Starting next week, the Green Bay Packers begin Organized Team Activities, the first opportunity for the full complement of all 90 players on the offseason roster to take part in a practice environment.
By no means will jobs be won or lost in the May and June timeframe. At best, the bottom of the roster will be culled and turned over.
But roster battles will start to take shape and front-runners for starting positions will be identified.
Here's what to watch for at every position on the Packers roster:
Quarterback: The Scott Tolzien Conundrum
Obviously Aaron Rodgers is the unquestioned starter, but the battle is on to figure out his backup.
Because Scott Tolzien is entering his fourth year in the NFL and has no more practice squad eligibility, any competition is less about whether he'll be the No. 2 or No. 3 quarterback and more about whether he's worth keeping at all.
Matt Flynn might have the inside track on the top backup job because of his experience and track record in leading the Packers to several come-from-behind victories last year, but his long-term future in Green Bay is in question after signing only a one-year contract earlier this offseason.
If the Packers commit to keeping Tolzien on the roster, it's because they feel like he has a future in the NFL and could be Rodgers' backup for years to come. There's not much sense to keep both Flynn and Tolzien around only to start from Square 1 next year.
Should the Packers part ways with Flynn, they'll likely keep a No. 3 quarterback on the practice squad for an insurance poicy such as Chase Rettig.
Running Back: Three or Four Halfbacks?
Eddie Lacy and James Starks will be options A and B as long as they're healthy, although the Packers are building quite a talented stable of running backs.
In limited playing time, both Johnathan Franklin and DuJuan Harris have shown to be good complements to the size and power offered by Lacy and Starks.
Franklin and Harris offer something different, quickness and elusiveness, but there are questions about their comeback from injuries that forced both to be placed on injured reserve last season.
Is there room to keep both Franklin and Harris on the roster? Or might one of the undrafted rookies the Packers signed—Rajion Neal or LaDarius Perkins—prove too good to cut?
Wide Receiver: How High Can Davante Adams Climb?
Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb don't have to be worried about the three wide receivers the Packers drafted, but Jarrett Boykin will be looking over his shoulder.
Boykin emerged as a reliable and trusted target last season, and there's no doubt there's a spot for him on the Packers roster, but the Packers didn't make Davante Adams a second round draft choice for nothing.
Based on the potential he displayed in college, Adams showed the ability to be a No. 1 wide receiver in the NFL. Whether or not that eventually happens remains to be seen.
As for the season at hand, attention will be on how high Adams can climb the depth chart and how quickly.
Even Rodgers' third receiving option has the potential to catch over 60 passes, gain nearly a 1,000 yards and score double digit touchdowns.
Tight End: Colt Lyerla
The risk in signing Colt Lyerla doesn't come so much during the offseason.
For the next three-plus months, the Packers can monitor Lyerla's every move, from his development as a football player to how he conducts himself away from the field.
Because the Packers very likely gave him little if any guaranteed money, the only thing they'll lose if they cut him is the time invested into him, and that will be no different than over 30 other players they'll eventually cut before deciding on a 53-man roster.
A much more difficult decision exists when it's time to decide on the regular-season roster, but at least the Packers have several months to come to that decision and should have a much better idea of how much Lyerla has changed and whether he's worth assuming a greater degree of risk.
Offensive Line: Center
It will be interesting to see whether Derek Sherrod is finally ready to get back to his pre-injury form, because there's a chance his career hangs in the balance, but without doubt, the best battle will take place at center.
As it's been assumed all offseason, J.C. Tretter might stand the best chance of winning the center job. There's a reason the Packers drafted him as high as the fourth round last season.
They saw something in Tretter, and he'll have every opportunity to show it this offseason. But it also spoke volumes when Ted Thompson drafted the first true center during his tenure as Green Bay's general manager.
It won't be easy for a rookie drafted in the fifth round to step into the starting lineup his first year in the NFL, but Linsley will get a fair shot to win the job.
And don't count out Garth Gerhart and Don Barclay either.
