This weekend the Green Back Packers embarked on their latest training camp in preparation for the upcoming season. Due to CBA rules, the first two practices are glorified OTA practices, and with the pads finally going on tomorrow, real football can begin in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
Before that happens, here are some story lines I will be following during the remaining 19 practices of pre-season.
- Talent Overload at WR & TE
Not a surprise to anyone... the Packers are loaded with guys who can catch the ball, and of course having Aaron Rodgers helps significantly. 17 receivers and tight ends are competing for their spot on the 53 man roster. The coaching staff have their hands full giving out enough reps for everyone to show they belong. While shortened practice schedules can make it harder for new guys to stand out, there is certainly plenty of time for guys to take clear steps back. Colt Lyerla is on the fast track to not making it past the first cut as he has proven unreliable during the team's first two practices.
- A Vocal Leader Emerges
Mike Daniels is backing up his off-season talk of his desire to be a vocal leader on the defense. It started with some great interviews during OTAs and now we are seeing it in action. On the team's second practice he taunted the offense about what to expect once the pads come on and then continued to talk to his teammate Raji on the sideline. We don't know what he said, but word from the media was that it didn't look too friendly. Mike Daniels wants accountability and will make noise to see results. It is still too early to tell how it will resonate, but you have to love Mike's emergence as a leader on this team.
- Hayward & Hyde
The back-end of this defense improves greatly when both of these guys are on the field. Hayward and Hyde have both excelled during the first weekend of training camp. They are instinctive football players that our coaching staff plan to put in the best positions to make plays. I am excited to see them on the field together during the pre-season games. Hayward being and staying healthy coupled with Hyde's improvement defending in the open field could make this one of the most talented defensive backfields in the league.
- LB Spots up for Grabs
Clay and Julius appear entrentched as our starting outside linebackers, but training camp is just getting started. We know we will be seeing more packages and less plays so that probably means more linebackers. This changes the dynamics of depth charts by position a little bit. It will come down to who are the best linebackers inside and outside that we have on this team. Who are the most versatile? Lattimore is expected to be available and effective moving around formations and 2nd year player Barrington is expected to make that jump the coaching staff always talk about. How will Nate Palmer and Andy Mulumba fair against new competition waiting in the wings. To me, linebacker is the most intriguing position to watch this training camp.
As pre-season rolls along, I will put out more blog posts covering the story lines and competitions that intrigue me the most, and as always, would love to hear your takes. Thanks for reading!
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Packers OTAs 6-10-14
Todays OTAs started with the same format as previous, defense on one side of the field, offense on the other. This time I thought I would concentrate a bit more on the defense, even though this unit cannot really relay much solid information being these are non-contact, no pads practices.
All three units look to have been upgraded well in terms of personnel. Secondary, LBs and DL have noticeable improvements in raw talent and size since the 2013 season. Some of the players who really stood out today were Datone Jones, Mike Daniels, Adrian Hubbard, Carl Bradford, Micah Hyde, Casey Hayward, Ha Ha Clinton Dix, Mike Pennel and Sean Richardson.
BJ Raji returned to practice, as did Colt Lyerla on the O side. BJ and Daniels are clearly pretty tight, and they look good. I haven’t been able to get a really good read on Khyri Thornton, nor Josh Boyd for that matter, as there really are not a whole lot of opportunities for them or any of the DL for that matter to shine.
Practice started much the same as last week with PR and coverage units. This was far improved over last week, but then again, anything would have been an improvement with how sloppy their drills looked last week. Same players in to return, Abbrederis, Cobb, Hyde and Tramon Williams. They all looked good. Abbrederis looks very, very solid back there as a returner. Coverage was improved, yet he still is able to find openings to break free.
FG units followed, and again, Mason Crosby was on target. He is looking pretty strong and confident. Julius Peppers again lined up over LS to block.
