Time to step up: Jerel Worthy

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Coach Mike McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson say it every offseason: It is not the rookies who will make the difference for the Green Bay Packers but rather the returning players.

With that in mind, over the next couple of weeks, we will take a look at some returning players who need to take their game to another level in 2014.

Next up is defensive end Jerel Worthy.

Why he needs to step up: Heading into his third NFL season, Worthy remains a mystery to the Packers. It's time to find out whether the former second-round pick can play. He had a difficult time assimilating to defensive coordinator Dom Capers' scheme as a rookie and was just starting to figure things out when he blew out his knee in the regular-season finale that season. Reconstructive surgery kept him on the physically unable to perform list until Nov. 23 of last season. Even after he was activated, he appeared in only two regular-season games plus the playoff game and played a total of just 13 defensive snaps.

What he has to do: Other than proving he can stay healthy, which is far from a given considering he also missed all of the offseason practices this year, Worthy must show he can be effective in the Packers' scheme, which asks the defensive linemen to eat up blocks more often than jetting up the field like Worthy was accustomed to doing in college at Michigan State.

Outlook: Time is running out on the 51st overall pick in the 2012 draft. The Packers are deep on the defensive line even after deciding not to re-sign veterans Ryan Pickett and Johnny Jolly, and Worthy's place on the roster is far from guaranteed.

Previous installments

Part one: Morgan Burnett

Part two: Nick Perry

Part three: Datone Jones