7 Biggest Takeaways from the Green Bay Packers OTAs
The second round of organized team activities, or OTAs, for the Green Bay Packers is underway. Last week we got a little information on how players looked, and this week will either confirm or make us reevaluate that information.
Even though OTAs are more relaxed and laid back than training camp, there is still plenty we can learn from them. It's definitely possible that things will change as the offseason progresses, but at least we can get a glimpse of what the Packers think and feel about certain players or positions.
Today we're going to take you through the seven biggest takeaways from the Packers' OTAs and break down what they mean moving forward.
The Competition for Starting Tight End Is Wide Open
No positional battle will be more exciting to watch unfold this offseason than the one that's happening at tight end. Despite tight end originally being considered a weakness without Jermichael Finley, the Packers have a handful of options that all have a chance to start Week 1.
The most likely candidate to win the starting job is Andrew Quarless. Unfortunately, Quarless was absent the first week of OTAs, according to Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel. The job is still his to lose technically, but his absence is opening the door for other players.
Two of those players to watch that could sneak up on Quarless are rookies Richard Rodgers and Colt Lyerla. Both Rodgers and Lyerla have quite the learning curve right now, but there is no denying the amount of potential they have.
We also can't forget about Brandon Bostick. While he played sparingly last year after Finley's injury, he did show flashes of big-play ability that certainly intrigued Green Bay.
With all this talent at tight end, the battle for who will start is literally wide open. Quarless may be the favorite right now, but don't be surprised if someone else is taking the majority of snaps once the regular season rolls around.
A Rookie Return Man Might Be a Reality
One area where the Packers desperately needed improvement this offseason was with their return game. Last season was simply a major letdown as no one really made much of an impact at all, save for one Micah Hyde return that went for a touchdown.
The funny thing about this problem is that the Packers already have their solution on their roster with wide receiver Randall Cobb. He's an electric return man who has proved in the past to be dynamic with the ball in his hands. However, the Packers want Cobb to be a bigger part of the offense moving forward, and having him return punts and kicks is too big a risk to take.
That leaves the Packers with an open competition with a real possibility that a rookie is returning kicks and punts this year. The most likely candidate is wide receiver Jared Abbrederis, who was drafted in the fifth round. Abbrederis has experience from his college days at Wisconsin and was catching punts during OTAs, according to Rob Demovsky of ESPN.
There's also two other rookies who have an outside shot in the return game in wide receiver Jeff Janis and cornerback Demetri Goodson. Both players have tremendous natural speed and both could need a second position to play just to make the team this year.
Whatever happens with the return game, whether it's a rookie or a veteran player, one thing we can be certain of is that there's no way this group will make as small of an impact as they did last year.
Julius Peppers Is Still Quite Impressive
No one is really sure what to expect from Julius Peppers this season. He's now in his mid-30s and will be playing in a 3-4 defense for the first time in his career.
However, his age, pending decline in athleticism and new defensive scheme haven't stopped the Packers from gushing about him. Head coach Mike McCarthy had this to say, per Paul Imig of Fox Sports Wisconsin:
He moves like a young man. Julius is such an impressive person from all angles. Very professional in his approach, takes great care of himself; you can see that in Phase 1 and Phase 2 in the workouts. Then we hit the field (Thursday) for the first time, and just the way he moves.
Some people were concerned that the Packers made a huge mistake in signing Peppers after he struggled to produce last year for the Chicago Bears. While it's hard to make a final decision after a few days of OTAs, it appears as if Peppers might actually be the steal of free agency this year.
Look for Peppers to have a bounce-back season for Green Bay while giving a huge boost to its defense.
No Starting Job Will Be Handed Out
When the Packers drafted safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the first round, it took about three seconds to pencil him in as the starting free safety. That's still the likely outcome, but it may not be as easy as anyone thought.
Clinton-Dix has practiced with the second-team defense during OTAs. The man taking his place, second-year player Micah Hyde, is one that greatly interests the Packers coaches.
Rob Demovsky at ESPN thought that Hyde starting with the first team shouldn't have been a surprise, saying:
The coaches want to take a long look at Hyde in the safety position after he played mostly the nickel or dime (slot cornerback) position last season, so it should not have been a major surprise to see Hyde get the first shot with the starters.
While Hyde's presence with the starters is certainly noteworthy, it isn't the end of the world for Clinton-Dix. All this really means is that the Packers don't want to give any players a handout, and that includes their first-round pick.
The Quarterback Position Has Depth
Anyone who watched the Packers' backup quarterback situation deteriorate at the end of last year's preseason is thankful heading into this offseason.
Last year the Packers had Graham Harrell, B.J. Coleman and Vince Young all competing for a job behind Aaron Rodgers. None of those players made the final 53-man roster.
This ultimately caused the Packers to go into complete panic mode once Rodgers got injured. This year will be much, much different. In fact, quarterback is now one of the deepest and strongest positions on the roster.
Behind Rodgers right now are Matt Flynn and Scott Tolzien. We all saw what Flynn was capable of last year as he held the team together until Rodgers returned.
As for Tolzien, he's looking more and more impressive with each practice that goes by. Even McCarthy was praising Tolzien for his overall improvements, according to Zach Kruse of CheeseheadTV.com.
There's also undrafted free agent Chase Rettig to consider. He may be more suited for the practice squad this year, but his size and arm strength make him a candidate to sneak onto the roster.
Simply put, the Packers have to feel at ease about their depth at the most important position on the field heading into the 2014 season.
Davante Adams Has Some Major Competition
One of the more surprising picks in this year's draft for the Packers was selecting wide receiver Davante Adams in the second round. Receiver wasn't seen as a huge need, so drafting one that early was certainly shocking.
With that said, Adams is an extremely impressive talent who has the ability to make an impact on offense right away. He's got a great shot to move up on the depth chart to the No. 3 receiver and have a strong rookie season.
However, the job isn't just going to be handed over to Adams. It's clear from OTAs that he has some major competition on his hands.
The two biggest threats to Adams' playing time are Jarrett Boykin and Chris Harper. We all know what Boykin is capable of after stepping up last year, but Harper is a relatively unknown player. Well, that might change after his strong showing in practices.
Harper was dominant during the most recent OTAs, even getting McCarthy to gush a little about him when he said, per Rob Demovsky at ESPN:
Chris has really improved. I mean, I think you saw the first snap there in the team period, I mean, he runs a great post and Aaron hits him right in stride. I mean, that's the kind of explosiveness that he has.
With Adams, Boykin and Harper all ready to become big-time players, the Packers and their group of receivers will be the envy of every offense in the league. While Adams still has the best shot at winning that No. 3 job, the gap between him and his competition is closing pretty quickly.
This Team Is Extremely Deep and Talented When Healthy
Last season was a season impacted by injuries. From Rodgers to Clay Matthews to Randall Cobb to Casey Hayward, the Packers were missing so much talent for such an extended period of time that the fact they even made the playoffs is extremely impressive.
The final takeaway so far from OTAs is just how talented and deep this team is when healthy. One look over the depth chart from Ourlads.com will show you that.
There isn't a single position on the roster that doesn't have depth and talent. All the positions of weakness from last year have been addressed. Heck, the Packers might have the best receiving corps, group of running backs and trio of cornerbacks in the league.
It might be a little too soon to call the Packers one of the best teams in the league, but simply looking at the depth chart has to make one rather excited for the potential of this team. It's going to be a good year in Green Bay.