Next were individual drills, DBs, LBs and DL in their respective areas. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is looking pretty solid. Nice hands, had one drop in a drill where they are running at the QB and the throw comes in pretty hot, from less than 10 yds. Dimitri Goodson also looked pretty good today overall, as did Hyde, Sean Richardson and Chris Banjo. Hyde has a real aire to him, plays and practices like he’s been there before. I’ve got to say that I’m pretty impressed with this group. Not so much for Davon House, who I was looking to have a good showing but had a few drops. He really needs to step it up if he is going to make this final 53.
Antonio Dennard had a club wrap on his left hand, and I cannot help but think he injured it last week during his viscous hit on Ryan Taylor. Not very smart hitting him so hard while he was up in the air, defenseless. Not sure if that was the cause of his injury however. Dennard did participate fully today.
LBs were doing a lot of agility drills, broken into ILBs and OLBs. Jamari Lattimore and Sam Barrington look to be much improved players overall from what I was able to see today. I like them both a lot, and I think we are pretty well set at ILB. Jake Doughty seems like he could be something here as well. Again, way too early to tell without contact. These defenders in many drills kind of have their hands tied, and realizing this while concentrating on this unit was a little disheartening, but you can see improved athleticism, and you can tell those who might be taking a step up over the course of these next few months, and those who may struggle.
Adrian Hubbard and Carl Bradford took a lot of reps in pass rush and in coverage, Hubbard right and Bradford left. Both of these guys look good, and like they are more than ready to get after it. Bradford is not tall, not at all, but he has size and power, and should be pretty fun to watch when TC starts. Hubbard is very, very tall, and he looks like he has some raw talent for the position. Good speed and agility, and I could easily see him crashing in as a pass rusher, both standing up and with a hand down. He really could benefit from a full year in the program at the pro level to fill out, but he looks pretty good.
Andy Mulumba looks the part, obviously worked diligently this offseason to add some weight. I can’t say that I saw him do a whole lot today, as I was a bit more focused on Hubbard and Bradford, and when I wasn’t able to watch those two, I kept sneaking peeks to the other side of the field to watch Colt Lyerla, Richard Rodgers, Justin Perillo and the WRs. Wish I had like 8 sets of eyes… man, units working individually all over the field. Was not able to see a whole lot of the DL drills, as they were on the far side of Ray Nitschke Field, across the way.
Didn’t matter too much though, as I got a good look in their 11 on 11 segments, and holy crap do we have a pass rush. Datone Jones really looks outstanding, through light to medium contact, as did Mike Daniels, who looks to have picked up right where he left off. There were some very good looks from this unit, and Raji, Boyd, Letroy Guion and Mike Pennel really stood out. Wow, do we have some size with this group. And, that is not including Peppers, who was working exclusively at OLB this practice. Mike Neal looks a bit bigger this year too, but I didn’t see him do anything remarkable.
Sean Richardson had a nice INT on Rodgers (I believe) in this segment. Richardson was very impressive all day, and it makes me think just how much better our secondary has become. Good to have a Safety back there with his kind of size and speed. We know he can hit, but he really displayed some nice ball skills today. Great to see.
First training camp fight broke out briefly involving Mike Pennel. Gotta love this kid’s fire. He was after it today, and it showed. I couldn’t see who he was bustin’ with, but it didn’t matter, as that was extinguished pretty quickly.
On the O side, I did watch Colt Lyerla quite a bit, through a good portion of the positional drilling, STs unit drills and the 11 on 11 segments. They had him in at H-Back a number of times, and he looked to struggle a bit at creating a hole - most of the time. Again, this could simply be due to the non-contact nature of the OTAs, as well as just being a rookie with players this size and speed on the other side of the ball. As a receiver, forget about it. This kid rocks. I think many Packer fans are going to love watching him play. He makes catches and turns upfield so damn fast, wow. Very good to see, especially with that size and speed. And, this kid has some size. He is easily as big as Andrew Quarless, or bigger, as well as Richard Rodgers, who is no small player.
Speaking of Richard Rodgers, he was equally impressive. The guy can really catch, displayed remarkable ability on a one-handed catch, and he gets upfield quickly as well. Both of these guys have significantly upgraded the TE position, and I would imagine Brandon Bostick may have a real challenge on his hands to make this roster.
