Green Bay Packers could start two rookies on defense on opening day

The Green Bay Packers open training camp on July 26 at St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wisconsin. Here's a starting lineup projection:


Quarterback (Aaron Rodgers): How is it that this is Rodgers’ ninth season as a starter already? It has been five years since the two-time NFL MVP appeared in the Super Bowl. He hasn’t touched the ball in overtime of playoff losses the past two seasons.

Running back (Eddie Lacy): Benched twice last year (once for a lack of production and once for missing curfew on the eve of a game), Lacy faces a critical season in the final year of his rookie deal.

Receiver (Jordy Nelson): After missing all of last season because of a torn ACL, the Packers hope the Pro Bowler can return to his 2014 form, when he caught 98 passes for 1,519 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Receiver (Randall Cobb): Without Nelson, Cobb failed to make as big of an impact as he did in 2014, when he caught 91 passes for 1,287 yards and 12 touchdowns. He led the Packers with 79 catches last year but his yards per catch average dropped from 14.1 to 10.5.

Receiver (Davante Adams): An ankle injury cost Adams parts of four games last year, and he never lived up to the hype that surrounded him going into his second season. Still, he should hold off Ty Montgomery and Jeff Janis for the No. 3 spot.

Tight end (Jared Cook): Signed to a one-year, $2.75 million deal in free agency after the Rams cut him, Cook should give Rodgers the big, athletic target down the middle that the QB has been missing since Jermichael Finley’s career-ending neck injury in 2013.

Left tackle (David Bakhtiari): Rodgers’ protection slipped significantly when Bakhtiari missed three games late last season because of an ankle injury. He has improved every season and is headed toward free agency next year, when he will cash in -- either with the Packers or on the open market.

Right tackle (Bryan Bulaga): If Bulaga has another injury -- he missed three games early in the 2015 season because of a knee injury, plus another late in the year with an ankle sprain -- don’t be surprised if rookie Jason Spriggs steps in and plays well. The Packers are high on the second-round pick.

Left guard (Josh Sitton): The Pro Bowler hasn’t missed a game since 2012 and cut weight this offseason in part to ease the pressure on his chronically sore back. He’s one of three offensive line starters who will be a free agent after this season.

Right guard (T.J. Lang): The third free-agent-to-be among the group, Lang underwent shoulder surgery in the offseason and sat out all of the OTA and minicamp practices but expects to be ready for the start of training camp.

Center (Corey Linsley): After playing every snap as a rookie in 2014, Linsley missed three games because of an ankle injury last year. He also sat out all of the offseason practices with what was believed to be a hamstring injury.


Defensive end (Mike Daniels): Armed with a four-year, $41 million contract extension signed in December, Daniels appears poised to become one of the Packers’ defensive leaders.

Defensive end (Letroy Guion): With Mike Pennel suspended for the first four games of the season, Guion likely will have to play more at end than at nose tackle, his natural position, early in the season.

Nose tackle (Kenny Clark): Drafted in the first round in large part to fill the void left by B.J. Raji’s unexpected hiatus from football, Clark has some catching up to do after missing the majority of the offseason program because his school (UCLA) was still in session.

Outside linebacker (Clay Matthews): Back at his natural position after spending the past year and a half at inside linebacker, Matthews’ sack total should jump from 6.5 last season.

Outside linebacker (Julius Peppers): Iron man Peppers hasn’t missed a game since he signed with the Packers in 2014 and posted 10.5 sacks last season -- his most since 2012 with the Bears.

Inside linebacker (Jake Ryan): Ryan finished last season as a starter after Sam Barrington got hurt and Nate Palmer got benched. Barrington could easily challenge for his old starting job, but he’ll be fighting from behind. He hasn’t practiced in nearly a year.

Inside linebacker (Blake Martinez): The fourth-round pick has lined up with the starters since day one and has the athleticism and range to help improve coverage against tight ends and on third down.

Cornerback (Sam Shields): Already in year three of the four-year, $39 million contract he signed in 2014, Shields played well when healthy although he missed five games (one because of a shoulder injury and four with a concussion).

Cornerback (Damarious Randall): The first-round pick in 2015 played so well as a rookie that the Packers didn’t even entertain the idea of bringing back Casey Hayward, who signed with the Chargers in free agency.

Safety (Morgan Burnett): The veteran missed five of the first six games of 2015 but came back with another solid season. However, he has only one interception and three forced fumbles in the past three seasons combined.

Safety (Ha Ha Clinton-Dix): The former first-round pick appears ready to take another step toward stardom. He had two interceptions and a forced fumble last season in year two.


Kicker (Mason Crosby): Since his 2012 slump, Crosby has made 85.7 percent of his field goals and was rewarded with a four-year, $16.1 million contract this offseason.

Punter (Tim Masthay): Even though he set the franchise record for net punting average last season, his overall performance was inconsistent. Expect the veteran to bounce back the way Crosby did from his slump.

Long-snapper (Brett Goode): That’s right, the projected starter isn’t even on the roster right now. But Goode’s recovery from a torn ACL suffered in December should allow him to be ready for the opener, and despite a solid job by fill-in Rick Lovato, the Packers should re-sign Goode.