Packers will rely on rookies to back up Rodgers

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- With 20 of 22 starters returning from last year's 13-3 team, the Green Bay Packers were short of intense positional battles through their training camp, which broke Thursday. Yet, there still are some key spots that will be determined by the end of the preseason:

1. Who's No. 2?

If we can assume that the starting quarterback job is in capable hands (and, considering that it once resided in the hands of Brett Favre, that is a fairly bold assumption), we certainly can't say the same about the No. 2 role. For one, the Packers don't yet know who will fill it. For another, the only competitors are a pair of rookies -- second-rounder Brian Brohm and seventh-rounder Matt Flynn.

Brohm, who had been performing fairly well in practice, looked shaky in the preseason-opener against Cincinnati. Flynn, who had struggled a bit in workouts, played better in the game.

"In practice, I didn't feel like (Flynn) was as up to par with where Brohm was," receiver Greg Jennings said. "But when he got into the game, he showed me a whole other side of himself."

2. Changing of the guard?

The Packers have considerable depth on their offensive line. In fact, several NFL teams are known to be ready to snatch up any of the players they release on the unit and are also expecting the Packers to trade one or more of their linemen.

Allen Barbre, a fourth-round draft pick in 2007, is competing to start at left guard. And he helped his case tremendously by consistently knocking Bengal defenders off the ball.

3. Versatile Williams turning heads

Second-year man Tramon Williams looks to have put himself in the lead for the nickel cornerback position.

Williams played well against the Bengals, a reflection of his performance throughout camp. Although he is relatively small (5-foot-11 and 191 pounds), Williams is feisty and strong. He has a knack for separating receivers from the ball.

Williams also offers good versatility; he can play the slot receiver in case they would ever end up having to use him there in place of veteran Charles Woodson.

![]( Green Bay, Wis.

Preseason games:
Aug. 11: Bengals 20, Packers 17
Aug. 16: at San Francisco, 9:00 p.m. ET

Aug. 22: at Denver, 9 p.m. ET

Aug. 28: Tennessee, 7:00 p.m. ET

4. Linebacker a position of strength

The Packers have reason to feel encouraged about their overall situation at linebacker.

For one thing, Brandon Chillar, a free-agent acquisition from St. Louis, has been impressive working on the strong side. He has started in place of injured A.J. Hawk, and displayed the skills that convinced the Packers to sign him -- blitzing, the ability to play in multiple defensive packages and the aptitude to help with disguising coverages.

For another, middle linebacker Abdul Hodge has been showing the form that convinced the Packers to make him a third-round draft pick in 2006. Hodge missed all of last season after undergoing surgeries on both knees. Against the Bengals, he was credited with a team-leading six tackles and knocked down a pass. He has been showing outstanding quickness, especially when it comes to shooting the gap and making hits behind the line.

5. Major changes on special teams?

Although reserve cornerback Will Blackmon is the leading candidate to be the Packers' punt returner, he does have some competition.

Rookie receiver Jordy Nelson did a nice job returning punts against Cincinnati, with four for 31 yards. He scored two touchdowns on five returns during his senior season at Kansas State.

Perhaps Nelson won't unseat Blackmon, but it seems fairly clear that Woodson is out of the punt-return picture.

Another notable special-teams development: Third-year defensive end Jason Hunter has convinced coaches he will be a terror in kick coverage. He combines good size (6-4, 271 pounds) with terrific speed (he runs the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds and doesn't slow down when headed for a collision).

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