Defensive Line: Finding the Run Stuffers
Mike Daniels and Datone Jones are leading the charge to become the primary interior pass rushers, but the jury is still out on how to defend the run in 2014.
Last season, whenever the Packers were in their base 3-4 defense, goal-line or short-yardage packages, behemoths like B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett and Johnny Jolly were the go-to options.
Raji is back, but with Pickett and Jolly still unsigned, the Packers have to find at least two more players capable of holding their ground against the run on a consistent basis.
It could very well be the case that Daniels and Jones become well-rounded, three-down defensive linemen, but there will be no shortage of other players fighting for playing time.
Free agent Letroy Guion, second-year player Josh Boyd and third round draft choice Khyri Thornton will all have a say in how the Packers choose to stop the run this season.
Outside Linebacker: Identifying the Most Versatile Players
One thing is for sure: The Packers didn't give Julius Peppers $7.5 million guaranteed to run the same old defensive schemes they have the past couple years.
What exactly Dom Capers has in the works remains a secret. The Packers aren't about to let opponents know what they have in store, but they'll be looking for guys to play multiple roles.
Peppers, Mike Neal and Nick Perry are all options to play the new-look Elephant defensive end position, as does undrafted rookie Adrian Hubbard, the potential-laden product from Alabama.
Could Clay Matthews and Carl Bradford be used as blitizing inside linebackers?
And do second-year players like Andy Mulumba and Nate Palmer have enought to hold off the influx of talent the Packers brought in from the incoming rookie class?
Inside Linebacker: A.J. Hawk's Running Mate
A.J. Hawk is the rock of the Packers' inside linebacker corps: the constant and steadying influence. At 30 years old and entering his ninth season in the NFL, it may not be that way for much longer, but Hawk's job is safe in 2014.
The search is on to find the best complement to Hawk possible, and there's no guarantee it will come down to any one single player.
Brad Jones is the incumbent and the most experienced, but he hasn't been so good that he couldn't be unseated.
Jamari Lattimore showed playmaking potential in spurts last season but must become a more discipined player.
Every year, a second-year player is hailed for making the biggest jump on the team, and this year it could Sam Barrington that gets that title.
Cornerback: Finding a Future Starter
A trio of Packers cornerbacks enter the final year of their contracts in 2014—Tramon Williams, Davon House and Jarrett Bush—and it's unlikely all three of them will be back in 2015.
As such, the Packers are going to be on the lookout for a player that can be a three-down cornerback in due time.
Maybe that player is one of the slot cornerbacks like Casey Hayward or Micah Hyde who can be trusted to play both inside and outside.
Maybe it's a young and ascending player like recently drafted sixth round draft choice Demetri Goodson.
And maybe it's House, who starts a campaign to receive a contract extension that pays him starting-caliber money.
Safety: The Third Safety
When the Packers drafted Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, they immediately found their starter to pair with Morgan Burnett, but the depth at safety isn't exactly appealing.
What if either player gets hurt? Who's the third safety that could become a starter in a moment's notice?
Perhaps it's Micah Hyde, as the Packers have been hinting all offseason. But if that's the case, he needs more practice time at the position and perhaps a full-time conversion is in order.
Or perhaps it's Sean Richardson ready to make the leap and become a trusted member of the secondary rather than just a guy on the roster bubble.
Special Teams: Getting Randall Cobb off Returns
Kicker, punter and long snapper are set in stone unless there's an injury, but the Packers will be looking to relieve Randall Cobb of his return duties if at all possible.
Micah Hyde showed he could be a capable punt returner but wasn't quite as impressive on kick returns because of his lack of elite speed.
Jared Abbrederis could be a candidate but his history of concussions could be a barrier to playing a high-impact position like kick returner.
Some of the running backs will also be given a chance like Johnathan Franklin did last year, and undrafted rookie LaDarius Perkins had a lot of experience returning kickoffs in college.
Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email [email protected].
Photo: Green Bay Packers linebacker Jamari Lattimore by Larry Radloff Photography.
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