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

Friendly fire: 2010 training camp battles, part two

We went a different way with part one, focusing on the offensive line first.

We’ll let the skill position players get their due this time around, though, as we make them the focus of part two.

Not bad for a short intro, huh?

Wide receiver

Type of battle: No. 3 receiver spot

Combatants: James Jones (26 years old, 6-feet, 1-inch, 208 pounds, fourth year) and Jordy Nelson (25 years old, 6-feet, 3-inches, 217 pounds, third year)

Thoughts: Consider this round two in the Jones v. Nelson battle. There was really no clear winner during training camp last year and, really, no player grabbed the job during the season, either.

Jones had a slightly better ‘09 season (32 catches, 440 yards, five touchdowns) than did Nelson (22 catches, 320 yards, two touchdowns while missing three games due to injury) but the job is still up for grabs (no pun intended). One of these players needs to come through this season; Donald Driver isn’t going to be around forever, after all.

Jones rebounded from an injury-plagued ‘08 campaign last year, playing in all 16 games. He’s still got a fairly high ceiling and can definitely make big plays. These things only happen occasionally, though. Sometimes, he disappears from games (or worse, can’t hang on to the ball). He needs to become a more refined product.

Nelson strikes me as the more consistent and polished of the two, though he also seems to lack Jones’ big-play abilities. He’s had an outstanding offseason, from the sound of it, as Aaron Rodgers was apparently looking for him more and more throughout the minicamps/OTAs. Nelson, like Jones, struggles with drops, however. That needs to be corrected – and fast.

Early edge: Jones. He’s got an extra year of experience on Nelson and, again, his ceiling appears to be just a bit higher. But Nelson as a No. 4 receiver is definitely a good problem to have.

Fullback

Type of battle: Roster spot

Combatants: Korey Hall (26 years old, 6-feet, 236 pounds, fourth year) and John Kuhn (27 years old, 6-feet, 250 pounds, fifth year)

Thoughts: Quinn Johnson is a lock to make the 53-man roster, in my mind. And since I just can’t fathom the idea of the team keeping three fullbacks yet again, I have to think one of these two isn’t making it to Philly for the season opener.

Hall struggled with injuries last season, only playing in 11 games. He’s not quite the run blocker Kuhn is, but he is a better pass-catching option.

Kuhn, again, is a better pure run blocker and even saw a handful of touches in the short-yardage run game last season. He’s not a bad pass catcher, but appears to be more of a pure fullback.

Early edge: Hall. With Johnson serving as the brute force hammer at the position, the team needs a pass-catcher to help round things out fully. Hall is better at that than is Kuhn, although he must avoid injury in camp. That would tilt things Kuhn’s way.

Tight end

Type of battle: Roster spot

Combatants: Donald Lee (29 years old, 6-feet, 4-inches, 248 pounds, eighth year) and Spencer Havner (27 years old, 6-feet, 3-inches, 250 pounds, second year)

Thoughts: Jermichael Finley is officially “the man” at the position and rookie Andrew Quarless has big-time upside, despite his off-the-field issues. He’s not going anywhere and I just do not see the team keeping four tight ends – Lord help me if I’m wrong.

Just one year ago, it would have seemed silly to say that Lee and Havner would be battling it out. But 365 days can serve as a lifetime in the NFL, thus leaving us where we currently are.

I’ve written this before many times, but Lee has just not been the same player since you-know-who left town. Rodgers has never really favored Lee. Even when he has, Lee has struggled with drops. These things come together to form a picture of a player who just doesn’t have the same confidence he once did. There’s also the little issue of his salary (due $2 million this season), an awfully high amount to pay a backup, potential Super Bowl run or not.

It has not been a good offseason for Havner (see: the crotch-rocket crash that occurred while he was allegedly under the influence). Still, his shoulder appears to be healed up and hopefully Havner can begin building on his solid 2009 season. Despite catching just seven balls in the regular season, four of them went for touchdowns (plus one in the playoff loss). Rodgers looks his way in the red zone, as opposed to, say, Lee (just one touchdown reception last season). Havner is also a special teams demon, something this team desperately needs.

Early edge: Havner. He’s a cheaper option who brings more to the table than does Lee. Lee is desperately in need of a change of scenery and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him traded for help elsewhere (d-line, corner or outside linebacker) before the regular season starts. 

That’s all for the offense. We’ll be back Thursday to take a look at the defense.

-Chris Lempesis

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