The Packers have been practicing since Thursday of last week, and while it’s far too early to start shaping the final roster, a handful of players have people raising their eyebrows.
Can these three guys keep it going? Or will they wash out like so many other players who were superstars in late July, but duds in September?
D.J. Williams, TE
Instead of just lifting weights and doing cardio, Clay Matthews stepped outside of the box to get bigger and better after his rookie season. Matthews took up mixed martial arts training and went on to have a breakout second season. Apparently, Williams stepped outside the box this offseason, too…and into the cow pasture. The second-year TE says he’s gotten stronger thanks to an offseason cow-wrestling regimen back in his home state of Arkansas. Williams seems serious about it too, describing his technique in detail and talking about how he just tries to “not get hurt or die” when showing these cows who is the superior grappler. Well, Williams has always been known more as a receiver than a blocker. If suplexing ‘Ol Bessie rounds out his game a little, cool. Just keep him away from Aaron Rodgers. I don’t want No. 12 getting any goofy ideas about how he should spend his next offseason.
Casey Hayward, CB
Hayward has played so well, Bob McGinn already dedicated an entire column to the second-round pick from Vanderbilt. It sounds like Hayward uses his brains as much as his brawn, deciphering routes and showing no hesitation to swoop in and make plays. The Packers have a logjam at corner behind Tramon Williams and Charles Woodson (who might be spending a lot of his time at safety). If Hayward can rise above the rest, it can only mean good things for a Packers defense coming off a historically awful season.
Dezman Moses, LB
The hype started for Moses back at OTAs and by all accounts, he’s played well in camp. Before you get too excited, though, the Packers have had at least one LB catch fire in the offseason ever since they switched to a 3-4. None of these training camp phenoms have ever amounted to much besides role players once actual games start, but hey, it’s better to have unknown guys playing well in camp instead of unknown guys playing like, well, unknown guys. If Moses keeps it going and sticks with the team, he should get plenty of chances to make an impact on special teams. Anything else would be a nice bonus.
Of the three, Hayward has the best shot at making an impact, both immediately and down the road. Yeah, that’s probably obvious since the Packers traded up to get Hayward in the second round, but it also makes the most sense from a numbers perspective.
The Packers (and pretty much every other team in the NFL) need as many talented players in the secondary as possible. With Woodson seeing time at safety and Sam Shields fading a bit, the opportunity is there for someone to grab significant playing time at corner.
Led by Jermichael Finley, the Packers have plenty of talent at TE. Tom Crabtree also fills the blocking role and Ryan Taylor appeared to be making progress last season. If Williams doesn’t get many chances at TE, perhaps we’ll see him line up as a fullback or H-back.
Outside linebacker is sort of funny right now. Should Packers fans be worried that Nick Perry isn’t on the above list? Or are our expectations higher for Perry because he’s a first-round pick and many of us know the raw talent he has? Probably the latter. It’s tougher to raise eyebrows when you’re expected to be good. And Perry is expected to be good.
In addition to Perry and the various warm bodies the Packers put opposite of Clay Matthews last season, Moses also has to overtake Vic So’oto, last season’s leader in training camp eyebrow raising.——————