5 Players Turning Heads at Green Bay Packers Training Camp
The Green Bay Packers kicked off training camp practice on Saturday, July 26. Though three practices, and just one in pads (the team didn't practice on Tuesday), isn't enough time to make a fair judgment of any player's performance, a few Packers stood out by making big plays, earning starting snaps and demonstrating leadership.
The following five players made some noise for one or more of the reasons above early in Green Bay training camp practices. Whether rookies or established veterans, if these Packers continue at this level, there's no question they'll be making the 53-man roster prior to final cuts.
TE Richard Rodgers
Reactions were mixed when the Packers drafted California tight end Richard Rodgers in Round 3. He projected as a Round 5 or Round 6 talent by NFL.com's Nolan Nawrocki, and Eric Edholm at Yahoo Sports' Shutdown Corner called it Green Bay's "worst pick" and Rodgers a "reach" with "no clearly defined standout qualities."
Well, this offseason Rodgers has set about proving why he deserved to go in the third round, including stacking impressive performances at training camp. He took the first snap with the first-team offense on July 26, per Wes Hodkiewicz of the Green Bay Press Gazette, and Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tweeted during Monday's practice that "when the ball is in his vicinity TE Richard Rodgers catches it" and that he has "hands like vices."
He also beat Clay Matthews in coverage on a crossing route at Sunday's practice, per Silverstein.
Andrew Quarless sat out all of the OTAs, which gave Rodgers a distinct advantage to make his mark. But per Silverstein's report, Rodgers is still receiving first-team reps ahead of Quarless.
As much as Rodgers has shined in the passing game, Silverstein raised the familiar concerns about his blocking ability. The Packers put the pads on Monday, which provides Rodgers his first real opportunity to prove that he can be an effective blocker. If he can and if he continues making big plays, he will continue to pave a pathway to the starting job come September.
S Micah Hyde
As the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Tyler Dunne wrote on Sunday, with his impressive performance through training camp and the rest of the offseason, the starting safety job opposite Morgan Burnett is now Micah Hyde's to lose to 2014 first-round draft pick Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
Hyde, taking first-team reps at safety over rookie Clinton-Dix, broke up a pass from Aaron Rodgers intended for Jordy Nelson 50 or 60 yards down the middle on Sunday, per the Journal Sentinel. He also deflected a pass intended for Jared Abbrederis, per Dunne.
In the dime package during training camp, Green Bay has been moving Hyde to the slot and playing Clinton-Dix at safety, per Jason Hirschhorn of SB Nation's Acme Packing Company, so even if Hyde were to start at safety in Week 1, Clinton-Dix would still see the field at safety. The Packers run sub-packages often. But Hyde has been impressive in his seamless transition to safety since OTAs and minicamp, per Dunne, and he continues to be through early camp practices.
S Sean Richardson
Safety Sean Richardson was the first player to make an interception in training camp, per Vic Ketchman of the team's official website, after the entire safety group didn't produce a single interception in 2013. He snatched the ball over the middle on a Rodgers pass intended for Nelson during a blitz period, per ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky, and he further proved why he earned playing time late last season after returning from a neck injury.
Most of the headlines out of camp have been about Hyde and Clinton-Dix battling for the starting free safety spot opposite Morgan Burnett, but because the Packers run defensive sub-packages so often, Burnett, Hyde, Clinton-Dix and Richardson, who are all projected to make the 53-man roster, per Demovsky (while Chris Banjo may not), will see their fair share of snaps in 2014.
Richardson is one of the few Packers to sustain a neck injury and be cleared to return to play, unlike Nick Collins, Johnathan Franklin, Tony Palmer, Terrence Murphy, Sterling Sharpe, and Jermichael Finley (to date), among others.
To stand out in the games he played late in the 2013 season and to be making impressive plays in camp is a testament to his drive and dedication to be a productive member of Green Bay's secondary.
WR Jared Abbrederis
He doesn't have top speed, and during the draft some worried that could hurt him as he attempted to make an NFL roster this offseason. But many scouts and coaches also agreed that Abbrederis was "one of the best route-runners in the draft," as his position coach at Wisconsin, Chris Beatty, told Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
He's displayed that skill so far in camp, relying not on his speed but on his crisp route-running to evade a corner of Williams' skill. That's also what allowed him to evade corners such as Bradley Roby in the NCAA.
If Abbrederis is one of the six receivers expected to make Green Bay's 53-man roster, he'll be retained in large part for a return role. But the route-running ability he demonstrated on Saturday suggest that he could have a role as a weapon for Rodgers as well.
Mike Daniels has developed a reputation for being the "vocal leader of the Packers defense," as Packers.com editor Vic Ketchman has termed him.
He lived up to that reputation on the second practice of training camp when he had choice words, per Dan Koob, for the defense to get it going and then again for the offensive line, which in the words of the Journal Sentinel's Tom Silverstein "went beyond what he thought were the limitations in a non-padded practice."
He reminded the players that the pads were coming on in the following day's practice, in words that rang out across the practice field and got the attention of many.
Coach Mike McCarthy approves of Daniels' vocal approach to leadership on the defense. "I like everything about Mike Daniels," McCarthy said Monday, per ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky. "I like the way he goes about it."
During minicamp, Daniels expressed the belief that the Packers defense needed to get meaner: "Me, personally, being a leader, I'm looking to make the defense a lot meaner, get after guys a little bit," as reported by Demovsky. His fiery words and vocal nature so far during camp are a delivery on that promise, and his teammates are starting to take notice.
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