The Green Bay Packers just finished their last practice before this Saturday’s preseason game against the St. Louis Rams.
Let’s take a look at what we’ve learned about the team in the third week of training camp.
Datone Jones’s Injury is Not Serious
The Packers had a real scare in their preseason opener last Friday when first-round pick Datone Jones went down with an ankle injury in his first play from scrimmage. Jones sat out the rest of the game and has missed practice this week. It is unlikely Jones will be ready to play this Saturday against the Rams, so we’ll have to wait another week to see the rookie defensive end in game action.
The good news is that it doesn’t appear Jones’s ankle injury is too serious. During his Monday press conference, Coach Mike McCarthy said the injury isn’t serious and Jones should only be out a couple of days.
It seems Green Bay is being cautious with the injury by having him sit out the entire week of practice and possibly the second preseason game. Jones will play an important role on the Packers defense this year, so the team will need him to enter the season healthy.
Starting Running Back is Between Harris and Lacy
Harris finished last year as the team’s featured back, but he missed the first couple weeks of camp this year because of a knee injury. Lacy has also missed some time early in the week because of a pulled hamstring, but both backs have returned and are healthy.
Harris is being eased back into action and will most likely miss the preseason game in St. Louis this week; however, as camp progresses, Harris should become more of a factor in the running game.
Hyde Moving Up the Depth Chart
McCarthy noted early in the week that two players on the roster that will begin receiving more reps in practice are undrafted receiver Tyrone Walker and fifth-round pick Micah Hyde. And it appears so far that the young players are taking advantage of the extra opportunities.
Despite giving up a touchdown on a fade route in the end zone, Hyde had a pretty good performance in the preseason opener. His tackling and ability to close in on the ball looked sharp in the game.
This week in practice Hyde was moved up the depth chart past Davon House and worked with the first team at cornerback in the base defense alongside Sam Shields. Of course, Tramon Williams and Casey Hayward are still out, so it’s unlikely Hyde will start in the base when the season gets going. However, it’s still something to note that the rookie defensive back has already moved up to the fourth cornerback position on the depth chart.
Hyde has had a good week of practice with the added responsibility, and he may just get to start this Saturday.
Young Linemen Making Progress
McCarthy said that backup center and guard, Greg Van Roten, had a slow start to camp this year, but in the last week he has really picked it up. Both Van Roten and undrafted rookie Lane Taylor performed well against Arizona last Friday and saw additional reps in practice this week.
With Barclay now working a lot more at tackle in practice, it appears Van Roten and Taylor are Green Bay’s top reserves on the interior offensive line. Van Roten is getting a lot of looks at center and both guard spots. He even got some work at right tackle, which bodes well for his chances to make the team. Taylor is working exclusively at both left and right guard and is performing well.
With the number of injuries the offensive line has suffered this camp, the Packers need some young linemen to step up at provide quality depth at the position. It appears Van Roten and Taylor are doing just that.
Barclay Starts at Right Tackle
One big storyline in Packers camp as of late is Don Barclay’s ascent in the right tackle competition. Marshall Newhouse has held down right tackle for the majority of camp, but since his excellent performance in the preseason opener, Barclay has gotten more reps with the first team at right tackle.
The last two days of practice Barclay has even started at right tackle and will most likely start against St. Louis on Saturday. This isn’t to say the Packers are declaring a winner for the starting job at right tackle just yet. Newhouse is still a serious contender and will continue to split first team reps with Barclay until a clear victor emerges. However, Barclay’s increased reps with the first team gives us a glimpse at the young lineman’s push for the position.
Mike Neal Returns and Plays Outside Linebacker
In other big news this week at camp, Mike Neal was taken off the team’s PUP list and saw his first action in practice. On Wednesday, Neal took a lot of reps at Outside Linebacker and really caught a lot of people’s attention with his pass rush ability.
He showed good explosion from an upright stance, and has the quickness to beat offensive linemen in one-on-one matchups. I was a bit skeptical of the Packers experimenting with Neal at linebacker, but from early indications, it seems like it could work.
Neal still played some reps on the defensive line—the majority of these being in the dime packages. If Neal’s only role on the team this year is pass rush specialist then he’ll still be valuable enough to keep around.
Kicking Competition Remains Close
The kicking competition has been taken up a notch this week. The Packers kickers didn’t get any opportunities in the preseason opener to attempt field goals, so McCarthy increased their attempts this week in practice.
On Monday, newcomer Giorgio Tavecchio was a perfect eight for eight, and Mason Crosby only missed one of his eight attempts. Both kickers hit all eight of their attempts on Tuesday and both of their attempts on Thursday.
So far in camp, Tavecchio is 36 of 40 and Crosby is 31 of 40. The real test, however, will come on game day when these kickers have to perform under pressure in front of a stadium full of screaming fans.