Add to it, Justin Perillo had what looked like another good day. He just seems to have the “it” factor when considering the “complete” TE. For a rookie, he shows a great confidence and ability. Also, Ryan Taylor had yet another circus catch today. Taylor clearly came in here to compete in a big way. He looks very sharp.
Something tells me Jermichael Finley won’t be getting any calls from GB for a roster spot. Add to it, these new players all turn upfield with such great, noticeable ease compared to Finley, who often lost his balance or looked to kind of flail after the reception. Nice to see this so naturally from Richard Rodgers and Lyerla. They get the ball, and they look to be gone. You can see it. Both of these players will be very tough to defend and especially to bring down.
Eddie Lacy looked pretty solid. Didn’t get to see Starks at all, so it is hard for me to comment. DuJuan Harris, however, holy shit. This guy is looking like the solid #3 RB, and could challenge Starks for the #2. Man, do our RBs look great. Jonathan Franklin again was held out, which is unfortunate. Makes me wonder if he gets IR’d again. Saw a bit from LaDarius Perkins again, and he does bring talent to this group, even if it is in a small package.
Jeff Janis made a pretty great grab from what I saw, as did Abbrederis. Unfortunately, I do not have a whole lot to say about the WR group other than they are super deep, and I would bet the house we keep 6 to start the season if all are healthy: Nelson, Cobb, Adams, Boykin, Abbrederis and Janis. I just was not focused too much over there this week, and was really trying to glean what I could on our defense.
Carl Bradford made a great strip on the TO drill with players running through the gauntlet. I can’t recall who it was, but the crowd roared. Hubbard wound up with one immediately after Bradford’s. Fun to see Peppers working on Lacy to make the strip, but Lacy held on. Peppers really gave it too.
Bradford stayed on field a little later than all the rest to work on some stuff with his coach. On another note, Derrick Sherrod looks so good. Really happy to see him practicing well, moving well, with some really incredible size. He has worked very hard, and that is readily apparent just watching him.
Pretty good practice, and I didn’t see anyone get hurt which was good. These OTAs are fun to see.
Adrian Hubbard Highlights
6-6 252 4.69 40 Time Projected R3-R5 #120 overall in Draftek Big Board
Is an impressive athlete who’s still somewhat raw. Has good length and functional strength. Is a fluid prospect who is light on his feet and plays well in space. Has a lot of experience covering tight ends and dropping back into coverage. Is stout at the point of attack and plays run well. A good, but not great pass rusher at this point. Uses hands well, but doesn’t have explosive get-off. Might not have quick-twitch fibers necessary for elite edge rusher in NFL. Doesn’t use great variety of pass rushing moves and too often relies on a bull rush. Tends to play with a high pad level. Always given glimpses of immense potential but needs to play with more consistency. Has size and skill set to play either OLB in a 3-4 or DE in a 4-3 at high level. Doesn't have lengthy injury history aside from minor elbow injury in 2012. Rick Stavig, Ourlads' Draft Analyst
5/5/14: Hubbard was solid, but unspectacular, for Alabama in 2013. He had 33 tackles with 5.5 tackles for a loss, three sacks and two passes broken up for the year. Hubbard notched his first sack of the season against LSU and added another against Auburn. He should have returned for his senior year, and WalterFootball.com heard from sources that Alabama didn't make much a pitch for him to comeback. Hubbard had a decent week at the Senior Bowl and followed that up with a similar performance at the Combine.
8/14/13: Hubbard won the starting spot to replace Upshaw at Sam linebacker last year following the latter's departure for the NFL. Hubbard ended up being Alabama's best pass-rusher last year and it looked like he was just scratching the surface of his potential. The sophomore totaled 41 tackles, 11 tackles for a loss, seven sacks, three forced fumbles and a pass batted.
Hubbard is very quick and is a physical player. He will be a great fit in a 3-4 defense. Last year was Hubbard's first season of significant playing time, and he should be even better as a junior with the year of experience under his belt. Adding some more weight to fill out his frame could help Hubbard's overall game.
