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Trendsetters Up and Down

by Mark Daniels

We're halfway to gainful employment in the National Football League.  The Packers are about to begin their third full week of training camp and they have two auditions left, hosting Seattle this coming Friday night and in Kansas City on August 29.  The brass, GM Ted Thompson and Head Coach Mike McCarthy are already forming opinions on who will stay and who will go and rather than break down the entire roster, I've selected a half dozen players who are either trending up for a roster spot, or trending down toward the waiver wire.

The 6 Up

Eddie Lacy  I know he's a lock to make the team but after Saturday night's show in St. Louis, it's apparent he is putting a stranglehold on the number one running back job.  Arm tackles won't bring him down and I was even more impressed with his check down assignment to the right flat and spin move for another 11 yard gain.

Robert Francois   He took a big gamble re-signing with the Packers knowing A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones were entrenched as the starters and plenty of younger players vying for backup jobs inside.  Robert is a downhill inside backer, attacking oncoming blockers and tackling sure.  He's almost always the first one downfield on punt and kick cover teams.

Johnny Jolly   He's already the feel good story of camp but after his performance in St. Louis, it'll be awfully hard to let him go.  Jolly's infectious approach to practice paid off with those two big plays and he's very close to a complete reincarnation three years after the darkest days of his life.

Jarrett Boykin  Everyone's been waiting to see who will emerge as the top receiver behind the big three and two of those three didn't play last week.   Boykin took advantage of quality reps with the front liners and I liked his catch and liked his broken tackle even more.  Push him in front of Jeremy Ross who has just three catches for 12 yards, Boykin has 4 for 41 so far.

Andy Mulumba  His diligent work on Nitschke Field was rewarded with a sack against the Rams.  Outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene has taken a shine to this Eastern Michigan free agent and he's about to become the latest in a long line of undrafted linebackers to earn a job the hard way.

Micah Hyde  Taking advantage of a secondary without Tramon Williams and Casey Hayward all camp, Hyde has demonstrated the required ability to grow thick skin.  Beaten for a touchdown by Arizona on a fade route, giving up a 57 yard bomb last week, Hyde goes on to the next play and usually shows up.  His 10 tackles lead the defense in pre-season and Dom Capers had to like his ability to chase down a quarterback for a sack on a blitz.

The 6 Down

Dezmon Moses   Last year's longshot is suffering a sophomore slump.  It was an alarming missed tackle in the open field Saturday night and he's having trouble getting loose from offensive tackles on the pass rush.  Not that he's old, but there is young blood closing fast for the part time linebacking role.

Brandon Smith  The converted wide receiver has made plays on Nitschke Field but he's not making good ones on game fields.  A bad penalty, he got beat on the touchdown against the Rams and there was the punt turnover that glanced off his unaware body.   Those plays are adding up fast for a ticket home.

Vince Young  The first of four surprising names on the list.  The Packers seem enamored with the veteran and are force feeding him the offense to let him seriously compete for the backup job.  Even with a limited play sheet, Young looks uncomfortable.  He's completed 50 percent of his passes, has gained only 33 yards, and has a rating of 56.3 in two appearances.  That's just in the games.  On the practice field, I haven't seen the same player that donned pale blue in Nashville.

D.J. Williams  The veteran backup tight end vowed to be much more serious this year.  He has three catches in two weeks and has made a few plays at practice but the former John Mackey Award winner at Arkansas still hasn't made the jump he needs if he wants to be the second TE in the two TE sets.   Matthew Mulligan has shown to be a better blocker and Brandon Bostick nearly his equal as a receiver.  He better listen for the footsteps.

Marshall Newhouse  No, he's not going to get cut, but Marshall may be watching a lot of football from the sidelines this fall.  Don Barcaly got first dibs at right tackle last Saturday night and the running lanes were suddenly wider.  Newhouse also had the ugly sack, forced fumble against John Abraham in week one.  My guess is Marshall will be the swing tackle and on call when the regular season begins.

James Starks  There's precious little time left for Starks to catch Lacy, Johnathan Franklin and even DuJuan Harris for playing time.   It looks like it will be between Alex Green and Starks for the final running back job.  Green busted off a 13 yarder against the Rams, Starks carried three times for four yards.  He's averaging 2.8 a carry so far this pre-season and the bad carriage fumble against the Rams might be the kiss of death.

A lot can and will happen before the first cut to 75 after the Seahawks game but for these 12 names, plenty has already happened that might secure or greatly alter their future.