Atari Bigby Morgan Burnett

Burnett looks like a serious challenger.

When training camp opens, the Green Bay Packers will have few spots in the starting lineup up for grabs.

The only totally open competition is at left guard, where Daryn Colledge will battle Jason Spitz for the starting job. There are other positions that may turn into competitions, however.

T.J. Lang and Mark Tauscher may battle at right tackle, although Tauscher is currently atop the depth chart. The same can be said for Bryan Bulaga and Chad Clifton at left tackle, where Clifton is entrenched as the starter. On the defensive side of the ball, the only potential competitions would be at outside linebacker, where Brad Jones might be pushed by Brady Poppinga and inside linebacker, where A.J. Hawk has slowly been losing reps to Brandon Chillar.

Strong safety is another story.

No one has publicly said there’s a competition, but it would be foolish to think there isn’t one developing.

Atari Bigby remains the starter, but he hasn’t helped himself by refusing to sign his tender. The Packers drafted safety Morgan Burnett in the third round of this year’s draft and in Bigby’s absence, he’s taken all the snaps with the first-team defense.

Burnett has drawn raves from cornerback Charles Woodson and praise from coach Mike McCarthy.

Bigby, meanwhile, remains MIA.

Burnett possesses certain attributes Bigby doesn’t and if not now, looks like he will eventually be the better player. Dan Arkush had this to say.

The prevailing feeling among our Packers sources is that Atari Bigby probably will hang on to his first-team status at strong safety should he eventually sign his restricted free-agent tender and report to training camp. But even if Bigby settles his contract issues, the word is he could be facing a real run for his money from third-round draft pick Morgan Burnett, who has received rave reviews so far this offseason. The 6-1, 209-pound Burnett is two inches bigger than Bigby and has more speed.

I think it’s time to go to the tale of the tape.

Atari Bigby Morgan Burnett
Height 5’11” 6’1″
Weight 213 209
Age 28 21
Drafted Undrafted (2005) 3 (2010)
College Central Florida Georgia Tech
Speed X
Range X
Athleticism X
Experience X
Tackling X
Hitting X
Awareness X
Intangibles X

On paper, it looks like Burnett has a slight edge, at least by our calculations.

Tackling and experience are the key factors in Bigby’s favor.

That being said, you can go back to the old high school and college adage — if two players have the same skill level, the younger player plays because he has the potential to develop into a better player over the long run.

The Packers may not see it that way, though. In a season where the team has aspirations of going deep into the playoffs, the coaching staff may find it tough to rely on a rookie at a key defensive position.

Unless he proves himself head and shoulders above Bigby, Burnett may find himself playing a backup role in his first season or at least part of it.