The Green Bay Packers began the season with 10 rookies on the 53-man roster. That’s a pretty high number – especially for a team than won 15 games the previous year. But GM Ted Thompson didn’t hang on to all those rookies to save money or to make himself look good. He kept them because they could play. In fact, seven have played significant roles in the team’s march to its second straight NFC North title.
I’ll be ranking the rookies – from least productive to most productive – over the next couple of weeks. Here’s #10:
Story of 2012 – Had it not been for a summer illness that dropped his weight to under 220 pounds, there’s a chance Terrell Manning could’ve been one of the most productive rookies on this year’s team. That’s because the defensive coaches were desperate at inside linebacker after Desmond Bishop and D.J. Smith went down with season-ending injuries, and it’s safe to assume Manning would’ve gotten the call ahead of Brad Jones had he been healthy in camp. Instead, the former NC State standout was relegated to special teams, where he began to make a major impact down the stretch.
What to expect in 2013 – If A.J. Hawk and his bloated salary is finally released, there figures to be an open competition to fill his spot. Manning, Smith (if healthy), Jones (if re-signed) and perhaps a rookie will likely battle it out in camp for the chance to start next to Bishop. Of the three returnees, Manning has the least experience but the most talent. He runs fairly well (4.62) and shows pop on contact. He’s a little stiff in coverage, but he moves better in space than either Hawk or Smith. He also showed the ability to blitz in college – something the Packers value but haven’t really had at the “buck” linebacker spot in years.