The Green Bay Packers have been back at training camp for a full week now and I can’t recall a more active first week of camp in all of my years as a fan. With the advent of social media, we all have much more access than we did in previous years so that is likely a contributor. I recall the days when you didn’t get your first glimpse of what was going on unless you physically went to the camp practices or until you watched the first preseason game.
To end this week, below is a quick recap of some of the bigger happenings at Packers practice over the last seven days. I have been following most of the beat writers, the team site and relevant blogs to stay informed from afar and that is where most of this comes from.
– Stay healthy, my friend. Many of you chastised me for writing the injury piece earlier today and believe me, I wasn’t trying to test Murphy’s Law or jinx the team. It was meant to promote discussion on the team’s new approach to reducing injuries. Still, there was some good news and bad news this week on the injury front.
Linebacker Nick Perry finally practiced and got off of the physical unable to perform (PUP) list. Also returning from injuries were Mike Neal and Morgan Burnett. Receiver Jeff Janis’s mystery illness was finally revealed: shingles. He will be back next week.
On the not-so-bright side, center Corey Linsley and receiver Jared Abbrederis were both out of practice on Friday. Linsley has a shoulder injury and Abbrederis has a knee issue. Head coach Mike McCarthy did not have any information on how severe either injury was as of Friday afternoon. Rampant speculation on Abbrederis via various Twitter feeds, including the very reliable Bob McGinn of the Journal-Sentinel, is that it could be an ACL injury. Defensive linemen Jerel Worthy and Letroy Guion have yet to suit up in camp although neither are on PUP for the time being.
Mr. Rodgers’ Neighborhood. I haven’t heard much about Aaron Rodgers and, to me, that’s a good thing. He’s Aaron Rodgers and he’ll continue to be Aaron Rodgers this season. Not to say that he doesn’t need the work in camp, but this is his 10th season and his eighth with McCarthy. Rest assured Rodgers will be ready to go when they head to Seattle to face the Seahawks on September 4th
– Mike Daniels means what he says. Daniels has been impressive so far in both individual and team drills. He has won most of his one-on-one matchups and, as he vowed to do during the offseason, is definitely bringing some more “nasty” to the field with him this year. If he’ll get down and dirty with his own teammates, I’m anxious to see what he does to opposing offensive lineman and ball carriers.
– B.J. Raji is back at home. Raji is also said to be looking good and strong so far. I don’t know if it’s his return to nose tackle from defensive end or if he truly wants to prove that he’s worth more next year when he’s a free agent, but Raji is also winning many of his individual battles. He looks like he could be more of a force in the middle of the Packers defense this season.
– Safety in numbers. After a dismal season last year at safety, the Packers appear to have a much more talented bunch this season. Incumbent Morgan Burnett is joined by newcomers Micah Hyde and rookie Ha Ha Clinton-Dix along with Sean Richardson and Chris Banjo. The Packers may keep all five, depending on what they do elsewhere on the roster and given that Hyde can also double as a slot corner. Hyde and Richardson have reportedly been making some nice plays on the football during team periods.
– Jordy is back. .to stay. Nelson was signed to a contract extension, keeping him in Green Bay for another five seasons. Nelson has emerged as the elder statesman of the receiver group and has been helping some of the younger receivers over the past week. He’s the consummate teammate and locker room guy, which is a big part of why he was given the first contract extension this preseason.
– Peppers is big. That’s what the local media keep saying, that they can’t believe how big Julius Peppers is in person. Hopefully Packers opponents will be as unfamiliar and overwhelmed by Peppers’ size this upcoming season. He has been described as being in good shape and not playing like a typical 34-year old football player. The Packers are betting on that being the case after signing him this offseason and after his dip in production with the Chicago Bears last year.
– Backup quarterback wanted. The Packers have their backup in camp, don’t get me wrong. They just need one of them to step up and claim the backup spot. Matt Flynn and Scott Tolzien have been hot and cold this week and neither has taken the reins for the #2 quarterback position. Tolzien has had accuracy and consistency problems while Flynn just doesn’t have any zip on his passes. Let’s just hope Rodgers doesn’t miss any time this season.
– There is depth at cornerback. Tramon Williams has had a good camp so far and that is some of the best news the Packers could receive. Yes, he’s expensive but that he’s ready to keep his starting spot and play at a high level means the Packers don’t have to throw someone in at outside cornerback who isn’t ready or who doesn’t naturally play on the outside. Casey Hayward has flashed some in his return to his slot cornerback position. Hyde has been working mostly at safety so the team likely doesn’t want to have to commit him to cornerback 100% of the time. Davon House has had a good offseason, but needs to make plays in game situations. Jarrett Bush is back to being Mr. August at cornerback but the Packers surely won’t allow themselves to be fooled into putting him in coverage unless Armageddon strikes and there are literally no other options. I haven’t even mentioned Sam Shields, who got an nice payday this offseason and who should hold down the other outside corner spot. If healthy, this group looks to be improved over last season.
– The tight end debate. Andrew Quarless, Brandon Bostick, Richard Rodgers. All three have a shot at being the “starter” on offense. Bostick has had a few impressive days in a row and Rodgers has received praise from McCarthy himself. Quarless took over last season when Jermichael Finley was lost so don’t forget about him. None of the three are Finley, but the tight end group should be productive with Aaron Rodgers running the show and if they continue to settle into the offense. Colt Lyerla can’t seem to get going and needs to make a huge jump over the next few weeks to make a case for a roster spot or for the team to keep him on the practice squad.
– J.C. Tretter’s struggles. J.C. Tretter has struggled so far and as the guy who the team was hoping could step in and start at center, that’s not the best news. The better news is that he’s struggling in practice and against guys like Daniels and Raji, who have been mowing everyone over. Tretter needs to improve but we’re not at the point of hitting the panic button just yet. Rookie Linsley has looked good so far and could emerge as an option if Tretter falls off and if Linsley’s current shoulder injury isn’t serious.
– Under the radar. I wrote about undrafted inside linebacker Joe Thomas yesterday. He has had some good practices but needs to shine in preseason games to make a push for more discussion. Still, he could be “that guy” that comes out of nowhere during training camp and grabs a roster spot. Rookie Carl Bradford is being worked at outside linebacker and has looked decent. We’re not hearing his name much, as he hasn’t had much time on the field during team periods, but his mechanics look good and that’s not a bad place to start. I already touched on Sean Richardson at safety and he belongs in this discussion, as so much emphasis at safety has been placed on Burnett, Hyde and Clinton-Dix. Richardson continues to make plays in coverage and could find himself in the thick of battle for some regular playing time.
– How special are they? Special teams are getting attention, especially in the return game. Right now, DuJuan Harris seems to be taking most reps on kickoff return while the top punt returner has been Randall Cobb. Hyde handled the punt return duties last season and fared OK on a unit that was one of the worst in the league. Hyde has taken reps at punt return as well and may return to his regular post once the games start, although he was also seen at the personal protector spot during Friday’s practice. Abbrederis had been taking reps on kick return so the status of his injured knee is obviously key in that regard. Kicker Mason Crosby made 7/8 field goal attempts on Friday and appears on a better track this camp than last year and following his dismal 2012 season.
Tomorrow is the team’s annual Family Night scrimmage and this may be the last year that it carries that name, as it will not be an actual scrimmage but rather a regular practice that just happens to be attended by 70,000 fans at Lambeau Field. As always, keep checking back in for updated news and notes.
Jason Perone is an independent sports blogger writing about the Packers on AllGreenBayPackers.comFollow Jason Perone: