While the Green Bay Packers are still in the early stages of training camp, I usually like to pay more attention to the second units. This seems especially true this year, as there aren’t many starting spots up for grabs (left guard and fullback, maybe).
So my interest then turns to who will be called upon to save the day in case of injury to a Packers starter. To that end, I fired up the Family Night scrimmage on the DVR and put the old slow motion remote to use. Time for a little dissection by DVR.
Bryan Bulaga: I can see why Mike McCarthy is giving Bulaga a chance at a starting job. Bulaga was almost perfect in his Packers debut. He wasn’t beaten once. Whether out on the edge with a linebacker or further inside battling the likes of Cullen Jenkins, Bulaga stood his ground and neutralized the pass rush. He showed quick feet, a good punch, excellent balance and proper body position. I can’t say enough about how solid he looked. the Packers didn’t run enough with the twos to make an evaluation on his run blocking.
Marshall Newhouse is going to have a hard time making this team. He displayed a lack of strength and was easily thrown off balance, but in his defense, he was given reps at left tackle, which is not a position he’ll play in the NFL. Newhouse needs to build a lot more strength and then be used at guard, where his football smarts will help him more. As I have written previously, I believe Newhouse is destined for the practice squad, at best.
Breno Giacomini was not very far behind Bulaga in performance. His feet look infinitely faster than during his brief pre-season trial last year. He showed excellent positioning, always keeping that big body between the rusher and the QB. He even handled rushing linebackers, which was his undoing last year. maybe I’m starting to see why the Packers have carried him for 2 years. When Bulaga and Giacomini were the tackles, they looked like a very good pair and the thought crossed my mind that in a year or two, they could be the Clifton / Tauscher of their day.
Quinn Johnson still looks a bit lost out there. The pancake man is playing like his nickname – flat. Instead of the improvement in awareness I expected to see this year, Johnson struggles when asked to do anything other than lead-block into the interior of the line. He had an awful dropped pass and other than one good coverage play on a kickoff, was fairly invisible on special teams. Johnson needs to make some noise quickly, or he could be the odd man out at fullback.
Brad Jones had an excellent all-around game. He seemed to exhibit a lot more speed, all while having put on ten pounds and improved his strength. On several occasions during the scrimmage, he even employed a bull-rush and moved the tackle backwards towards the quarterback. He was also solid against the run, holding the edge on a few occasions and shooting gaps on others. Add his all-purpose special teams contributions and Jones had himself a very good night.
Sam Shields caught everything he got his hands on, addressing the biggest concern about him. While it’s easy to be wowed by his fabulous interception return for a touchdown, to me, his play on the ball was more impressive. Despite being behind the receiver, he knew where the ball was at all times and unlike the receiver, made a correct judgement on where to run to get to the ball first. He showed every bit of awareness that Jarret Bush does not. If it were Jarret Bush, you would have seen him, back to the ball, flailing his arms and turning his said side to side trying to find the ball. Enough said.
Brandon Underwood technically doesn’t belong here, as he was playing with the first team. But considering this was only because Charles Woodson had the night off, we’ll treat him as the Two he is. With the possible exception of Bulaga, I don’t think anyone impressed me as much as Underwood. Quite simply, the guy did almost everything right. While Jarret Bush, Pat Lee and DJ Clark did little of note (besides get beat), Underwood was everywhere. Showing solid coverage skills, breaking up passes, making tackles, beating punted balls to the punt returner and of course, taking an interception to the house. Until Al Harris makes it back to the field, I believe Underwood has a firm hold on the nickel cornerback spot.
Jersey Al Bracco is the founder and editor of AllGreenBayPackers.com, and the co-founder of Packers Talk Radio Network. He can be heard as one of the Co-Hosts on Cheesehead Radio and is the Green Bay Packers Draft Analyst for Drafttek.com.