Senior writer jclombardi highlights Packers headlines.
Federal judge orders mediation: Judge Susan Nelson appointed Chief Magistrate Judge Boylan to preside mediation between the NFL and the players. The players got what they wanted as mediation will now occur under the umbrella of the federal litigation.
Packers’ starting ROLB competition is wide open: PFW says no one has a clue who will be the starter among current roster players: Frank Zombo, Erik Walden or Brad Jones. “Jones and Walden are more athletic and better at dropping into coverage than Zombo, but Zombo is a lot stouter at the point of attack and looks like he will continue to improve as a pass rusher. Don’t rule out Jones moving inside should Nick Barnett leave–a possibility HC McCarthy mentioned to team insiders at the NFL Scouting Combine.” Also, in previewing the Packers 2011 NFL draft, the Packer may upgrade the position with a choice like Georgia’s Justin Houston.
Packers draft needs—priorities: According to Vandermause at the GBPG, the top Packers draft need is the defensive line: “Cullen Jenkins, underrated for his inside rushing ability, figures to depart in unrestricted free agency, and Johnny Jolly will be sent packing due to persistent legal troubles,” wrote Vandermause. “That leaves the Packers short at a key position and facing some nagging questions. How much longer can 11-year veteran Ryan Pickett hold up? Can second-year prospect Mike Neal stay healthy? Will youngsters C.J. Wilson and Jarius Wynn continue to improve? As luck would have it, this draft is rich in talented defensive linemen.” However, he makes a stronger case for his second top Packers draft need at OLB: “Thompson shocked the world by not drafting an outside linebacker to complement Clay Matthews last year, but don’t expect that to happen again. Frank Zombo and Erik Walden came out of nowhere and shouldn’t be discounted, and injury-prone Brad Jones has potential. But just imagine how much better the defense could be with a bona fide pass-rushing threat opposite Matthews.” Considering the depth at both positions, his third top Packers draft need at offensive line may be the greater immediate need: “If Chad Clifton stays healthy, which is a big if for a soon-to-be 35-year-old left tackle, the Packers could survive for another season. If not, this position becomes extremely thin. Bryan Bulaga can start on either side, but T.J. Lang is largely unproven, and veteran Mark Tauscher’s future is in doubt due to injuries.” We agree that the top Packers draft priorities are offensive line, outside linebacker, defensive end, wide receiver, and kick returner.
Packers focus upon kick return specialists in draft: The coaching staff was never satisfied with Sam Shields and Jordy Nelson on returns, and both players are in line for bigger roles outside of special teams. The return game is one of the few weak spots on the team. Utah’s Antoine Smithson and Cal’s Jeremy Ross will visit Green Bay in the coming weeks.