. Harrell looks to add depth to a defensive line that just lost pass-deflecting artist Johnny Jolly while Lee aims to land the dime-back role with Al Harris potentially missing the start of the regular season. It seems that the right variables are in place for these two players to make the roster as long as they show the same potential that Ted Thompson saw a couple years back.
This is not to say that Harrell and Lee haven't done a little bit of impressing on their own this offseason. Harrell saw time with the first team offense in mini camps while Ryan Pickett was out and was able to hold his own. Meanwhile Lee's name has been a popular one from reporters with his superb play in training camp thus far. So is it actually a shoe-in for both players to make the team?
Not exactly. Even though Harrell benefitted from Johnny Jolly's suspension, he'll likely still need to beat out one defensive lineman if the Packers decide to keep the standard six down-lineman for a 3-4 defense. His competitors consist of 2009 sixth-round pick Jarius Wynn and 2010 seventh-round pick C.J. Wilson. Though a first-rounder should naturally trump these late-round picks, the Packers will surely keep in mind Harrell's track record in the injury department.
Lee faces a slightly easier road to make the roster due to the low ceiling for potential of his main competitor, Jarrett Bush. The Packers know what Bush is capable of and may have already decided that any adequate performance from Pat Lee or Josh Bell will send Bush packing. If the Packers decide to keep Bush around for his special teams ability, Lee's job could still be safe since rookie undrafted free agent Sam Shields is viewed as a project and doesn't know the defense as well as Lee does.
Health is a huge wildcard here. While the Packers would love to tap into the potential that they saw on draft day years back, the team can hardly afford to keep a roster spot available for someone who is susceptible to suffering another season-ending injury mid-way through the season.
It's still early in training camp but I'll say that both Harrell and Lee make the team this season. As far as which player will be the better contributor down the road, that's though to tell. Lee may see the starting spot of his position open quicker than Harrell. For now, both are focused on just making the team. Don't be surprised to see some contributions to the shaky pass defense from either player this season.