Packers’ Rookie Camp Produces One Shocker
The primary purpose of rookie camp is to provide an initial orientation for college players entering the professional ranks. In part for the benefit of the media and fans, however, the team throws in a couple of shorts-and-shells training sessions every year on Friday and Saturday. Prior to that, on Thursday evening the players watched a video presentation about the Green Bay Packers’ long and successful NFL history.
This year’s rookie event was attended by 58 players, including several from last year’s practice squad. Though the event seldom produces a lot of excitement, a few players invariably make good first impressions at such debuts.
Two years ago, Shawn reported to TP readers that Brett Hundley made the strongest impact. On the defensive side, rookie Quinten Rollins looked good, while first-rounder Damarious Randell provided us with an early warning by sitting out the practices with a sore ankle.
In 2016, Shawn indicated that Trevor Davis and Blake Martinez drew the most attention – Davis showed off his speed, and Martinez displayed fluidity and athleticism.
In checking out media stories from last weekend, here are a few of the reported happenings:
- Outside linebacker Vince Biegel jammed some fingers during Friday’s practice, but participated on Saturday with a club over his hand. The injury is not believed to be serious.
- Packers’ top draft choice Kevin King was so busy soaking up the new atmosphere that he had to be reminded on Friday that it was his 22nd birthday
- Coach Mike McCarthy singled out two free-agent quarterbacks, Taysom Hill and Drew Bauer, for the way they ran the offense. In particular, the coach said that Hill “belongs,” an indication he has a realistic chance of making the team’s final roster. Hill suffered four season-ending injuries while at BYU.
- Following the camp, on Monday The Packers announced the signing of these rookie camp participants: Cal Poly linebacker Josh Letuligasenoa, Southern Utah cornerback Raysean Pringle, Virginia Union running back William Stanback, Grand Valley State linebacker David Talley, and Ball State safety Aaron Taylor. The signings suggest that the team realizes it is lacking in depth at running back, linebacker, and defensive back.
Linebacker Josh Jones
That’s not a misprint. The big story coming out of rookie camp was that second-round draft pick Josh Jones, a safety at North Carolina State, began his Green Bay career playing linebacker. Maybe I missed it, but I hadn’t heard anything about such plans during the draft.
Given his size (6’1” 220) and speed (4.41 second 40-yard dash), McCarthy clearly signaled that he would like to substitute Jones for a linebacker, at least in some of the nickel or dime schemes. This is becoming a bit of a revolutionary trend around the league. The Packers successfully utilized Morgan Burnett in this role at times in 2016.
A week ago, I presented four theories as to why the Packers surprisingly selected a safety late in the second round. Using Jones as a linebacker was not one of them. It now appears, though, that the scouting team has envisioned for some time that Jones has the versatility to play in the box on passing downs.
This could further plug a big hole that was exposed last season: none of the team’s regular inside linebackers are strong pass defenders. Some excitement is warranted!
McCarthy indicated that Jones’ development will dictate how quickly he might be brought in as a sub package linebacker, but the coach clearly displayed his optimism: “If a player has the ability to play three positions, we need to give him that opportunity.”
Look for Jones to be given this opportunity early on. If he proves up to the task, it might become a regular third down practice this season.