Like any NFL team in any given year, there's turnover on the Green Bay Packers roster.
There's attrition due to players leaving via free agency, perhaps some being forced into retirement.
The Packers didn't stand pat, however. After three consecutive earlier-than-preferred playoff exits, the Packers cast a wide net to find replacements for their departed starters.
Whether through free agency or the draft, the Packers have an infusion of talent they hope will allow them to get back to Super Bowl glory.
The following is a look at the positions featuring new starters in Titletown in 2014:
Last year's departed starter: James Jones
This year's starting candidates: Randall Cobb, Jarrett Boykin, Davante Adams
Who'll get first crack: Randall Cobb as the No. 2 receiver, Jarrett Boykin as No. 3
Analysis: After starting his last 30 games in a Packers uniform, James Jones took the Oakland Raiders up on their offer to return to his native California.
Jones scored an NFL-leading 14 receiving touchdowns in 2012 and had a career-high 817 receiving yards in 2013, so his production and experience are going to be missed.
Surprisingly, Randall Cobb has less than the equivalent of one full season of starting experience (just 12 career starts) but figures to hear his name announced coming out of the tunnel more often, taking over for Jones.
Just because he hasn't started many games doesn't mean Cobb hasn't played. With 136 career receptions for 1,762 yards and 13 touchdowns, Cobb has gained the trust of quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Maybe analysis is better spent on figuring out who will be the Packers' No. 3 wide receiver.
Boykin, who started eight games in 2013, is coming off a season that saw him set career-highs with 49 catches for 681 yards and three touchdowns.
There's no reason to think Boykin will regress, but he will find competition in the form of second round draft choice Davante Adams.
How quickly Adams can get up to speed on the team's offense will be a big factor in how much of a role he plays in his rookie season.
Last year's departed starter: Jermichael Finley
This year's starting candidates: Andrew Quarless, Brandon Bostick, Ryan Taylor, Richard Rodgers, Colt Lyerla
Who'll get first crack: Andrew Quarless
Analysis: When healthy, Jermichael Finley was one of the most productive tight ends in franchise history, although his future is clouded by spinal injury that must be treated with sensitivity.
No doors have been closed on Finley, but until he gets cleared by the team doctors, the coaching staff has to prepare as if he won't be there—and as of right now, he's not there.
Andrew Quarless started a career-high 10 games last season in Finley's absence to go long with 32 catches for 312 yards and two touchdowns.
After signing a two-year deal with the Packers in the offseason, Quarless figures to remain the starter, although he did miss the entirety of the offseason program, on which the organization has yet to comment.
While Quarless is likely the best in-line blocker among the tight ends, analysis might be better served not to find out who the starter is, but who can fill the role of "receiving tight end," the type that can be a threat downfield.
Brandon Bostick got a cup of tea with the Packers last season before a foot injury landed him on injured reserve. That experience gives him a leg up on a pair of rookies: Richard Rodgers and Colt Lyerla.
Both Rodgers and Lyerla had positive showings during the Packers' offseason program, but it will be a different world when the pads come on in training camp. Lyerla, in particular, is toeing a thin line and must stay out of trouble if he hopes to become a contributing member of the Packers offense.
Taylor has a chance to contribute in an H-back role.
Last year's departed starter: Evan Dietrich-Smith
This year's starting candidates: J.C. Tretter, Corey Linsley
Who'll get first crack: J.C. Tretter
Analysis: Now that Dietrich-Smith signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a free agent, Aaron Rodgers will be working with his fourth starting center in four seasons, and there's a good chance it will be a player that hasn't so much as played a single NFL snap in his life.
Although he spent much of last season on the Physically Unable to Perform list, at least J.C. Tretter has been around the Packers offense for a year longer than incoming rookie Corey Linsley.
Tretter worked with the starting offensive line for the duration of Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and minicamp, a streak that is likely to continue through the opening of training camp.
By no means is Tretter guaranteed of a spot in the starting lineup, however. Not only has he not taken a snap in the NFL, he didn't even play major college football at the FBS (division IA) level.
Linsley comes from a brand-name program at Ohio State and has the experience of facing top college athletes on a game in and game out basis.
It's not going to be easy for Linsley to come into Green Bay as a fifth round draft choice and become a starter, but the opportunity is there for the taking in what truly will be an open battle.
Last year's departed starters: Ryan Pickett, Johnny Jolly
This year's starting candidates: Julius Peppers, Mike Daniels, Datone Jones, Letroy Guion
Who'll get first crack: Julius Peppers, Mike Daniels
Analysis: Ryan Pickett and Johny Jolly, who started 16 and eight games respectively last season, are free agents able to sign with any team of their choosing.
While no one has ruled out a return by either player, at 34 and 31 years old, neither Pickett nor Jolly figures to play a huge role even if they happen to come back.
The Packers turned to Julius Peppers in the offseason, which signaled a sign of change in the team's defensive schemes.
Peppers is unlikely to play as a base end in the 3-4 defense, but the Packers didn't give Peppers $7.5 million guaranteed to sit the bench.
Exactly what role the Packers have in plan for Peppers is uncertain, but there's been no shortage of talk about him playing an hybrid "Elephant" position as a defensive end/outside linebacker.
As for true defensive linemen, Daniels is in line for an increase in playing time after leading the team 6.5 sacks among players at his position.
Although he's just 6-feet tall, Daniels has proven capable of playing on running downs and could be a true three-down player for the Packers in 2014.
Likewise, the Packers will be looking for last year's first round draft choice Datone Jones to play a bigger role after a rookie year limited by an ankle injury.
And it would appear the Packers also have designs on free agent signee Letroy Guion playing on early downs as a run stuffer.
Last year's departed starter: M.D. Jennings
This year's starting candidates: Micah Hyde, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
Who'll get first crack: Micah Hyde
Analysis: M.D. Jennings started all 16 games last season and made 74 tackles, but even though the Packers had the opportunity to retain him as a restricted free agent, they showed little interest, allowing him to sign with the division rival Chicago Bears in the offseason.
The Packers didn't get a single interception from the safety position last season, so they'll be looking to get much better production from whoever replaces Jennings in the starting lineup.
Following a promising rookie season, the Packers switched Micah Hyde from cornerback to safety during the offseason and allowed him to work with the first-string defense despite adding Ha Ha Clinton-Dix as a first round draft choice.
Hyde may have a year of experience on Clinton-Dix, but it might be difficult for him to hold off a player that comes as highly regarded as the former Alabama safety.
Regardless of who starts, there's probably a role for both players with as many nickel and dime packages—requiring extra defensive backs—as the Packers run.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Like Like
- 8 points