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: Following a season in which he tallied only 6.5 sacks, Matthews returns to his 2010 form when he had 13.5 sacks and finished second in the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year voting. The additions of Nick Perry, Jerel Worthy and company help when teams can no longer focus so heavily on Matthews. More than just the sacks, though, Matthews is a well-rounded player with multiple interceptions and forced fumbles. He's one of the top five defensive players in the league.
Worst-case scenario: The Packers have issues rushing the passer just like they did a year ago, and as a result, teams continue to double- and triple-team Matthews. The individual statistics are nearly the same as a year ago when Matthews couldn't even reach double-digit sacks. He's still a good player who gives 100% effort on every play, he just isn't surrounded by many other good players.
Best-case scenario: Perry makes the NFL's All-Rookie team when he reaches eight sacks in his first season of professional football. He's not yet a Pro Bowl caliber player, but he could be in future seasons. The Packers get exactly what they need from Perry when he becomes a three-down player that doesn't need to be spelled or taken off the field in certain situations. He's not an expert in pass coverage, but he's making strides in that phase of his game.
Worst-case scenario: The Nick Perry of 2012 plays at level on par with the other starting linebacker in 2011, Erik Walden, which is to say, Perry plays at an adequate level, but there are too few flashes of brilliance. He has a couple of sacks and holds his ground against the run fairly well, but Perry is not yet an impact player. Maybe with another year of seasoning, he'll be better in 2013.
Best-case scenario: When Perry isn't yet ready for primetime, Walden gets more playing time than expected. He's not a full-time starter anymore, but Walden will spell Perry from time to time and becomes a core special teams player as well. His one-game suspension isn't a big deal, and Walden comes back in Week 2 ready to contribute.
Worst-case scenario: With Dezman Moses playing so well, and Brad Jones the better special teams player, the Packers ultimately decide to part ways with Walden. That way, they also don't have to worry about making a roster move just one week into the season when he's suspended. If injuries occur, Walden is only a phone call away, but he's still got to serve that suspension first.
Best-case scenario: Moses performs so well, he becomes the top backup to both Matthews and Perry. He doesn't see a ton of playing time on defense, but certainly sees more than any of the other backup outside linebackers on the roster. As far as special teams goes, he's one of the best players on the team. The Packers got a steal by getting Moses as an undrafted free agent.
Worst-case scenario: There's room for Moses on the 53-man roster, but he has to fight tooth and nail to get on the gameday 46-man roster with Erik Walden and Brad Jones. Walden is ahead of Moses on the defensive depth chart, and Jones ends up being the better special teams player, so Moses isn't always active. He plays well when he is active, however, and the future is still bright for Moses.
Best-case scenario: Playing time on defense comes sparingly, only in blowouts or when injuries occur, but Jones sticks on the team largely because of his special teams acumen. He's among the top tacklers on special teams, and Jones adds extra value because he can play inside linebacker in a pinch. He's not a great player by any means, but he fills his role on the team as best he can.
Worst-case scenario: Because of the emergence of Moses, Jones finds himself on the outs in Green Bay. Moses is the better player on defense and special teams, so there's no room for Jones. The Packers cut him on their final roster cutdown to 53.
Best-case scenario: It's more of the same from So'oto. He doesn't necessarily impress during practice, but he's gangbusters during preseason games. The Packers can't figure him out, but they don't question it either. He simply produces when the lights are on, and that's all that counts. He earns a spot on the 53-man roster, but only sees occasional playing time behind Matthews and Perry.
Worst-case scenario: The remainder of So'oto's preseason is pedestrian. He plays okay, but not enough to earn himself a spot on the roster for another season. He's behind at least five players on the depth chat, which is just too much ground to make up. So'oto is cut on the Packers' final cutdown date.
Best-case scenario: Zombo begins the regular season on the PUP list, which buys him at least six extra weeks to get healthy and impress. When he comes off the PUP list, he looks like a new person. It's a difficult choice, but when forced to make a choice on Zombo, the Packers decide to bring him back on the roster at midseason.
Worst-case scenario: The Packers simply can't wait on Zombo any longer. He's injured too often, and when he's not hurt, he's just a guy. The Packers might have to come to an injury settlement with Zombo, but eventually, he's released.
Brian Carriveau is the editor at Cheesehead TV. To contact Brian, email email@example.com.
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