5 Takeaways from the Green Bay Packers OTAs
The Green Bay Packers had their first set of organized team activities from May 20 through May 22.
The Packers will have two more of their OTAs and one more minicamp before the players will report to training camp on July 25.
But based on what occurred earlier this week at the OTAs, I came away with some observations.
There Is a Lot of Confidence in the Wide Receivers
Count James Jones as a guy who believes in his wide receiver teammates, as he talked about the group on Packers.com.
"We're getting better. The good thing is everyone is out there working hard. Everyone's on the same page. We know what we want out of each other. We know what it's going to take. Once we get these young dudes out on the field we will have some depth. But right now we'll be pretty good. (There's) a lot of ammo in that room. A lot of talented guys. Enough to get us where we want to go."
What about losing a guy like Greg Jennings to the Minnesota Vikings?
"I don't really care too much about Greg. I just want our DBs to lock him on down and for us to get the victory."
Jones has a lot of faith in the group of receivers he plays with.
"Each and everyone of us know what we have to do. We know what we have to do to make this team go. We feel like as the receivers go, this team goes. That's the way we feel in that room. We know that we're going to have to make a lot of plays. We know that the quarterback will be leaning on us and the team will be leaning on us, so we know what we have to do."
What about the big three (Jones, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb)?
"We're going to be the same guys we were last year. All of us that are here were the lead receivers on the team in some category. We're going to be the same leaders that we were last year, and that's not going to change because Donald and Greg are gone."
Bryan Bulaga Is Ready for the Challenge at Left Tackle
The coaching staff of Green Bay Packers had its first chance to look at the new-look offensive line the team will put on the field in 2013. At the first organized team activities practice, the line was Bryan Bulaga (left tackle), Josh Sitton (left guard), Evan Dietrich-Smith (center), T.J. Lang (right guard) and Marshall Newhouse (right tackle).
Bulaga is ready to go and welcomes the opportunity to play left tackle. He discussed the change via Packers.com.
"I was excited when I heard from coach McCarthy that a switch was going to be made and I'm grateful for the opportunity."
Bulaga knows there will be some adjustments at the beginning of this process going from the right side to the left.
"It's footwork. It's like batting left-handed or right-handed. Not being ambidextrous."
Bulaga is happy that Sitton will be joining him on the left side of the line.
"I've been playing next to Josh every snap since I've been here and it's comfortable having him over there. We kind of both going through the same transition. It's good to have him and we're learning together and trying to get in sync on the left side like we were on the right side. It's going to be a process, but it's a good start with these OTAs just so we can bounce back into it and gradually get where we need to be."
The Rookies Are Learning Fast
The Packers first-round draft pick Datone Jones is ready to compete and learn as he settled in the first session of OTAs for the team. Jones discussed what he learned on the field via Packers.com.
"I haven't played a game yet, started a game yet or been there yet, so I'm just taking it a day at a time and learning from the vets and seeing how they practice and trying to pick up some of the things they do well."
It helps that Jones basically played the same defense at UCLA.
"I pretty much know the playbook. I'm starting to play faster, but I don't have everything down pat yet, and I have a lot to learn. I'm still learning though, and it's not foggy and I'm able to play fast."
The veterans on the team are helping to ease the process for rookies like Jones.
"The entire team welcomed me. There hasn't been anything like hazing or some of things a rookie might expect. Guys have been genuine guys and great teammates to me. Making sure they are taking care all of the younger guys, including myself."
What about the little scrape Jones had with left tackle Bryan Bulaga during one of the sessions?
"Guys get pushy. Me and him going against each other, that's going to happen. Him being a vet and me being a rookie and me being drafted high. He's a competitor just like I am. He showed me a lot at practice and we talked it out. There were no hard feelings."
Another Tough Break for the Pack
The Packers have been an injury-riddled team two out of the last three years, and with the start of the team's first set of OTAs in 2013, Green Bay has literally received another tough "break."
Rookie offensive lineman J.C. Tretter, whom the Packers had drafted in the fourth round, broke his ankle during a fumble recovery drill.
According to Jason Wilde of ESPNWisconsin.com, Tretter will be out six months based on statements from Tretter's agent.
This is not a good way for the offensive line to begin, even if Tretter was probably not going to be a starter. He was expected to provide quality depth on the line, most likely on the inside at guard and center.
The offensive line has had its share of injuries the past few seasons. Last year Bryan Bulaga missed almost half the season with a hip injury, while Derek Sherrod didn't play at all due to a broken leg suffered late in the 2011 season.
What this injury will do is open the opportunity for someone else to make the roster on the offensive line, especially someone who can play inside on the line.
Mike Neal at Outside Linebacker?
Probably the most surprising element of the recent OTAs was seeing Mike Neal at outside linebacker.
“Depends on how you use big guys in space,” head coach Mike McCarthy said via Packers.com. “We’re going to expand Mike Neal’s role. We are going to wait on specifics until Week 1 of the season.”
Neal had a good season in 2012, after starting the year with a four-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
Neal had 4.5 sacks last season, and had a number of other pressures on the opposing quarterback. The Packers were looking for that type of production from Neal since they drafted him in the second round in 2010.
Neal played in more games last season for the Packers (11) than he did in his first two injury-riddled seasons (nine) in the NFL. Neal had a shoulder injury in 2010 and a knee injury in 2011.
Whether the 295-pound Neal will actually play some outside linebacker remains to be seen. It could be that he will be used in a stand-up role in certain pass-rushing schemes. When the Packers go to their dime defense for instance, the defensive end will sometimes stand up like a linebacker and either rush the quarterback or drop back in a zone blitz look.
The bottom line is that the Packers will now have a number of players with pass-rushing skills in 2013, with Neal, Clay Matthews, Datone Jones and Nick Perry.
Expect defensive coordinator Dom Capers to vary his defensive schemes like a mad scientist as he tries to apply more pressure on opposing quarterbacks.