The road to success in the NFL begins each year with the hard work and wide-open possibilities of training camp. As teams around the league gear up for the 2015 campaign, NFL Media reporters will be checking in on all 32 camps around the league. Alex Gelhar provides analysis on the Green Bay Packers.
1)After Jordy Nelson's ACL tear in the team's second preseason game, the heretofore under-the-radar backup receivers for the Packers have been suddenly thrust into the spotlight. And that light is shining brightest on rookie Ty Montgomery and second-year speedster Jeff Janis. Montgomery has been running with the ones as the third wideout in practice, but Janis' athleticism has been on display in preseason action, making this a battle to watch. Whoever gets on the same page with quarterback Aaron Rodgers in practice the fastest could be in line for a lot of work once the season begins.
2)The biggest hole in the Packers' loaded roster the past few years has been middle linebacker. After all, they were forced to move All-Pro outside linebacker Clay Matthews inside last season to help shore up the position. Matthews finally returned to the field Saturday against the Eagles, after an offseason riddled with injuries. Despite his pass-rushing pedigree, Matthews will see plenty of snaps inside this season, as the team lacks a viable replacement to allow him to slide back to his more natural role. Rookie Jake Ryan hasn't flashed enough yet to be handed a starting job, which should make former seventh-round pick Sam Barrington the starter alongside Matthews. The Packers' defense has had an influx of young talent recently, but the middle of the unit remains a question mark. Barrington, Matthews and Ryan will look to make this much ballyhooed position a non-factor once the season opens. We'll be watching with a keen eye to see whether they're successful.
3)With Tramon Williams and Davon House departing in the offseason, the Packers desperately needed some new bodies at cornerback. This explains why they selected two pure athletes in the first two rounds of the 2015 NFL Draft in Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins. Randall was sidelined for parts of training camp with injuries, while Rollins made his presence felt early and often. However, not to be outdone, Randall made a splash with an interception and several good plays in his first NFL action, against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 2 of the preseason. With Casey Hayward and Sam Shields slotted to start on the outside, Randall and Rollins are fighting for snaps as the nickel cornerback. The fact that both have performed well so far must have general manager Ted Thompson breathing a sigh of relief. However, if the team hopes to make a deep run in the postseason again, they'll need one -- if not both -- of these young defensive backs to step up on a consistent basis.
Ty Montgomery, WR: Billed as a "bigger" Randall Cobb, Montgomery was likely drafted to contribute as a returner on special teams and in four- or five-wide receiver packages. Now? Montgomery could be pushed into a prominent role from the get-go if he wins the No. 3 wide receiver job outright. The Packers ran the most three-receiver sets in the NFL last season, meaning Montgomery's number could be called a lot in 2015. If he makes the most of his opportunity, the Stanford product could become the latest wide receiver gem Thompson has found outside of the first round, joining a list that includes Greg Jennings, James Jones, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Davante Adams and Charles Johnson.
LaDarius Gunter, CB: An undrafted free-agent out of Miami, Gunter has found himself a mentor in Sam Shields -- and not just because they were both undrafted from the same college. Gunter has good size for his position (6-foot-2, 202 pounds) and appears technically sound both in practice and in preseason action, winning over the coaches and veterans around him. If he continues to make plays as he has so far this summer (especially on special teams), he will find himself on the Packers' opening day roster. He's a sleeper name to watch as a potential impact player who could push Rollins and Randall for snaps.
» Davante Adams could become the next wide receiver sensation, especially in fantasy, if he takes his opportunity to start and runs with it. The subject of endless offseason praise, Adams' performance will undoubtedly be under the microscope from the second the first regular-season whistle sounds for the Packers. Whether or not Adams lives up to this level of praise will make for phenomenal football theater.
» While Green Bay's starting offensive line is an impressive unit, the depth behind that group has not inspired a lot of confidence. Don Barclay, lost last year to a torn ACL, has been uneven in preseason action as a backup guard and tackle; however, he played well for the team in spot work a few years back. With Bryan Bulaga already nicked up, the Packers will need other youngsters to rise to the occasion if an O-line body is lost for any significant amount of time.
» For what it's worth, fifth-round pick Brett Hundley has acquitted himself well as the third-string quarterback for the Pack. Whether or not he earns a roster spot (or spends the year on the practice squad) remains to be seen.