It’s Make or Break Time for Five Packers Veterans

There are a handful of Greem Bay Packers players who must step-up in 2015. For five veteran players it means entering training camp with a make-or-break situation facing each of them.

“Some of us will do our jobs well and some will not, but we will all be judged on one thing: the result.”   - Vince Lombardi.

Expectations are high for the Green Bay Packers entering this 2015 season.  So high in fact that the most recently posted Super Bowl odds at Bovada Sports Book has the Packers improving to 6-1.  This is the first time this off-season that the Packers have actually led the field as a Super Bowl 50 favorite by besting the previous leader, the Seattle Seahawks, who are now listed as 13 – 2 odds.

Much will be expected of the proven veterans such as reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers and his deep and talented offense.  In addition there are expectations that the defense will improve behind stars Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews.

Second year players will also be expected to make a significant jump such as Ha Ha Clinton – Dix, Corey Linsley and Davante Adams.

There are also a handful of players who must step-up, many of whom would have to be considered disappointments to date.  For five veteran players it means entering training camp with a make-or-break situation facing each of them.

Improve or be gone.

  1.  Nick Perry, OLB – Perry leads the list.  Much more was expected of him when he was drafted by the Packers in the first round in 2012.  After playing right defensive end in Monte Kiffin’s Tampa 2 defense while in college at USC, the Packers sought to convert him to an outside 3-4 linebacker.   Athletic with good speed and a body made for the NFL, Perry has not lived up to his lofty draft status.  The Packers recently chose not to pick up the fifth year option on this rookie contract – a sure sign this is make-or-break time for Perry. He should survive training camp to make the final-53 this year, but will need a solid year to be invited back in 2016.
  2. Tim Masthay, Punter – Masthay had a dismal 2014 season that contributed to a Packers special teams ranking dead last in the league.  His stats: 18-game averages of 43.4 yards gross, 36.8 yards net and 4.12 seconds hang time. Tied for 25th in gross average and 26th in inside-the-20 percentage while ranking 30th in net and 20th in touchback percentage.  He also mis-handled a snap on an extra point against the Eagles.  Masthay has hinted that his confidence was shaken last season so he will also have to work on getting his mind back in the game as well.  There is competition at his position with former Alabama punter Cody Mandell.  In the final year of his contract if he doesn’t show dramatic improvement during the pre-season he may not even make it out of training camp.
  3. Khyri Thornton, DL – Ted Thompson and his coaching staff have supreme confidence and almost unlimited patience with their own draft choices.  Especially a high one (3rd round) like Thornton.  But Thornton showed virtually nothing in training camp last year and ended up on season-ending IR giving him what amounts to a red-shirt year. How bad was Thornton?  He has been unfavorably compared to super-bust Justin Harrell, the Packers' first-round pick in 2007.   With just one training camp to preview his performance he might be even worse than Harrell and rank as one of Ted Thompson's worst picks ever. Respected Packers beat writer Bob McGinn said in his post-season analysis:  “Not only is Thornton on the short side (6-2½) for base end, he didn't play hard, get off blocks or show pass rush using power or working an edge. If a year on scholarship can't amp up his level of aggressiveness, he'll be gone by late August”.  Ouch!
  4. B.J. Raji, NT – Injuries, playing out of position and just a lack of play-making has Raji on the bubble. Raji of course was injured and didn’t play in 2014, but showed enough in training camp to give the Packers hope that he could become a pivotal part of the defensive line once again.   It would be surprising to see him not make the 53-man squad, but if he doesn’t revert to near his 2010 level he almost certainly won’t be back for another year. 
  5. Datone Jones, DE – It must have disappointed the Packers tremendously to learn that the league announced on Thursday that Jones will be suspended for the 2015 season opener for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. It might be a little pre-mature to put Jones on this list, but let’s face it:  he was a first round pick selected to be an every down play-maker and he has not lived up to the billing.  Josh Boyd, a fifth round pick the same year that Jones was selected has arguably performed at a higher level. Injuries have played a part, but the team keeps waiting for the production.  Entering just his third year he is virtually a lock to make the 2015 squad, but if his contributions and league infractions don’t markedly improve, his future with the Packers will be in serious jeopardy.  And soon.

Interesting to note is that the list includes four defensive players and one special-teamer. 

For Masthay there is precious little room for error.

For the four defenders, should they play to expectations the Packers might indeed live up to the pre-season Super Bowl hype.

