Packers 2011 Training Camp: New Faces and Some Old New Faces

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For the 2011 Green Bay Packers, the term “new faces” means more than just rookies. It also means veterans coming off the injured list or career bench players hoping to secure a starting job.

Lets take a look at how some of these key new faces have fared after a couple days of training camp. Some of the players examined below are not new to the team, but feel new since they missed most of 2010 with an injury or were stuck on the bench.

Randall Cobb, WR
Fans attending Monday night’s first practice in pads took to Twitter to sing the praises of Cobb. The rookie made several acrobatic catches and appeared to have no problems picking up Mike McCarthy’s offense. I expected Cobb to contribute as a kick and punt returner, but if he also develops as  receiver, that would be a bonus. It’s way too early to make any judgements, but the early returns on Cobb look good.

D.J. Williams, TE
Jermichael Finley is easing his way back to football after his knee injury and Williams is taking full advantage. According to Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press Gazette, no rookie is seeing more time with the startersbesides Derek Sherrod. I envisioned Williams as more of a FB when he was drafted, but with Kuhn resigned, it looks like Williams has a shot to be the pass-catching tight end behind Finley. This leaves Tom Crabtree as the blocking tight end and occasional FB with Kuhn. It’s way to early to say anything with certainty, but right now second-year TE Andrew Quarless is the odd-man out.

T.J. Lang, G
Rookie Derek Sherrod has been getting time with the first team at LG, but T.J. Lang has reportedly looked goodwhen given a chance. I like that the Packers are giving Sherrod a look at LG, but I still think Lang is the opening-day starter.

Derek Sherrod, G/T
Even if Sherrod starts on the bench, initially putting him on the field with the first team was a smart move by McCarthy. It’s a message to the rookie that he’s expected to contribute this season and he better hit the ground running. I also don’t mind trying him at LG. Call me old fashioned, but I still believe that playing the offensive line is more about beating up the guy you’re lined up against instead of worrying too much about schemes.

Alex Green, RB
There has not been much discussion about how Green has looked in RB drills, but he is getting a chance to win the kick returner job. When asked about Cobb returning both kicks and punts, McCarthy went out of his way to praise Green as a KR. Based on the first padded practice, it looks like Cobb will be catching about 20 passes per game, so he would probably welcome Green giving him a breather on kick returns.

Mike Neal, DL
It will likely be a team effort filling in for the departed Cullen Jenkins, and Mike Neal needs to be a part of that team. Neal spent most of last season on the injured list and sat out the Packers first two practices. It’s not time to worry yet, but I’d like to see Neal back out there ASAP. McCarthy says Neal is easing back more slowly than other injured players.

Jermichael Finley, TE
Finley is the most buzzworthy of the Packers newcomers. And the most confident. I’m just as excited as anyone to have Finley back, but maybe he should finish a full 16-game season before talking about how he will “change the tight end position.”

Morgan Burnett, S
Burnett also sat out Monday’s contact practice as the team eases him back. Burnett vs. Charlie Peprah will be one of the most hotly contested position battles in camp. Coming back from an ACL tear is tough, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Burnett begins the season as a backup, then takes over as the starter as he gets stronger during the season. Of course, it’s still way too early to tell, and Burnett definitely had the talent before the injury to blow right by Peprah on the depth chart.

Brad Jones, LB
I kind of forgot about Brad Jones. Frank Zombo and Erik Walden filled in admirably when Jones was lost for the season, so don’t be surprised if Jones gets some snaps at ILB during camp. So far, it looks like Jones’ shoulder is healed and he’s looked strong in camp.

Ryan Grant, RB
Grant opened camp as the Packers starting RB, for whatever that is worth. Even if Grant starts all 16 games, it really doesn’t matter. The Packers will need to determine which back gives them the best chance to chew clock in the second half and keep Aaron Rodgers upright against blitzes.

Of all the new faces, I expect Finley, Burnett and either Sherrod or Lang to make the most impact. Once I’m convinced Neal is healthy, I’ll include him on that list.

I also wouldn’t be surprised if Cobb, Grant and Jones exceed expectations, but they are more wild cards than the others.

