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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.

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Rob Born

Due to Aaron Rodgers’ reckless ways, I’m officially launching the Campaign for GM Gutekunst to Acquire the Best Available (Veteran) Backup Quarterback – NOW.

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7 Comments

  1. Kato May 10, 2017

    I think a couple of us called this over the past week. I am not surprised at all.

  2. Howard May 10, 2017

    I am not suprised to see Jones attempt linebacker in the dime and nickel. I do not see Jones holding up as a ILB full time, but in certain packages such as dime, yes. I might of been one who said this right after Jones was drafted.

  3. Xlvordie May 10, 2017

    Uhhhh..where the hell have you been? Here I thought I was about to read something new and exciting.

  4. Cheese May 10, 2017

    Oh look, another fucking conversion project. Didn’t see that one coming! Do these geniuses need to do this every single draft?

    1. Empacador May 11, 2017

      One of these years a conversion project might actually work out. I mean they are due for something to finally work in their favor based on the law of averages right? Randall back at Safety after being replaced by King at CB, and Jones taking over the Micah Hyde/Joe Thomas role wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world like many people here have pointed out more than once the past few weeks.

    2. Gil Thorp May 11, 2017

      I wouldn’t really call him a conversion project, he’s still a safety. The new trend is having a safety big and strong enough to play close to the line as a hybrid safety/linebacker in nickel and dime sets. Before his injury, the Packers planned on Sean Richardson filling this role. Burnett’s done it some but he’s not ideally suited for it.

    3. Kato May 11, 2017

      They aren’t converting him to linebacker. Just in sub packages in coverage roles, likely covering TEs and RBs. The packers used to use Charles Woodson in a very similar role at times. My guess is they think he will also be an effective blitzer in this situation too.