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Comments (12)

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

July 03, 2015 at 09:22 am

Only 2 of the 5 are questionable for making the team this year - Masthay and Thornton. I actually rather like Mandell, but I'd guess it's Masthay's job to lose. Mandell would have to look really good and Masthay would probably have to look less than average, maybe just bad, to lose his spot. Thornton is in a numbers situation. Daniels and Jones are locks, at least one of Raji and Guion are locks (yes, probably both are good bets). Packers usually keep 6, sometimes 5. That leaves Boyd, Pennel, Thornton and Ringo fighting for 2 spots. Hooks is probably trying to get a spot on the PS. We know Boyd can play in the NFL. Hard cut. Pennel played okay at times and is big and talented. Hard cut. Always hard to cut 3rd rd and 6th rd draft picks. I would consider keeping 7 DL. Too much potential in the players who might be cut. Preseason might well sort this out, between injury and performance.

Perry will get a contract somewhere in the NFL even if his level of play stays the same. Datone already is an above average pass rushing DE; his run defense needs some work, but Mr. Nagler noted improvement in that area in the latter part of last season. Raji needs to stay healthy. All 3 are really playing for a bigger contract. Each probably will be in the NFL after this season, but might be thought of more as role players than front line players absent a good performance this year.

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senor embalador's picture

July 03, 2015 at 10:23 am

When talking about d-line numbers, you have to figure that camp injuries will factor in. They always do.

Keeping 7 dl will be tough due to the fact that the Packers "cornered themselves" by trading up to draft a qb and using a draft pick on a fb. It's pretty much a lock that this squad will have 3 qbs and 2 fbs. To keep 7 dl they'd probably have to go with only 2 rb's or only 5 wr's.

Daniels, Raji, Guion, Jones, Boyd, Pennel.
Ringo and Hooks on ps.
No room for Thornton.

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lebowski's picture

July 03, 2015 at 11:44 am

I know it's a bit too early, but what a horrible waste of first and third round picks. First round picks need to be difference makers if not an occasional Pro Bowler, and at this point I'm simply hoping Jones can fill a void and Perry can stay on the field for half the games. Ugh.

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Razor's picture

July 04, 2015 at 12:23 pm

I don't think it's too early. I think the Packers wait too long to let marginal players go. Seems like a big waste of coaching time and sends the wrong message to other marginal players that you get several years to prove that you aren't good enough and you never will be.

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TKWorldWide's picture

July 03, 2015 at 12:07 pm

I doubt cutting Thornton would be too heavy a cap hit at all. In my mind, lack of hustle/intensity is a HUGE red flag.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

July 05, 2015 at 01:06 am

$422.439 dead money. Wait, it is already after June 1. Dead money is $140,813 this year (+ $10k for the workout bonus he already got), per overthecap.

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TKWorldWide's picture

July 05, 2015 at 08:07 am

Not bad.

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Since'61's picture

July 03, 2015 at 01:37 pm

Regretably this article is a sad commentary on 2 of our #1 picks and a 3rd rounder. Thornton has shown less than nothing and if he does so again he should be cut. D. Jones has already reduced his chances for making an impact in 2015 by one game and Perry has had limited impact in his first 3 seasons. Perry needs to stay healthy and even if he does his performance still needs to improve significantly. Raji is out of excuses. He is returning to his NT position and with Guion's expected suspension he will probably have 2-4 games to make his case as the starting NT. What is scary about this scenario is that a significant amount of the Packers hope for defensive improvement hinge on Raji, D. Jones and Perry. Thornton has been and remains a non-factor at this point. The play of Raji and Jones will impact our already weak ILB position group either positively or negatively. As for Masthay, hopefully he will have a Crosby like renaissance. Thanks, Since '61

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Razor's picture

July 04, 2015 at 12:27 pm

Quarless' brain seems to shut off at times during games and during 5:00 am street fights. Time for him to go to the Vikings!

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

July 05, 2015 at 01:09 am

OTOH, if Richard Rodgers nicks himself up, our starting TEs could be Perillo and Backman. I hope our offensive geniuses don't scheme so that either of them is responsible for blocking Michael Bennett. Oh, wait...

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4thand1's picture

July 05, 2015 at 09:11 am

The result of drafting for need instead of BOP is clearly evident in the case of Perry and Jones. Both players probably would have been available in later rounds. With BOP the Packers would likely have extra guys at positions with good numbers, that could be traded for a proven player they could use on defense.

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gbd79tam's picture

July 20, 2015 at 08:33 am

Remember that Jones will miss a game and Guion likely facing 2 to 4 games, so some of these guys, whether they deserve spots or not, will hang around a bit longer and will be needed, unless Ted brings in some other bodies at some point.

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