Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Who Will Be #6?

The question of the day, kids, is who will be #6? Not jersey #6, but the sixth wide receiver. OK, it is a bit early to start speculating. But that's about all we can do this time of year, right? So what the heck. Let's play the game, shall we?

There was a decided shift in the potential receiving corps this season versus last: taller receivers. Both in terms of draftees and free agents, it's clear that both GM Ted Thompson and Head Coach Mike McCarthy want to move away from the more diminutive receivers which seemed to be part of former Coach Mike Sherman's offense. Currently, the Packers have 12 possible candidates for the six receiver spots Coach McCarthy says are available. Of those twelve, only second-round draft pick Greg Jennings, at 5-11, stands less than 6 feet. And Jennings seems to be a lock for the final roster after an impressive two minicamps.

Count Donald Driver as -- duh -- another roster lock after recently signing a contract extension. Reports indicate that veterans Robert Ferguson and Rod Gardner also look safe. Unrestricted free agent Marc Boerigter is probably the frontrunner for the fifth receiver spot.

So who will be #6? There is a long way to go, and many practices to keep (apologies to Robert Frost for that paraphrase), but reports indicate that the competition will be fierce. While no one will jump in who can immediately replace that former Packer receiver who whined his way into a trade to Denver, there should be enough athleticism among the final group to help the Pack move the ball and score.

Among the possibilities for that final receiver spot are Chad Lucas and Vince Butler, both playing in NFL-Europe. Lucas has had an outstanding season, leading the league in scoring. Rookie Cory Rodgers, street free agent Ruvell Martin and undrafted free agents Leo Bookman, Calvin Russell and Chris Francies are also in the mix. Rodgers is fast and can also serve as a returner. Martin is a big target at 6-4 and 217 pounds, although he's not exceptionally fast. Still, he's had two great minicamps essentially catching everything thrown his way. Bookman is 6-2, 212, and fast -- the fastest of the group. He reportedly said the Packers had timed him at 4.19 and 4.25 seconds in the 40 in a workout at the Hutson Center. Not surprisingly, he has spent the past two seasons running professional track rather than playing intriguing prospect. Russell and Francies have adequate size and average speed. They'll have an uphill fight on their hands to make the final roster, although Baltimore, Indianapolis and Kansas City liked Russell enough to offer him a free agent deal after the draft; so he must have something going for him.

But it is nice to have a wealth of possibilities. Possibilities that might make one of the weak areas of the team the last season or so into one of the team's real strengths.