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Packers reset 2015: Reloading for do-over with rookies

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Following perhaps the most dramatic and disturbing nosedive in NFL playoff history, the Green Bay Packers are looking forward to a do-over in 2015 with new help only from the draft.

And the Packers are happy to start their 2015 with fresh faces in this weekend’s rookie minicamp (May 8-10).

Coach Mike McCarthy unceremoniously purged sinners from that NFC Championship Game fall-from-grace in which the Packers, leading 19-7 with about four minutes to go, allowed the Seattle Seahawks to slip past them with 15 points in the final quarter and on to a 28-22 overtime victory.

And steal the Packers’ trip to the Super Bowl.

Brandon Bostick, the tight end who bobbled an attempt to catch a key onsides attempt rather than block to let sure-handed Jordy Nelson grab it, as planned, said he received numerous death threats. He was cut within weeks and picked up on waivers by the Minnesota Vikings.

“I know I made a mistake that cost us a trip to the Super Bowl,” Bostick wrote. “I don’t know how many death threats I received, but there have been a lot.”

Although the Packers lost eight players from 2014 one way or another, including long-time starting inside linebacker A. J. Hawk (released, failed physical), they did not sign any veteran free agents. Instead they are relying on genetics. Director of player personnel Eliot Wolf, son of new Hall of Fame inductee Ron Wolf, pointed the way in a draft that netted seven players reported all to be solid prospects.

Before he retired, Ron Wolf paved his way to the Hall of Fame by resurrecting the Packers as Super Bowl Champions twice in a nine-year stay when the team rolled to a 92-52 record. That said, Ron did reach out for veteran help, acquiring quarterback Brett Favre in a trade from Atlanta and defensive end Reggie White in free agency from Philadelphia, possibly two of the most impactful veteran acquisitions by any team in NFL history.

The current Packers already have a great quarterback in place with Aaron Rodgers. In fact, he is the quarterback whose presence allowed the Packers to casually dismiss Favre into a series of retirements and comebacks, although the latter were with other teams. Now Rodgers, with one Super Bowl championship and the game’s MVP award already, is 31 years old and that window of opportunity for another title in Title Town is as wide open as it will get.

Young Wolf couldn’t help but see the irony, if not angst, caused when the team selected a prolific UCLA quarterback named Brett in the fifth round of the draft last week. Brett Hundley, that is.

“You guys asked me (earlier in the day) if each draft pick had a chance to start. This one probably doesn’t,” Wolf said.

Still, the Packers may have engineered one of the bigger steals in this year’s draft when they traded up to get Hundley with the 147th overall pick. As Wolf explained it, the New England Patriots initiated a trade offer that Green Bay eventually accepted when it felt good that Hundley would be available to jump up 19 spots in Round 5.

Hundley is the first quarterback taken by the Packers in the draft since B.J. Coleman in the seventh round in 2012. And although he isn’t expected to challenge Rodgers any day soon, the trickle down impact on a roster with four quarterbacks may mean the demise of longtime backup Matt Flynn.

Meanwhile, the Packers used their first two picks for anti-air raid weaponry — Arizona State cornerback/safety Damarious Randall in the first round and Miami of Ohio cornerback Quinten Rollins in the second round.

Then they plucked a pass catcher for Rodgers, who, although a Cal grad, might appreciate the solid abilities of former Stanford wide receiver Ty Montgomery.

In the waning moments of the draft the Packers gave feint acknowledgment to the fact that releasing Bostick left the team a bit thin at tight end.

Their final pick, tight end Kennard Backman, was a four-year starter from University of Alabama at Birmingham and the first line on his scouting report says “good hands.”

Here is an early look at the 2015 Packers as they ready for the weekend rookie minicamp:

2014 RECORD: 12-4, 1st in NFC North

COACH: Mike McCarthy

10th season as Packers/NFL head coach

101-55-1 overall; 7-6 postseason

2015 CAMP SCHEDULE

Rookie minicamp: May 8-10

OTA dates: May 27-29, June 2-4, June 9-12

Mandatory Minicamp: June 16-18

PROJECTED DEPTH CHART

(Rookies are in capitals)

Offense:

WR: J. Nelson, J. Abbrederis, T. MONTGOMERY

LT: D. Bakhtiari

LG: J. Sitton, G. Gerhart

C: C. Linsley, J. Tretter

RG: T. Lang, L. Taylor, J. Walker

RT: B. Bulaga, D. Barclay, J. Vujnovich

TE: A. Quarless, R. Rodgers, J. Perillo, K. BACKMAN

WR: R. Cobb, D. Adams, J. Janis, M. White

QB: A. Rodgers, S. Tolzien, B. HUNDLEY, M. Blanchard

FB: J. Kuhn, A. RIPKOWSKI

RB: E. Lacy, J. Starks, R. Neal

Defense:

LDE: J. Boyd, D. Jones, K. Thornton

NT: B. Raji, L. Guion, M. Pennel, C. RINGO

RDE: M. Daniels, B. Gaston, L. Robinson

LOLB: J. Peppers, J. Elliott, N. Palmer, A. Hubbard

LILB: C. Bradford, J. Thomas, J. RYAN

MLB: C. Matthews, S. Barrington, J. Francis

ROLB: N. Perry, M. Neal, A. Mulumba

LCB: C. Hayward, D. Goodson, Q. ROLLINS, K. Sebetic

SS: M. Burnett, S. Richardson, C. Banjo, J. Fanor

FS: H. Clinton-Dix, M. Hyde

RCB: S. Shields, D. RANDALL, D. Glover-Wright

N-B: M. Hyde

Special Teams:

