Top Three Training Camp Battles


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2011 Packer Training Camp Matchups

Burnett versus Peprah

You won't hear any complaints about Charlie Peprah's performance in 2010 after filling in for the up-and-coming Morgan Burnett. But, is that level of play enough to replace Burnett as the starter at strong safety in 2011? One would assume that if Burnett was able to win the starting job out of camp as a 21 year-old rookie then he should certainly be able to repeat as a stronger and more mature second year pro.

Let's not forget that Peprah made some big plays down the stretch last season, such as his interception of Jay Cutler in a tight Week 17 game against the Bears. There is no doubt in my mind what the coaching staff wants out of the winner of this competition: a willing tackler who can defend against the run. That, unfortunately, is difficult to measure in training camp. Preseason performances could be crucial here.

Grant versus Starks

Stealing the starting tailback job from Ryan Grant might be harder for James Starks than some fans expected. Grant inferred in the offseason that he was healthy enough to play in the Super Bowl and just recently played up his overall physical state. It's been made clear that the starting job is Grant's to lose; will Starks have real opportunities to pry the job away from Grant in camp? I'm not so sure.

The way I see it: Starks doesn't have enough under his belt to unseat Grant with mere training camp and preseason impressions. More likely is the gradual shift in touches during the season if Starks is outperforming Grant. Two things that could work in Starks' favor: his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and helping Brandon Jackson's absence go unnoticed in pass protection.

Zombo versus Walden

The Packers have the depth to go a number of different ways at outside linebacker this season. In camp, Frank Zombo will get first shot at the starting lineup; but Erik Walden has to be considered an equally competitive option, having exhibited several strong performances late in the 2010 season. Walden is said to be a strong option against the run, which could factor into the coaches' decision.

The competition at outside linebacker is significantly more open-ended than the two other positional battles. Brad Jones, a pleasant surprise from 2009, is largely in the mix for the starting role, as is rookie sack artist Ricky Elmore, if he can manage to blow away Kevin Greene and the defensive coaching staff. Look for this competition to come down to the wire, likely being decided after the last preseason game.

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