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: Head coach Mike McCarthy suggested during the offseason that Bryan Bulaga is on the verge of becoming a Pro Bowl player, and that exact scencario comes to fruition in 2012. Allowed to stay at right tackle and gain comfort and consistency, Bulaga become arguably the best right tackle in the entire NFL. He's equally adept at both run and pass blocking and is named to the NFL's All-Pro team for the first time in his career.
Worst-case scenario: It's status quo for Bulaga in 2012. He's considered a good NFL tackle, but not a great one. As long as Bulaga is healthy and available, there's little to find fault with, however. All he's done since entering the league is become better and better, and that trend continues in 2012. He's just a step behind the elite tackles in the NFL, but there's still hope he can make that jump in another year's time.
Best-case scenario: The concussion Newhouse suffered in the Packers' intra-squad scrimmage was a minor speed bump in his development as the left tackle of the future. Since that time, Newhouse came back and solidified the position so the Packers didn't have to worry about using Herb Taylor or Andrew Datko at the position and Aaron Rodgers' health all at the same time. Newhouse takes a big step forward in 2012, playing much better than a season ago. There's still room for improvement, but he's in no danger of losing his job.
Worst-case scenario: The missed time from a concussion seemes to have stunted Newhouse's growth. He comes back and plays better than Taylor, Datko or any other left tackle candidate on the roster, but compared to other NFL left tackles, he's far behind the curve. With Newhouse in the lineup, Rodgers is on the run in the pocket far too often. As soon as Derek Sherrod is healthy, he's being looked at to replace Newhouse.
Best-case scenario: Sherrod is making strides as soon as he comes off the PUP list. The Packers bring him back slowly, and he begins the season as a backup, but within no time, he's pushing for a spot in the starting lineup. When Newhouse does little to impress, Sherrod takes over the starting left tackle job by midseason and isn't about to let it go anytime soon. The future is bright for the former first-round draft choice.
Worst-case scenario: First of all, Sherrod begins the regular season in the same place where he began training camp, on the PUP list. That means he's out for the first six games of the season at minimum. When he comes back, it takes him a while to get back in the groove. By season's end, he's healthy, but never challenges the starters for a spot in the lineup and is simply a backup. It's not time to give up on Sherrod yet, but he enters 2013 as potentially a make-or-break season.
Best-case scenario: Taylor rebounds from his horrible performance in the preseason opener at San Diego and becomes a solid, stopgap, backup player for the Packers. If the Packers have to rely on Taylor for a long, stretch of time, they're in trouble. But as long as he doesn't have to do anything more than start a game or two, the Packers can get by. He remains on the roster for the entire season.
Worst-case scenario: The preseason opener against the Chargers was a sign of things to come. Throughout the rest of the exhibition season, Taylor doesn't play any better. He's giving up sacks and in short order, he's passed up by Andrew Datko on the depth chart. Even newcomer Reggie Wells is a better option than Taylor. As such, Taylor is cut by the Packers' first cutdown date.
Best-case scenario: The rookie from Florida State gets better week in and week out. While Datko got off to a slow start to training camp, he was making strides during the preseason and it carries over into the regular season. He impresses enough to earn a spot on the 53-man roster, and while he begins the season as a backup, he's seriously being considered as a starter by season's end when neither Marshall Newhouse or Derek Sherrod do anything too impressive. Datko also shows no sign of being slowed by injury, which is definitely a step in the right direction considering his past history.
Worst-case scenario: It's one step forward, two steps back for Datko. Just when he seems to do something positive, he'll make a mistake or give up a sack during the preseason, which shows he's just not ready for primetime. He does show potential, however. The Packers can't afford to save a roster spot for him and have to cut him, but he is asked to be part of the practice squad. Datko still has a future with the Packers, he's just going to take some time to develop.
Best-case scenario: Wells stops the bleeding for the Packers. When injuries occur, he's the veteran presence Green Bay can rely upon. He's a lot like Taylor, except better. Wells isn't the preferred starter at any position, but he becomes the top backup at almost every position except center. If injuries prevent T.J. Lang, Josh Sitton, Newhouse or Bulaga to miss a game, Wells steps in and performs admirably. They can win with him in the lineup.
Worst-case scenario: Once the Packers expose Wells to a game-like environment in the preseason, it's readily apparent that he's past his prime. Just like Taylor, he brings a veteran's knowledge and professional attitude to the team, but that's about it. The Packers can't afford to carry Wells on their roster and decide they're better off with Andrew Datko if push comes to shove.
Best-case scenario: He's not flashy, but Allard quietly does a good job during the preseason for the Packers. He's clearly rough around the edges, but he shows that he's worth developing. In fact, it's possible he's better than Datko, but the jury is still out on that decision. He's cut at the end of training camp but joins the Packers practice squad.
Worst-case scenario: It's telling when Taylor and Datko struggle to protect the quarterback, and Allard can't even get ahead of them on the depth chart. He's just too raw, too inexperienced for the NFL, and his talent level is probably akin to the Canadian Football League instead of the NFL. Allard tries hard, but he's eventually cut without a practice squad invite.
Best-case scenario: McCabe has already been placed on injured reserve, but he avoids the injury settlement. He's able to stay with the Packers the entire season, rehab, lift weights and do all the classroom work. He'll give it a go again in 2013.
Worst-case scenario: The Packers come to an injury settlement with McCabe and that's the last we hear from him in Green Bay.
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