P: T. Masthay, M. Crosby, C. Mandell

PK: M. Crosby, T. Masthay

LS: B. Goode, D. Barclay

H: T. Masthay

PR: M. Hyde, J. Janis

KR: M. Hyde, J. Janis

GRADING THE DRAFT — B plus

Per Rob Rang, NFLDraftScout.com

Though I did project Damarious Randall to go in the first round (one pick earlier to Indianapolis), I was initially surprised by the Packers’ selection of him – until it was made clear that Green Bay envisions the former ASU standout handling nickel duties. Given the dynamic passing attacks in the NFC North, the move makes sense, though it is rare that a collegiate safety is capable of making the transition to cornerback in the NFL. Perhaps due to the difficulty of the transition, the Packers doubled down on the position, nabbing intriguing athlete Quinten Rollins in the second round. Talented but inconsistent wideout (and return extraordinaire) Ty Montgomery could develop into a star with Aaron Rodgers throwing to him, as could quarterback Brett Hundley, who has plenty of time to harness his undeniable talent behind the league’s reigning MVP. The Packers didn’t invest in an inside linebacker as early as expected but in the heady Jake Ryan, Green Bay may have found a starting candidate with a Day Three pick.

SCOUTING ALL DRAFT PICKS

–Round 1/30 — Damarious Randall, S/CB, 5-11, 196, Arizona State

General manager Ted Thompson surprised many by not taking one of the top true cover corners in this year’s draft class, but, nevertheless, he addressed a big need with the selection of the highly regarded Randall. Despite playing at ASU only two seasons after going the junior-college route as an underclassman, Randall excelled as a playmaker in a versatile role in the secondary with considerable man-coverage responsibilities. At worst, Randall is cut out to play nickel corner in the slot right away but is talented enough to win the vacant starting job on the boundary.

–Round 2/62 — Quinten Rollins, CB, 5-11, 195, Miami (Ohio)

Thompson went back-to-back early in the draft to try to plug the significant holes at cornerback after longtime starter Tramon Williams and heir apparent Davon House bolted in free agency. The high pick of Rollins was as curious as Green Bay’s play for Randall, if only because last season was the former’s one and only on a college football field. Yet, Miami’s converted basketball point guard proved to be a quick study with superb upside as he earned Mid-American Conference Defensive Player of the Year honors with seven interceptions.

–Round 3/94 — Ty Montgomery, WR, 6-0, 221, Stanford

While it’s never a bad thing for reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers to have more pass-catching options at his disposal, the team brass envisions Montgomery making his biggest impact as a rookie in another role. Possessing a vaunted combination of strength and speed, Montgomery is a natural to step in and bolster Green Bay’s lackluster kick returns. He ran back a combination of five kickoffs and punts for touchdowns in his four seasons with the Cardinal.

–Round 4/129 — Jake Ryan, LB, 6-2, 240, Michigan

After riding top-five draft pick A.J. Hawk for as long as they could before releasing the former Ohio State standout after nine seasons, the Packers turned to the Buckeyes’ archrival to land Hawk’s potential successor. A successful switch from outside linebacker to the inside last season will allow Ryan to compete for a starting job from the outset. Ryan logged 41 starts with the Wolverines and was highly disruptive with 44.5 tackles for loss and seven forced fumbles in his career.

–Round 5/147 — Brett Hundley, QB, 6-3, 226, UCLA

Just the sixth quarterback taken by Thompson in his 11 years overseeing the draft for Green Bay could yield a bona fide understudy to Rodgers for the years to come. The Packers traded up 19 spots in the fifth round to snag Hundley, touted as one of the top quarterbacks in the draft who the team felt was worthy of a Day 2 selection before the fourth round commenced Saturday. A product of the spread offense with Rodgers-like daring mobility outside the pocket, Hundley will have time to hone his strong, but occasionally erratic passing skills.

–Round 6/206 – Aaron Ripkowski, FB, 6-1, 245, Oklahoma

Fan favorite John Kuhn is back in the fold for a ninth season with the club, but the two-time Pro Bowl honoree will be 33 going into next season. Ripkowski is a pile driver as a lead blocker and can be more integral starting out as a core special-teamer.

–Round 6/210 – Christian Ringo, DE, 6-1, 277, Louisiana-Lafayette

Head coach Mike McCarthy says Ringo, albeit about 30 pounds lighter, reminds him of emerging Mike Daniels, who led Green Bay’s defensive linemen with 5 1/2 sacks last season. Playing considerably in the interior, the explosive Ringo set a program record with 11 1/2 sacks in 2014.

–Round 6/213 – Kennard Backman, TE, 6-3, 258, Alabama-Birmingham

A four-year starter for the since-disbanded UAB program. Athleticism, sure hands down the field and versatility to be split out and play in-line gives Backman a shot to stick at a position that lacks depth.

NOTABLE VETERANS ACQUIRED:

None.

NOTABLE PLAYERS LOST:

–TE Brandon Bostick (released).

–WR Jarrett Boykin: Not tendered as RFA/Panthers; $700,000/1 yr, $20,000 SB.

–WR Kevin Dorsey (released).

–RB DuJuan Harris: Not tendered as ERFA/Vikings; 1 yr, terms unknown.

–LB A.J. Hawk (released/failed physical).

–CB Davon House: UFA Jaguars; $25M/4 yrs, $8M guaranteed.

–LB Jamari Lattimore: UFA Jets; $825,000/1 yr, $60,000 SB.

–CB Tramon Williams: UFA Browns; $21M/3 yrs, $1.5M SB/$10M guaranteed.

PRESEASON PEEK — Mark that calendar

All times Central

Aug. 13: at New England (Thu.), 6:30

Aug. 23: at Pittsburgh (Sun.), 7:00

Aug. 29: PHILADELPHIA (Sat.), 7:00

Sept. 3: NEW ORLEANS (Thu.), 6:00


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