B.J. Raji and Donte Savage. Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports photograph
The Green Bay Packers have had three straight days of padded practices, and fortunately there isn’t much more to report on the injury front. Let’s take a look at what we’ve learned about the team the past three days of practice. Remember, the Family Night Scrimmage is this Saturday, which will be our first look at the team in a game situation.
No Clear Leaders Yet in Special Teams Competitions
Jeremy Ross. Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports photograph
The kicking competition remains close between Mason Crosby and Giorgio Tavecchio. Today, Crosby was a perfect 5 for 5 of kicks from various ranges, and Tavecchio went 5 for 6, only missing his first 51-yard attempt. On the first day of camp, Crosby was 4 for 5 and Tavecchio was 5 for 5, so at this point the kickers remain close. We won’t really know much about the kicking competition until the kickers attempt field goals when the lights are on and they’re dealing with the pressures of live game action. There should be a pretty interesting kicking showdown during the Family Night Scrimmage.
It’s evident so far in camp there isn’t a clear returner on the roster ready to replace Randall Cobb. So far, Green Bay has tried the likes of Jeremy Ross, Myles White, Tyrone Walker, Loyce Means, Sam Shields, Tramon Williams, Jonathan Franklin, and newcomer Omarius Hines. No one is standing out so far in returning duties. In his press conference, McCarthy did say he would stick with Cobb as his returner if they played a game tomorrow. This is a clear challenge to the young players from the head coach. Hopefully, somebody responds to his call.
Injuries at OLB Give Undrafted Mulumba and Savage Opportunities
Outside linebackers Dezman Moses and Nate Palmer have both missed the last two practices due to injury. The injuries at the position have given undrafted rookies Andy Mulumba and Donte Savage opportunities to shine. Both rookie linebackers have had their moments the past few days, showing off their pass rushing ability.
In blitz/blitz pickup drill on Tuesday, Savage was a perfect 4-0, beating blocks by Green, Amosa, Franklin, and Pease to get to the quarterback. Mulumba has also demonstrated some good push at the line in pass rushing drills. Both Savage and Mulumba got good pressure on the quarterback during team drills today. They each had plays where they broke through the line with what would have been sacks on quarterback B.J. Coleman.
Bakhtiari Arguably the Most Impressive Rookie So Far in Camp
David Bakhtiari. Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports photograph
We have heard a lot about how good Datone Jones, Eddie Lacy, and Micah Hyde are looking so far in camp, but David Bakhtiari has been reported as being one of the most impressive young players in camp so far. Coach McCarthy even reiterated that Bakhtiari is having an excellent camp and should push for more playing time.
The rookie offensive tackle has held up well in one-on-one pass rushing drills. He stood his ground against Clay Matthews, Datone Jones, and Mike Daniels. He has been consistently good, and it’s that consistency that has led him to getting reps at both tackle spots so far. He appears to be the Packers top reserve left tackle and even pushed his way into the right tackle position competition by getting a rep with the first team during team drills today.
Datone Jones Justifying First Round Selection
Jones continues to make plays during practice, demonstrating his all-around ability at defensive line. On Tuesday, he flattened T.J. Lang during one-on-ones and dropped back in coverage during team drills to swat down a pass intended for James Starks across the middle of the field.
On Wednesday, Jones continued his strong week of practice by dominating in the pass rushing one-on-one drills. He blew past linemen Gerhart , Van Roten, and Lewis, and drove Datko back off his feet. McCarthy said he liked what Jones was doing in team drills, but he needed to get better in the one-on-one drills, and it appears on Wednesday he did just that.
Datone Jones. Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports photograph
Granted, Jones has had his low moments as well in camp. He’s been stonewalled by Lang in one-on-ones, struggled to get past undrafted rookie lineman Lane Taylor, and was run over by Eddie Lacy in a rushing drill.
Despite a strong start in camp from Jones, it’s good for us to keep in mind he’s still a rookie, and it will take awhile for him to really polish his game in the NFL. The true test will come on game day. Let’s hope Jones can transfer his successes on the practice field over to live game action.
Rookie Running Backs Creeping up on Veteran Backs
At the start of camp, Starks and Green were clearly ahead of rookies Lacy and Franklin at running back. That was to be expected. However, things have shifted slightly in camp this week. Lacy and Franklin are looking better each day and are creeping up on the veteran backs. In today’s press conference, McCarthy even said Lacy and Franklin have been two of the best second-level runners so far in camp. This is a good sign for the rookie backs.
The rookie backs seem to be finding their roles in the Packers offense. Lacy excelled in red zone drills and demonstrated the power necessary to push through piles and arm tackles to get across the goal line, and Franklin has been working in the no huddle offense and getting a lot of shovel passes and looks in the screen game. It appears Franklin is being groomed to be the Packers third down back.
Lacy and Franklin are also both steadily improving their blitz-pickup game, which is a must if their going to get a lot of looks at running back on game day.
Second Year Guys Perry and McMillian Off to Good Starts
Jerron McMillian. Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports photograph
Nick Perry is really looking a lot more comfortable than last year at outside linebacker. He seems to be settling into his position nicely and has demonstrated nice push off the edge. Perry has dominated in his one-on-ones in camp, only being challenged by blocking tight end Matthew Mulligan.
Jerron McMillian has had a strong camp so far and appears to be edging out M.D. Jennings so far in the competition for starting safety. McMillian has been getting a lot of looks with the first team defense and has been making plays in the pass defense. In a 7-on-7 drill on Wednesday, McMillian intercepted a pass and tipped another one that was intercepted by Loyce Means. McMillian has also demonstrated tight coverage against Finley on numerous occasions. Hopefully, McMillian can continue this momentum as camp progresses.
Offense Needs to Improve Ball Security
The offense has had quite a few sloppy plays so far this week. Coleman threw a couple of interceptions during team drills on Wednesday, and Coleman also fumbled the ball in an awkward toss to Starks in practice today. There have also been a few other fumbles on the field the past few days, and a couple of botched snaps from Don Barclay as he’s trying to learn the center position. The receivers have also been struggling with some dropped catches—two of those coming from Cobb in practice today. Cobb will need to clean this part of his game up if he wants to be the “guy” at receiver this year.
McCarthy wasn’t happy with the sloppy play by the offense. He even made the players stay after practice and run ball security drills.