Packers Training Camp Observations: 7-31
Well another year is upon us and I’ll be back at camp, likely making it to most of the practices. I’m glad to be working with Total Packers once again and I’m willing to take suggestions on any players to keep an eye out for. Please feel free to leave your comments and I will do my best to keep up with reading through your posts before making it to practice.
Stepping up on defense
The first thing I noticed this training camp is the improved play of the defense. Whether it is Davon House stepping ahead of Jarrett Bush on the depth chart or Jerel Worthy giving life to the defensive line, it feels like the offense is having much more difficulty moving the ball than last year.
It has been interesting to see all of the positions that Charles Woodson is playing, as he goes from his traditional spot matching up against a slot receiver to a position that is similar to a “rover” where he is like an in-the-box safety, playing it like a linebacker. It looks as if Dom Capers is going to do all that he can to move Woodson around as much as possible to create the best matchups for an impact player. I saw one play today where Woodson, playing near the line of scrimmage, was sent on a “cross dogs” blitz up the middle as if he was an inside linebacker and he would have been quick to sack Rodgers on the play.
Business as usual
Practice has not been as polished for the offense as years past, but I do not believe there is any reason to believe in a drop off for their level of play. Donald Driver had a strong day, making a number of short-to-intermediate catches in traffic. D.J. Williams is having another strong camp and he seems to make a brilliant catch each practice. The greatest challenge for Williams will be continuing to make an impact, as he cooled off significantly last year after a very strong start.
Two of last year’s rookies that may make a significant impact on offense this year are Randall Cobb and Alex Green. Cobb has been his typical self during training camp, making spectacular catches and showing a feel for handling punts that nobody on the team outside of Woodson has. It also feels like the Packers are concentrating on using Cobb in as many ways as possible from slants and screens to end-arounds and running him out of the backfield, similar to the way the Vikings use Percy Harvin. Alex Green will likely be a change-of-pace back, as James Starks is set to be the starter. I see no ill signs of the injury that ended Green’s season last year and he looks to be effective on screen plays and dump-off passes. The largest hurdle for Green will likely be his blitz pick-up since everybody knows the Packers want to pass as often as possible.
Emphasizing special teams
Mike McCarthy has already expressed his desire to improve tackling, but it looks like the team is also trying to put more attention on special teams. Practices already last a long two and a half hours, but the team usually meets 15 minutes before practice to walk through different special teams operations. This could have something to do with the larger roster size since teams are carrying 90 players instead of 80, but it seems like there has been an active investment in improving the special teams play. Once we get closer to the end of preseason and training camp, I will keep a tally of who is working with the No. 1 special teams units to give you guys a better feel for the on-the-bubble guys who may make the team.
- Players worth mentioning that did not practice: Greg Jennings, Andrew Quarless, Desmond Bishop, and Ryan Pickett
- Sam Shields needs to do some work if he wants to be a factor this year. I have heard that his performance was better yesterday, but he definitely needs to pick his game up. In my opinion, I do not believe this guy should be returning kicks of any kind. Shields still does not look comfortable fielding a kick and he usually runs into his blockers before falling down.
- Jermichael Finley, now back at practice, makes a terrific one-handed catch on a pass to his back shoulder in traffic down the seam. The guy may run his mouth but he always brings it to practice.
- As I noted earlier, Davon House is moving up the depth chart and is now in line to be No. 2 after Tramon Williams. The only time Jarrett Bush made the No. 1 unit today is when the defense went to dime. House had a pair of interceptions yesterday and I am sure that caught the eyes of the coaches.
- Donald Driver seems to have more fun during practice than any other player. If he isn’t mixing it up with the crowd he is joking with the equipment staff.
- In a humorous moment, the crowd yells out to Greg Jennings while he is talking to Ted Thompson and tells Thompson to “give Greg his money” to which Greg puts his arm around Ted, looks back at the crowd and gives a thumbs-up sign. I agree, pay the man.
- NFL Network was at practice today, and Mike Mayock and Stacy Dales spent a decent amount of time right in front of me. Mayock even signed autographs for a couple fans while talking to them about the team.
- The crowd kept yelling to Donald Driver, asking him to dance for them. Is it just me, or does that have too much of an “Uncle Tom” feel about it?
I should be able to make most of this years’ practices, with the next stop being Thursday night for me. Be sure to follow along with me and look for another post on Thursday night!