Friendly fire: 2010 training camp battles, part one « Ol' Bag of Donuts

Friendly fire: 2010 training camp battles, part one

One of the best parts of training camp involves the battles waged between teammates.

Some guys battle for spots on the depth chart. Others battle for spots on the roster. Either way, the battles are often friendly, yet extremely intense.

The 2010 Green Bay Packers will have a handful of such battles in training camp this year. And over the next couple of days, we’ll be highlighting those battles (and giving our thoughts as to who has the pre-camp edge).

Since the offense will be the driving force for this year’s team, it seems best to start there.

Quarterback and running back have been crossed off the list, however, as those positions seem to be fairly set (sorry, Kraig Lumpkin lovers, it’s true).

So, that said, let’s begin with the hogs up front on the offensive line where there are a couple of battles to be waged:

Left guard

Type of battle: Starting spot

Combatants: Daryn Colledge (28 years old, 6-feet, 4-inches, 308 pounds, fifth year) and Jason Spitz (27 years old, 6-feet, 3-inches, 318 pounds, fifth year)

Thoughts: Of all the battles in camp, this is one of the tops to keep an eye on. Colledge and Spitz, good friends off the field, are both at a crossroads, career-wise. Each has gone through numerous ups-and-downs over the past four years and it’s time for both to step up and prove they can be consistent NFL players.

Colledge’s ups-and-downs have been quite literal. In 2006 and 2008, he was definitely one of the team’s best o-linemen. In 2007 and 2009, however, he was flat-out terrible. It’s an even-numbered year – does that mean he’s going to experience another upswing? For Colledge, it’s less an issue of talent than it is an issue of techique and confidence. He’s still far sloppy at times, which leads to far too many penalties (or worse, him getting flat-out overpowered). His confidence seems to wane easily, as well. His disastrous time at left tackle in ‘09 seemed to ruin him for the year, even after he moved back to his more familiar left guard spot. In every area, he needs to be more sure of himself.

For Spitz, it’s an issue of staying healthy. His back injury, while apparently cleared up now, still causes concern (back injuries are never, ever, ever good and can linger for an entire career). Spitz is clearly a talent, though; remember, many were predicting him to be one of the breakout players on last year’s team. While the team seems intent on having five backups for five starters (i.e., no more shifting and sliding in the event of an injury), Spitz is still capable of playing both guard and center, which is always a plus. And he’s got that nasty demeanor, something the line still needs more of.

Early edge: Spitz. There are just too many issues with Colledge. Spitz’s back is, for now, healthy, and that – combined with an advantage in talent – gives him the nod. Colledge may be playing somewhere else before the season starts. T.J. Lang would then likely serve double duty as backup left guard/backup right tackle should that happen (he’s going to be the “sixth man” for the o-line this season).

Overall roster spot

Type of battle: Um…roster spot

Combatants: Allen Barbre (26 years old, 6-feet, 4-inches, 300 pounds, fourth year), Breno Giacomini (24 years old, 6-feet, 7-inches, 318 pounds, third year) and Evan Dietrich-Smith (24 years old, 6-feet, 2-inches, 308 pounds, second year)

Thoughts: In my mind, eight spots are already locked up on the o-line (Chad Clifton, Mark Tauscher, Scott Wells, Josh Sitton, Bryan Bulaga, Lang, the winner of the Spitz/Colledge battle and Marshall Newhouse). I really believe the loser of the Spitz/Colledge battle could be traded, leaving three players to battle for two spots on the roster (no way this team keeps more than 10 o-linemen this year).

A season that began with so much promise ended with so much disappointment for Barbre. Handed the starting right tackle job in camp, Barbre had a very good preseason. Turns out, he wasn’t so good when the opposing d-linemen actually gave a you-know-what. Barbre was repeatedly wrecked in pass protection and, despite some promise as a run blocker, was benched when Tauscher returned mid-season. The team’s confidence in him appears to be as low as it’s ever been.

Giacomini is entering a crucial season. Blessed with tremendous size, he’s spent the past two seasons redshirting in order to get stronger and learn the right tackle position (remember, he converted from tight end to right tackle midway through his collegiate career). Allegedly, Giacomini has had a very good offseason and just might be coming into his own. If the light turns on, Lang will have competition for the “right tackle of the future” title.

We really don’t know that much about Dietrich-Smith, other than the fact that the coaches seem to like him. We do know that he can play center, though, and if the coaches really are intent on this “five backups for five players” philosophy – fingers crossed that they are – it makes sense to keep Dietrich-Smith around in the event Wells gets hurt.

Early edge: Giacomini and Dietrich-Smith. Giacomini’s intriguing upside, and the fact that he’s only in year three as opposed to year four, gives him an edge over Barbre. Dietrich-Smith can provide depth at two spots – center and guard – and fits in with the new philosophy. In the end, it just feels like the team’s ready to move on from Barbre.

I’ll be back Wednesday to close out the offensive battles.

-Chris Lempesis

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