Packers’ OTA’s raise several good questions

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Will Martinez start at ILB? Is Cook going to be OK? How does Nelson look?
The Packers’ offseason process includes OTAs, mini-camps, training camp and the exhibition games, not to mention plenty of room for speculation.
Here’s a quick Q & A thus far:

Which rookie will have the greatest impact?

The logical answer would be nose tackle Kenny Clark. It is reasonable to expect the first-round pick to be in the Packers’ base defense on opening day at Jacksonville.
Clark’s presumed ability to play the run at a high level should be a blessing to Mike Daniels and whoever flanks him on the other side. If Clark’s all-out hustle and tenacity translates to the next level, Daniels’ numbers should go up.
If Clark is the obvious answer to this question, so be it.
It’s better than drafting a first-round question mark.

Will rookie Blake Martinez be in the Packers’ starting lineup? If so who will be joining him?

I have a nagging suspicion it’s going to be Martinez alongside Jake Ryan. Sam Barrington is the favorite to be a starting inside linebacker coming off his injury.
However, if Martinez is the real deal and Ryan builds upon a decent stretch run last season, they could be the starters. My long-shot to make some noise at linebacker is hard-hitting undrafted free agent Beniquez Brown from Mississippi State.
Brown (6-1, 229) can really run, plus he’s a willing hitter who was one of the SEC’s top tacklers. Keep an eye on him.

How does Jordy Nelson look?

He looks great.
What’s not to like about seeing Aaron Rodgers and Nelson playing catch again? OK, so it was no more than that, but it still qualifies as progress. Nelson’s return from the ACL injury is as much-anticipated a return of any player in recent memory.
Let’s face it. The Packers’ offensive juggernaut was naught without Nelson.
It’s impossible to overstate his importance to the attack. However, the Packers have no excuses if they haven’t properly prepared for the event that Nelson’s return is somehow stalled.
Can the Packers’ offense succeed without No. 87? It can, but that requires more from the rest of the receivers, especially Randall Cobb, DaVante Adams and Ty Montgomery. At least two of those three need to be significantly better than they were in 2015.

How concerned should Packers fans be with the news that free agent tight end Jared Cook underwent foot surgery?

It sounds like Cook is going to be OK.
It is interesting from the standpoint of how news is delivered these days. Cook was absent from one of the few OTA practices that is open to the public and media.
The media, through due diligence, realized there could only be several reasons for Cook’s absence:
A) He chose not to go – it wasn’t a mandatory practice – in which case the team generally announces and goes along (begrudgingly) with it. That didn’t happen.
B) Cook is absent because he wants to make a point about his contract, his role, etc. Clearly, that wasn’t the case.
C) That he had an off-the-field problem, such as a bad PED test, or perhaps he was injured and required surgery?
Bingo! It turned out Cook required off-season foot surgery, but he is expected to return in time for training camp.
Let’s hope.

Who is going to be the No. 3 running back?

It appears to be a two-man battle between holdover John Crockett and newcomer Don Jackson of Nevada. Crockett showed to be a hard runner and decent receiver out of the backfield. He is similar to starter Eddie Lacy though not as fast or as explosive.
Jackson has decent quickness, acceleration and straight-line speed. However, it remains to be seen if he can be trusted in terms of pass protection, ball security and catching it.
It should be a good battle.

What is the Packers’ deepest, best position group?

Well, the good news is this isn’t any easy or obvious question to answer. The quarterback position is about as good as it gets, so I’ll remove them from the conversation.
The tight end position appears to be vastly improved with the addition of Cook, plus Richard Rodgers’ leaner, more toned physique and another year in the system for Justin Perillo and Co.
The offensive line looks much better, too. Everyone looks healthy or on the verge of it, plus second-round pick Jason Spriggs really looks the part.
However, the best position group has to be the defensive backs. Packers head coach Mike McCarthy praised the “back end” of the defense in a recent interview and for good reason.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is an excellent safety. His running mate, Morgan Burnett, is a fine complementary safety, plus Micah Hyde is a versatile play-maker.
At cornerback, the Packers have overcome the loss of Tramon Williams, Davon House and Casey Heyward. In fact, they have gotten younger, better and cheaper.
Quinten Rollins and Damarious Randall are promising second-year pros, and Sam Shields is a proven All-Pro caliber corner. Behind them, LaDarius Gunter and Demetri Goodson have shown promise.
Here’s the catch: For the Packers to maximize their strength – their secondary’s ball-hawking ability – they need their offense to regain its magic, point-making touch, and they need their pass rush to be at its best.
It’ll be interesting as it plays out.
Chris Havel is a national best-selling author and his latest book is Lombardi: An Illustrated Life. Havel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4-6 p.m. CDT on WDUZ FM 107.5 The Fan, or on AM-1400, as well as Fan Internet Radio (
Havel also hosts Event USA’s MVP Parties the evening before home games. Also check out our new Podcast: Between the Lines for more Packers insights. New episodes every Wednesday.