Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers takes a break during opening day of training camp at Nitschke Field. Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports photograph
Three days are in the books for the 2013 Green Bay Packers training camp, and we have learned a lot about the team already.
If you missed our summary of the first day you can catch that here: First Day Summary.
Saturday was another shell practice, but Sunday was the team’s first padded practice and there was a lot of action. Here are the top things to take away from day two and three of Packers camp.
Undrafted Wide Receivers Take Advantage of Injuries at the Position
On the second day of training camp rookie wide receivers, Charles Johnson (knee), Kevin Dorsey (hamstring), and Sederrik Cunningham all suffered injuries that took them out of practice. Johnson and Dorsey, the Packers seventh round picks, also missed time during OTAs because of injuries. All three receivers missed the first padded practice on Sunday, and it only appears Cunningham’s injury (wrist) is serious at this point.
In their absence, undrafted receivers Tyrone Walker, Myles White, and Alex Gillett have all stepped up and made the most of their additional opportunities. Walker was arguably the most impressive player in practice on Saturday. Granted, the pads weren’t on yet, but he still did enough to get noticed by Coach McCarthy and the Packers media. White and Gillett also made some nice catches over the last two days.
Competition at wide receiver should continue to get interesting as camp progresses. It will be important for the drafted rookies, Johnson and Dorsey, to get healthy and back on the field to earn final roster spots. Right now they’re falling behind some of the undrafted rookies who are impressing in camp.
Jerron McMillian. Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports photograph
McMillian and Jennings Split First Team Reps
After M.D. Jennings started with the first team defense on day one, Jerron McMillian started the last two days with the first unit at safety. As expected McMillian and Jennings will split reps with the first team defense at safety until one of the players separates themselves from the competition with their play on the field. I’m guessing a winner of this position battle won’t be evident until we’re well into the preseason.
Datone Jones Impressing Early On
There are a lot of high expectations that come with being a first round pick, but rookie defensive lineman Datone Jones has not disappointed so far in camp. He has impressed the Packers media and coaches in the first three days, and he looks the part in pads.
He played physical during Sunday’s practice and made numerous plays at the line, including shedding a block from fullback Jonathan Amosa and stuffing second round pick Eddie Lacy at the line during a running drill. It is still too early to make a final verdict, but it appears Jones is the real deal. He could make a big difference on the field for the defense this season, so his development during camp will be something to watch.
Mixed Results So Far On Rookie Running Backs
Both rookie backs Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin showed some explosiveness out of the backfield during Saturday’s shell practice; however, Lacy struggled a bit when the pads went on. He reportedly looked hesitant and lacked the explosion he demonstrated in previous practices. Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel even noted that Lacy was taken down to the ground by an arm tackle by defensive tackle Jordan Miller. Lacy will have to showcase more power than that to earn snaps at running back, but it’s still early in camp and the young back may be still thinking his way through the playbook.
On the bright side, Franklin had a strong practice on Sunday and impressed with his movement and burst out of the backfield. Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel even tweeted that Franklin showed a lot more burst than Lacy during the first padded practice. We’ll watch if this trend continues. Franklin could sneak his way into a featured back role by the end of camp.
James Starks. Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports photograph
Starks Continues to Have a Strong Camp
Heading into camp, there was a lot of anticipation to see the rookie running backs play in pads, but after three days of camp, James Starks has been the Packers’ strongest performer out of the backfield.
Many disregarded Starks at the position heading into camp, myself included, but he may just prove us all wrong. Coach McCarthy noted in his press conference that Starks has really improved his checkdown receiving game and running after the catch ability this year. If Starks continues playing this well in camp and remains healthy, he may not only make the final roster, but he also might challenge the rookie backs for playing time.
Coleman Demonstrates Strong Arm
The team beat reporters have tweeted on a few occasions now that B.J. Coleman has demonstrated great arm strength in camp. The coaches have been working with Coleman this year on throwing on the run, trying to improve his mobility and improvisation as a quarterback. Coleman was reported that he completed a nice 25-yard pass to Jeremy Ross while rolling to his right. Let’s hope he makes those kind of throws during the preseason games.
Packers Get Physical in First Padded Practice
Every report from the Packers first padded practice in camp has emphasized how physical and aggressive the play was for a team practice. There were numerous scuffles between players after the play, players falling to the ground, and excessive hitting. Packers team reporter Vic Ketchman said it was the most physical camp practice he’d witnessed in his three years with the organization.
A few of the rookie defensive players were even scolded by coaches for tackling and hitting too aggressively. It seems the Packers are trying to get rid of the “soft” label attached to the team after the Forty-Niners playoff loss last season.
On the plus side, McCarthy said the team practiced with a lot of energy. At the very least, the aggressive nature of the first padded practice sets a nice tone for a team trying to carve out a new, more rugged team identity heading into the 2013 season.
Stay tuned for more Packers training camp summaries.