Packers Training Camp Observations: 8-2
The stands were packed as camp drew it’s largest crowd of the year so far, Thursday night.
It was a big night for the wide receivers, as the offense put it on the defense tonight. In a deep and talented group, Greg Jennings and James Jones both stood out. Jennings looks to be in midseason form, as he beat Otis Merrill on a jump ball that went for a touchdown and followed that play by beating Davon House on a deep in route. During the no huddle portion of the night, Aaron Rodgers had a perfect pass to the back corner of the end zone for what would have been a 20-yard touchdown, as Jennings just got both feet in. Jennings looking like an elite player is hardly a new thing.
James Jones turned in an excellent night as well and maybe this is a response to the trade rumors or to his expanded role on special teams. When Jones was not working with the No. 1 kickoff return unit, he was showing off his physicality by out-jumping and boxing-out would be defenders. On one pass, Jones was able to stretch around a well-positioned Tramon Williams and catch a pass for a short touchdown.
Jordy Nelson had a solid day and Jermichael Finley made a diving touchdown catch, but Jennings and Jones were my standouts today… with a hat-tip going to the offensive line for usually keeping the quarterbacks pretty clean as I saw it.
Carousel at cornerback
The Packers are looking to experiment with the other cornerback position that becomes vacated with Charles Woodson moving around. The three players in line to step in are Jarrett Bush, Davon House, and Sam Shields. There may be a chance that Casey Hayward moves into a more prominent role, but the Packers are rotating Bush, House, and Shields from day to day or even drill-to-drill. It is my gut feeling that House is going to come away as the No. 2 corner across from Williams once camp ends.
It was another difficult night for Shields as he was beat short, long, quick, or with deep jump balls. It has always been obvious that Shields has rare athleticism, but his technique is still way behind because he’s still learning the position. While it is hard to forget how crucial Shields was during the Super Bowl run, it is becoming more difficult to see him earn a roster spot if he does not find a way to improve.
Jarrett Bush is what he is… a Pro Bowl-caliber special teams player that can play a little defense. While Bush has improved each year, it is hard to imagine him as a full-time defensive player. Bush is inconsistent. He’ll stay assignment sure on a majority of plays, but will become over-aggressive at times and give up large gains to the offense.
- Ball security drills have become a main emphasis. Now it isn’t just the quarterbacks that take part in the drill where the players rotate the ball around one of their legs, but the tight ends and linebackers also take part as well. For offensive linemen, they do a similar drill, but they rotate the ball around a rope that is held chest high while shuffling down the line.
- During a drill meant to run down the clock before a punt, Rodgers gets the defense to jump offsides and decides to emphasize it with an emphatic “offsides” sign himself.
- On a different drill, Rodgers smokes a pass down the middle to Tom Crabtree on his back hip and Crabtree hauls in the pass one-handed and continues upfield. Rodgers celebrates by rocking out with an air guitar motion, maybe mocking Crabtree’s love for crappy metal bands.
- Minicamp and OTAs phenom Dezman Moses is still showing strong, usually coming in with the No. 2 units and occasionally with the No. 1 dime defense. There was a scary moment in the middle of practice where Moses rolled his ankle chasing down a run from the backside and he was looked at by the trainers for a while. But they re-taped the ankle and Moses had a huge stop on Brandon Saine for a loss and then applied quick pressure just a play or two later. It already looks as if Moses is ahead of Brad Jones and Vic So’oto and it looks as if he may stay as the primary backup to Clay Matthews on the right side.
- D.J. Smith is really taking advantage of the increased playing time with Desmond Bishop out. Bishop was in shells tonight so he will be back soon. It will be intriguing to see what happens between Smith, Bishop, and A.J. Hawk once all of them are healthy.
- A.J. Hawk looks much leaner. Maybe it is the hair or lack thereof, but I imagine that he knows what a make-or-break year this could be.
- In one-on-one drills, I saw Andrew Datko stand up a rushing Clay Matthews. Here is hoping the Packers found some seventh-round gold.
- Despite the defensive struggles tonight, Tramon Williams is looking like the player he was two seasons ago. On a deep ball down the sideline to Jordy Nelson, Williams played it perfectly and knocked it away as Nelson was trying to high-point it.
- During a session of no huddle offense, Jerel Worthy had a quick sack of Aaron Rodgers who tossed the ball into Worthy’s gut in frustration. It looks like Worthy will rotate in for the nickel defense or during most passing downs because he looks much better against the pass than the run. After last year, I could turn a blind eye to a weakness in rushing defense if they are able to get after the quarterback. I’m already becoming a big fan of Worthy’s ability and high energy.
- A small fight breaks out in practice which escalates momentarily and I see Charles Woodson get rolled out of the pile while D.J. Smith takes a Superman dive into it.
- Bad night for Ray Dominguez. It looked like he hurt his ankle and had to be carted off.
- Casey Hayward showed a glimpse of greatness. Diondre Borel beats him off of the line with a double move, but Hayward recovers and breaks up the shallow crossing route.
- D.J. Williams, while lining up as an H-back, takes a hand-off to run a sweep to the left, but quickly fumbles the ball. I think the Packers are going to be as creative as they can running the ball because it seems like they hate to run a traditional running play.
- Speaking of running backs, Alex Green sure looks the part. He spun out of a would-be tackle for a loss tonight to gain a couple yards. It was not headline-making stuff, but it feels like an improvement.
- To me it feels like bike rides to and from practice are made for children, while the practice itself is made for adults. Children do not understand what is going on and why, so please find something to keep them occupied while you sit there for three hours. At least find something that doesn’t involve letting the children expend their energy on the innocent bystanders around them.