This is a player with some HUGE potential at OLB. I love this UDFA signing, and look forward to seeing him on the field for the Packers in 2014. Very big. Very fast. Looks to be exceptional in run support. I think he has a very good chance to make it.
Look at him here (#42) next to #32 CJ Mosley...
Jeff Janis | Wide Receiver | Saginaw valley State | 6'3" - 219 lbs.
4.42 in 40 yard dash
Also played basketball as a Michigan prep. Broke a finger on his left hand as a senior, causing him to switch to running back -- returned to the field with a cast up to his left elbow. Redshirted in 2009. Started 6-of-10 games played in '10 and caught nine balls for 130 yards (13-yard average) and a touchdown. Started 8-of-11 games in '11, tallying 48-968-14 (20.2). Set SVSU single-season records for catches and receiving yards in '12 when he started all 11 games and piled up 106-1635-17 (15.4). Was Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Offensive Back of the Year in '13 when he totaled 83-1,572-14 (18.9) in 12 contests.
STRENGTHS Exceptional measurables and leaping ability -- will test through the roof. Accelerates into routes quickly and can separate vertically and uncover underneath working short-to-intermediate zones. Terrific production -- carves up lesser competition and creates chunk plays. Good red-zone target. Exceptional work ethic. Outstanding football character. Very passionate about the game. Has a 37 1/2-inch vertical jump, posted a 3.98-second 20-yard shuttle (fourth-best among receivers) and a 6.64-second 3-cone time.
WEAKNESSES Has very small, inconsistent hands -- will cradle the ball and use his body. Is not a nuanced route runner. Does not attack the ball in the air and will give up some break points. Not strong after the catch and will look for a soft landing spot. Can be fazed by traffic. Regularly faced Division II competition. Not a consistent blocker -- does not play to his size.
DRAFT PROJECTION Rounds 3-4
BOTTOM LINE A Division II standout with rare measurables and production, Janis must prove that he can translate his small-school success to the field against better competition.
Demetri Goodson | Cornerback | Baylor | 5'11" - 194 lbs.
His brother, Mike, is a running back for the Jets. Demetri began his college career as a basketball player at Gonzaga, averaging 5.1 points per game in 103 contests over three seasons. In 2011, he decided to give football another try and transferred to Baylor. Saw action in four games as a defensive reserve and on special teams, recording one tackle and returning three kickoffs for 100 yards and zero touchdowns (33.3-yard average). Tore ligaments in his right ankle on a kickoff Oct. 8, missing the rest of the season. Earned a starting cornerback job in '12 and started the first three games of the season. Did not start the fourth game, but fractured his right forearm in two spots in the first quarter against West Virginia and missed the remainder of the year. Had 16 tackles, two pass breakups and one interception with two tackles for loss. Also was 2-49-0 (24.5) returning kickoffs. He was granted a medical-hardship waiver to play in '13 and saw his most extensive gridiron action, appearing in 11 games (10 starts) and tallying 26-13-3. Led the team in interceptions, including a pick against Central Florida's Blake Bortles in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. Missed the first two games of the season with a bone bruise after re-injuring his right arm in one of the final fall scrimmages.
STRENGTHS Excellent size. Good athletic ability, hand-eye coordination and ball production. Can turn and run vertical. Nice plant-and-drive -- breaks on throws. Has a 37-inch vertical. Has some upside. Comes from an athletic family and has NFL bloodlines.
WEAKNESSES Has been unable to stay in one piece and durability is a major concern. Has short arms and small hands. Relatively inexperienced with green instincts. Press technique needs to be coached up. Loses separation at the break point. Limited tackle production -- gets stuck on blocks and doesn't set a hard edge. Will be a 25-year-old rookie.
DRAFT PROJECTION Priority free agent
BOTTOM LINE Overaged, injury-prone, height-weight-speed prospect with a basketball background. Shows in flashes when he's able to rely on his reactionary skills and natural athleticism to break up throws, but he is raw and will have to prove he offers developmental value.