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Adam Czech is a freelance reporter and a Packers fan living in the Twin Cities. Follow Adam on Twitter. Read more of Adam\\\'s writing on the Packers here.

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  • Mojo

    Neals recovery is concerning me…maybe should have resigned Cullen. I would have liked the depth regardless of Neals’ status. And I think we would still have enough moola for our other blue chippers later down the road.

    • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

      They are going extra slow with Neal. The doctors have all been very pleased with his recovery so far. I think he’ll be fine.

    • Adam Czech

      McCarthy seems high on CJ Wilson too. Neal must be fine. Otherwise you’d think the Packers would’ve made more of a run at keeping Jenkins if all it costed was $4 million guaranteed.

      • Tarynfor 12

        Jenkins said he was never asked for a negotiation and felt he was gone no matter.I don’t think money was the issue for TT but merely following the path chosen for this team and it was the year for Jenkins vs youth and he lost.
        Next man up in this arena…Driver vs Cobb and the winner is…

        • Adam Czech

          Driver isn’t going anywhere this year.

          • Tarynfor 12

            Like I wrote or implied,this year was Jenkins…next year is Driver.

  • Art Rosen

    Last year I was given a link to watch the games on the computer if it is not televised in the NY NJ area. It was a Swedish station (commercials were in Swedish) but the game was in English (live). Does anyone know the link. I lost it.

    • Adam Czech

      Pony up and pay for NFL Sunday Ticket like the rest of us poor schmucks.

      • Steve Cheez

        Sorry, I don’t know how to put these in order…

        But I saw an ad for free Sunday Ticket for new DirecTV subscribers. As as existing subscriber I felt somewhat slighted so I called them up and they gave me $120 off.

        Might be worth a try for anybody else out here in exile from God’s Country.

  • Mojo

    Looking at the list Adam put together, they all look like players who could make significant positive contributions to this years team. What a major boost they would provide to a team that is coming off a SB win.

    Is anyone surprised Cobb and Williams look smooth in the early goings of camp?

    Lang should be motivated after they started with Sherrod.

    Also, I believe Newhouse could be included in this list in that he ended up on IR last year and appears to be showing in camp so far.

    The fierce competition at most positions should make the the final 53 and PS the strongest top to bottom by the time the season begins.

    • Zach Kruse

      The saddest part about this roster right now: The Packers will have to cut some good players to get to 53. Good problem to have, I guess.

  • FireMMNow

    Adam I disagree that putting Sherrod at LG is a good move. You may want him to think that he is expected to contribute this year, but he most likely is not unless there is an injury. In a shortened offseason with no minicamps why would you make your rookie try to learn two positions? Also, continuity on the O-line is a huge factor. Lang is a veteran and deserves to get the reps and prove that he can do the job. The packers need to know if Lang can do the job at Guard as well, if he cannot they need to go to plan B.

    Confidence is a huge deal for rookies. Putting too much on Sherrod’s plate too early could put him behind the curve this year.

    This has been Campen’s M.O. for the last 4 years. Shifting guys around and struggling to pick a line up. If Lang has looked better than Sherrod put him with the #1s and let Sherrod know that nothing is given to you in this league. I would rather build a good offensive line and protect the franchise than worry about getting Sherrod reps at a position he will most likely never play.

    • Adam Czech

      I definitely see where you’re coming from. But like I said in the post, I still believe OL play is about being big, strong and mean, regardless of where you line up.

      • FireMMNow

        It does not matter how strong or mean you are if you block the wrong guy.

    • Ron LC

      ABSOLUTELY! If TJ recovers from his pahriah status, he should take every snap of the pre-season at LG. No switching every week hoping to find an answer. See 2008 and 2009 please.

  • Cones

    I love the praise for Williams after just 3 practices, I REPEAT 3 PRACTICES! Don’t get me wrong I’m excited too, another weapon for McCarthy an company is a great thing. But to already write of Quarless is silly. So Williams has had 3 good practices that Quarless didn’t (2 of which not in pads mind you) you know what Quarless has had that Williams hasn’t a full NFL season under his belt. Whether he was effective or not is moot. Don’t undervalue NFL experience, practice and game speed are two very different things.

    • Adam Czech

      “It’s way to early to say anything with certainty….”

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