The develop part of Ted Thompson’s draft and develop system is often overlooked.
A huge criticism of Thompson when he isn’t adding free agents is that the Packers aren’t going to get better if they do not add new talent. However, what people forget is that the young players are supposed to get better from year to year.
Unfortunately, not everybody develops like they are supposed to, but young players getting better is a way that the Packers can improve. Here are five players who can take that next step in the upcoming season:
1. Micah Hyde
According to ESPN’s Rob Demovsky, Hyde played 39.9% of the defensive snaps last year and most of them were from the slot in the nickel and dime. Mike McCarthy recently said at the NFL owners meetings that he thinks Hyde should have a chance to be an every down player next year.
Hyde will not crack the starting lineup at corner with Sam Shields, Tramon Williams, and presumably Casey Heyward ahead of him, but he can see an increase of his snaps at safety. The Packers have not added a safety so far this offseason, so that might suggest that they have confidence Hyde can learn the position.
Hyde will not be a centerfield type safety due to his lack of speed, but he could be great in the box due to his nose for the ball and good physicality. He is certainly a young player the Packers seem excited about.
2. Datone Jones
Green Bay’s first-round pick last season did not have the impact that many had hoped for in his first season, but he has a chance to be much improved this upcoming season. Jones is another player McCarthy has mentioned this offseason who he wants to be on the field more.
Jones looked like he would be a huge force in training camp, as he was dominating in drills with his quickness and strength. However, an ankle injury cut his camp short and might have hindered him the whole season.
Jones did have 3.5 sacks in limited snaps last season, so he did show off some of his strong pass rushing moves. However, the coaching staff did not trust him against the run, so he was limited to snaps in sub packages. Jones is exactly the type of defensive lineman the Packers are looking for at 6-foot-3 and 285 pounds. He fits in perfectly with the multiple looks that the Packers are trying to implement on defense.
3. Jarrett Boykin
Boykin had his breakout season last year with 49 catches, 681 receiving yards and three touchdowns. However, he will now be asked to play an even bigger role on the team with James Jones departing for Oakland.
Boykin is currently the third wide receiver on the depth chart, but that is essentially a starter in Green Bay’s offense because they use so many 11 personnel packages (3 WR, 1 TE, 1 RB). He stepped up when called upon due to injuries last season and showed why the Packers kept him as an undrafted free agent in 2012.
Speed is not Boykin’s game, as he only ran the 40-yard dash in 4.7 seconds at the 2012 NFL Combine. However, he uses his strength and precise routes to gain separation. Boykin then uses his great ball skills, tremendous hands and his ability to leap high to go up and attack the ball in the air.
4. Brandon Bostick
Bostick is a player with almost no NFL production, but the Packers have been developing him for a couple of seasons now, and they might be rewarded in 2014.
He did see some playing time last season, as he had seven catches for 120 yards and one touchdown last season. Bostick did flash some of that potential with 17.1 yards per catch, which showed that he can make plays vertically down the field. A foot injury in Week 15 ended his season.
Jermichael Finley has not been medically cleared, so Bostick and Andrew Quarless would be battling for the starting tight end job if training camp started today. Bostick has more potential because he is almost a clone of Finley in terms of size and athleticism. He is 6-foot-3, 250 pounds and has a basketball background.
5. Nick Perry
Perry has been a disappointment so far in his two-year career, but it is too early to call him a bust yet.
Injuries have been a huge detriment to Perry’s career thus far. He only played six games in his rookie season because a wrist injury forced him to go on injured reserve. Also, he missed five games last season due to a broken foot and was never the same player after he broke it.
Perry broke that foot during a Week 5 game at Baltimore when it looked like he was finally starting to turn the corner. He had two sacks the week before against Detroit and was playing awesome in the Baltimore game with a sack and a forced fumble before the injury occurred.
The new elephant position could give Perry a position he can be comfortable in. He has been much more effective rushing from the right side, and McCarthy stated that they will look to put him there more often. Perry’s strength is good against the run and in power moves rushing the passer, but he still needs to develop a better speed rush.