Jared Abbrederis | Wide Receiver | Wisconsin | 6'1" - 195 lbs.
Married. Last name is pronounced "ab-bruh-DAIR-is." Was a high school quarterback and defensive back in Wisconsin, where he won a state championship, wrestled and was the Gatorade track athlete of the year. Walked on and redshirted in 2009, working as a scout team spread quarterback. Earned a scholarship in '10 before playing all 13 games (two starts) and recording 20 receptions for 289 yards (14.4-yard average) and three touchdowns. Started all 14 games in '11 and posted 55-933-8 (17.0). Broke a bone in his left foot against South Dakota in Week Four -- was not diagnosed until after the season and he sat out '12 spring practice. In the fall, started 12-of-13 games and caught 49-837-5 (17.1). Sustained a concussion against Oregon State and did not play against Utah State. Also sustained a concussion against Penn State. Started 12-of-13 games in '13, totaling 78-1,081-7 (13.9) with six rushes for 119 yards (19.8) and two touchdowns. Did not start against Indiana (ribs). Did not play in the Senior Bowl (hamstring). Also returned 55 career punts for 587 yards (10.7), including a score, and 31 career kickoffs for 800 yards (25.8). Burlsworth Trophy winner as nation's best player to begin his career as a walk-on.
STRENGTHS Uses his hands well to swat away press. Stems his routes. Sells his patterns. Nice hands. Good field and boundary awareness. Gives effort to engage and shield cornerbacks as a blocker. Outstanding football intelligence -- like a quarterback on the outside. Productive three-year starter. Mature and humble. Hardworking and coachable. Carved up Ohio State CB Bradley Roby to the tune of 10-207-1.
WEAKNESSES Has a slender build and needs to bulk up and get stronger. Ordinary pop off the line. Builds to average speed. Could struggle to separate vs. quick-twitch covermen. Lets throws into his body and breaks stride to catch. Not a jumpball player (30 1/2-inch vertical jump). Straightlinish after the catch -- pedestrian agility and elusiveness. Has a history of concussions. Bench-pressed 225 pounds just four times, lowest of all combine participants.
DRAFT PROJECTION Rounds 4-5
BOTTOM LINE A former walk-on, Abbrederis went from afterthought to scholarship player to No. 1 receiver. While the blue-collar overachiever lacks exceptional athletic traits for the NFL, he's a steady "X" receiver whose hands and smarts could enable him to work his way into a No. 3 or No. 4 receiver role.
Corey Linsley | Center | Ohio State | 6'3" - 296 lbs.OVERVIEW
The “perfect center,” words that Linsley thought that he would never hear from his head coach two years ago when he Urban Meyer informed his seldom used backup offensive guard/tackle that he had to prepare for manning the pivot upon the graduation of three-year starter Michael Brewster.
Hailed by the trainers for his incredible strength, all that Linsley had to show during his first three seasons in the program was sporadic play, mostly in a mop-up role in 26 of the team’s first 39 games that he was at the university. Having arrived as a local area product, a lanky 260-pound offensive guard, the last two seasons has seen a remarkable transformation of the Buckeye who was recognized as the best center in the Big Ten Conference with a first-team selection by the league’s coaches his senior year.
With the confidence of then new head coach Urban Meyer behind him, the Youngstown, Ohio, native rediscovered a passion for the game and, most importantly, the belief he was capable of competing at the collegiate level. Prior to being named an All-Big Ten first-team pick as a senior, he received league honorable mention for his hard work during his first season in the pivot as a junior. "Linsley's gone from nobody to the apex of the offense." —Urban Meyer
“Coach Meyer knows I work hard and I’m committed to this program,” Linsley said. “It means a lot he has confidence in me. I might screw up a lot, everybody makes mistakes, but his confidence keeps me coming back for the next play. I know I still need to get better, especially when I’m tired. But now I know when I’m up and ready to go I can be a total football player. I’m faster and stronger. I can see now all my hard work has paid off.”
