It's time for the sixth annual "Best & Worst Case Scenario" series, a feature that goes back to the days of the old RailbirdCentral.com domain.
I attempt to take a look at what is the very best possible season a player is capable of producing, and on the other hand, what would happen if a player fell flat on his face (without assuming they suffer a season-ending injury). These are intended to be extreme scenarios on both sides of the spectrum. More than likely, each player is going to fall somewhere in the middle, but every now and then, they just so happen to come to fruition.
As one final note, I also try to take a look at what these scenarios would be from an individual standpoint and not necessarily what's best for the team.
Best-case scenario: No. 1, Williams regains full strength in his shoulder one season after suffering nerve damage, which limited his effectiveness in 2011. No longer are tackling and jamming receivers at the line of scrimmage an issue. And because he's healthy, Williams has nearly as good as season in 2012 as he did in 2010 when the Packers won the Super Bowl when he had nine combined interceptions between the regular season and playoffs. He also has 20-plus passes defensed once again.
Worst-case scenario: It's not like the old shoulder injury prevents Williams from playing, but it's clear he's not operating at 100%. It somewhere around 90 to 95%. And while 95% of a healthy Williams is still good, it's not great. He has a season a lot like 2011 with four or so interceptions, but some of the better receivers in the NFL like Calvin Johnson can take advantage of him.
Best-case scenario: The shoulder dislocation that House suffered in the first preseason game is merely a speed bump. The Packers and House decide not to have surgery, and House is back for the start of the regular season. If he's not a starter in Week 1, he will be shortly thereafter. House shows marked improvement over his rookie season, and while there's still a learning curve with him, it looks like he'll be a starter for a long time to come in Green Bay.
Worst-case scenario: Because he needs an extra long time to recover, House misses several weeks of action in the regular season. By the time he returns, he's passed up by the other cornerbacks on the depth chart. House still plays on defense in some of the subpackage defenses, but he doesn't start. Improvement is made, but perhaps not enough for some people's liking. He enters 2013 as a make-or-break season.
Best-case scenario: The message finally sinks in. It takes a while, but eventually Shields gets out of the doghouse and assumes the same job he held for much of the past two seasons: perimeter cornerback opposite Williams. Shields might never be a form tackler, but he at least becomes a willing tackler. Best of all, he sets a career-high in single-season interceptions with four or more.
Worst-case scenario: Shields falls out of favor in Green Bay. He's behind House, Bush and Hayward on the depth chart and rarely sees any time on the field. The Packers consider trading him. And if that doesn't work, he spends more time on special teams and the inactive list than he does on the defensive side of the football.
Best-case scenario: Hayward benefits from the injury to Davon House. Whether he wins the starting job or not is really immaterial, because at the very minimum, Hayward plays a big role in the Packers' nickel and dime defenses, which they play more often than the base 3-4 anyway. With is solid play, Hayward is able to grab several interceptions over the course of the season and make the NFL's All-Rookie team.
Worst-case scenario: Hayward isn't able to find much playing time at a crowded position outside of the dime defense when six defensive backs are on the field. He has his ups and downs during his rookie season, making a good play here and there, but getting beat on a couple passes too. The season isn't a total wash for Hayward, but it's clear he has to make some major improvements if he's going to be a factor in the NFL.
Best-case scenario: Bush wins the starting cornerback job opposite Tramon Williams. It might be a case like it was in the playoffs last year when Bush played on early downs and Shields played on late downs, but Bush ends up playing a big role in both the base defense and in the subpackages. And in any case, he remains one of the best special teams players on the team.
Worst-case scenario: Bush's primarily role remains on special teams where he's a captain and arguably the most valuable member of that unit. As for defense, he loses out on playing time to some combination of House, Shields and/or Hayward. Even though he's a solid tackler, Bush's shortcomings in coverage are just too much to overcome.
Best-case scenario: It's a replay of last season when Ross is asked to be on the practice squad for a second consecutive year. It's not a spot on the 53-man roster like he wants, but Ross can solace in the knowledge that he's only an injury away from being called up to the big-time.
Worst-case scenario: While Ross has been solid during his time with the Packers, he's rarely been impressive, and Thursday marks his last time in a Packers uniform. Following the preseason finale against the Chiefs, Ross is cut and not offered a spot on the practice squad.
Best-case scenario: Thanks in large part to his 60-yard kickoff return in preseason action, Merrill impressed the Packers enough to keep him around on the practice squad ahead of Ross. There's some raw, talented ability within Merrill, and the Packers use the entire year to develop and coax it out of him.
Worst-case scenario: The 60-yard kickoff return was as good as it got for Merrill. Following Friday's cut, it looks as if he'll be relegated to action in the Arena or Canadian football leagues.
Brian Carriveau is the editor at Cheesehead TV. To contact Brian, email [email protected].
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