It’s the last day of padded practice open to the public, with tomorrow being the very last day open to suckers like me. Let’s get to it.
A special chance
Young players looking to make the Green Bay Packers know that their way onto the team will likely be through special teams. A large portion of practice today was spent working on punt and kick returns and I’d say that it’s safe to assume that players working with the No. 1 units today would have a good shot at making the roster in some capacity. On-the-bubble players working with the first team on punt returns were Ryan Taylor, Tom Crabtree, Pat Lee, and Jamari Lattimore. Notable players relegated to second team and “look team” include Brad Jones, Dimitri Nance, Ricky Elmore, and D.J. Williams. My initial concerns for Williams’ ability to contribute were eased a bit when he joined Pat Lee and fellow tight ends Andrew Quarless and Tom Crabtree on first team kick returns. I’m doubtful what I saw in practice today guarantees a spot on the roster for the guys I mentioned being with the first team units, but it wouldn’t be out of the question to think that it could be a telling sign for the cuts ahead.
Aided by the absence of Aaron Rodgers in practice, the defense found more success getting their hands on the ball, with Morgan Burnett and Davon House being the greatest beneficiaries. Burnett jumped a pair of routes, deflecting the ball away, and intercepted an overthrown pass by Graham Harrell. House ran stride for stride with Greg Jennings and tipped a ball away in the end zone along with tipping a short pass into the hands of Eli Joseph. House was beat once by Greg Jennings on a deep pass from Matt Flynn. If guys like Burnett and House keep trending upwards, the passing defense for the Packers could be the best in the league.
It can be difficult to tell the improvement of the offensive line with lighter hitting and red jerseys for quarterbacks, but it seemed like the line held up better today. I’m still worried that the Packers run blocking isn’t what it should be, but I didn’t see a large number of free rushers on the quarterback like I have sometimes seen in camp. Interestingly, I saw Scott Wells’ heir apparent, Nick McDonald, take a couple snaps with the No. 1 offensive line. Marshall Newhouse sure looks good in practice, though he hasn’t been as consistent on game day. Chad Clifton didn’t resemble the guy that was routinely beat by Dwight Freeney. I think the cause for concern with the offensive line is valid, but let’s not blow it too far out of proportion.
- In a small change of protocol, the offensive players stretched inside the Don Hutson center while the defense was outside on Nitschke Field.
- Aaron Rodgers did not practice, but was on the sidelines in shorts and a sweater. Isn’t it like 80 degrees out? I’ve heard that McCarthy said Rodgers had a small ankle sprain in the morning.
- C.J. Wilson and Josh Gordy returned to practice. Jermichael Finley, Jordy Nelson, James Jones, and Mike Neal are still out.
- The offense spent more time running the no-huddle offense. Matt Flynn worked with the No. 1 unit and was adequate but not that effective.
I’ve only got one more of these for you guys and I expect a very abbreviated practice tomorrow so I’ll try to include my thoughts on final roster cuts. Only 10 days left until the real thing!