What separates Linsley from most men in the middle is his raw power. A daily sight is seeing the center regularly bench pressing at least 500 pounds in the weight room. Strength is the key element to his game, especially having to play in the spread offense that often had the opponent’s nose guard and middle linebacker lined up over his head.
The Youngstown, Ohio, native’s strength, and the strength of his fellow offensive linemen, helped the 2012 Buckeye offense to a Big Ten-best 37.2 points per game and to 242 rushing yards per game (second in the Big Ten and 10th nationally).
Carl Bradford | Linebacker | Arizona State | 6'1" - 241 lbs.
JSOnline Blog wrote:
Green Bay -The Packers have selected linebacker Carl Bradford from Arizona State in the fourth round with the 121st pick overall in the NFL draft on Saturday.
Love it!!!! Quite a steal at 121! Projected as an R2.
STRENGTHS: Sports a compact, powerful frame. Highly instinctive, physical and versatile defender who splits his time between defensive end, outside linebacker and inside linebacker. Good initial quickness off the snap out of the three-point stance, showing enough speed to cross the face of the offensive tackle, as well as an effective club, rip and spin moves to break free.
Surprisingly effective when run toward due to his quickness and use of leverage, bending to take out the knees of oncoming blockers and creating a pile. Adept at slipping blocks. Locates the football quickly and shows an explosive burst to close emphatically.
Only occasionally asked to drop back into coverage, but shows at least fair fluidity and speed when doing so. Alert player with a history of making big plays.
WEAKNESSES: Played in a highly aggressive scheme that may have maximized his big-play ability while minimizing his faults. Lacks ideal physical traits to remain as an outside pass rusher in the NFL, where he starred for the Sun Devils.
Can be engulfed in the running game (whether playing linebacker or defensive end) and does not appear to possess ideal arm length to break free once blockers latch on.
Smooth accelerator off the edge but doesn't possess great speed. Can play out of control, at times, dropping his head to deliver the knockout blow and occasionally whiffing on open-field tackles. Can allow his emotions to get the better of him; benched for the second half against Oregon State Nov. 16 after a physical altercation with teammates on the sideline.
COMPARES TO: Brandon Spikes, Patriots - Like New England's free agent inside linebacker, Bradford is an instinctive, physical and tenacious defender who, unfortunately, has some size and athletic limitations.
OVERVIEW: Bradford has an impressive blend of power and explosion, rushing the passer with a violent, ferocious temperament. He will be viewed by some as a classic 'tweener, but is more than the sum of his parts.
Size, athleticism and instincts project Bradford best to inside linebacker in the NFL - a position he only occasionally played for ASU. However, his ability as a personal protector in the punting game does increase his value.http://www.cbssports.com...rs/1737364/carl-bradford
Richard Rodgers | Tight End | California | 6'4" - 257 lbs.
STRENGTHS: Lanky athlete who has proven the ability to manipulate his weight to fit his team's offensive scheme. Very good initial quickness for the position, demonstrating the ability to beat defenders upfield with his burst or to gain the advantage while blocking, including on cut-blocks.
Long arms and soft hands. Gathers in passes quickly and secures the football. Good agility and straight-line speed for the position. Good bloodlines. Father is Richard Rodgers, Sr., who is credited for making the call and one of five laterals on "The Play," the famous Cal kick return in 1982 to beat Stanford (and its band). Father now serves as the special teams coordinator for the Carolina Panthers.
WEAKNESSES: Lacks the bulk and strength to hold up as an in-line blocker in the NFL. A bit finesse in his play, relying more on his athleticism than physicality. Gets to the second level quickly but rather than latching on to control opponents, Richard extends his arms and stops his feet, allowing defenders to break free easily from his blocks.
Possesses the ability to make the incredible catch but will drop the occasional easy pass and struggles in traffic. Only asked to run relatively simple quick out and drag routes in Dykes' offense. Only started 11 of 37 games over his collegiate career.
COMPARES TO: Garrett Graham, Houston Texans - Like Graham, Rodgers' value to NFL lies in his sneaky athleticism and soft hands in a Joker or H-back role.