GREEN BAY, Wis. -- A few thoughts and observations after my third and final day at Green Bay Packers training camp:
The player who most caught my eye Wednesday was linebacker Clay Matthews, who smoked left tackle Marshall Newhouse at least twice in team drills. The Packers were emphasizing their blitz during that period, which gave Matthews a bit of an advantage, but he made quick work of Newhouse both times.
Cornerback Davon House worked with the first-team defense for the second consecutive day. Again, lots of changes could still be on the horizon. But the longer House remains in the spot without incident, as he did Wednesday, the greater the chance he becomes the favorite to enter the season in that role.
Early-camp reports on the tight coverage of rookie Casey Hayward are legitimate. We don't yet know what kind of tackler he is or if he can handle the nuances of coverage adjustments, but he clearly knows how to play a receiver 1-on-1. Wednesday, he maintained tight coverage on receiver Tori Gurley and deftly reached around him to tip a pass away. Keep in mind that Hayward is 5-foot-11 and Gurley is 6-foot-4.
A group of the NFL's replacement referees were at practice Wednesday and will remain with the team through Friday's Family Night scrimmage. Commissioner Roger Goodell, who was also in attendance at the start of his camp tour, said the league is continuing to work on a contract agreement with its front-line referees. But unless quick progress is made, it appears as though the NFL's early preseason games will be staffed by replacements.
The Packers will pick up with a night camp schedule beginning Thursday after early-morning practices for the first week of camp. Coach Mike McCarthy is hoping to simulate the Packers' regular season schedule, which includes five night games, and doesn't want players falling into any particular routine because they won't be able to once the season begins, either.
Second-year tight end D.J. Williams is standing out as a quick pass-catcher in the early part of camp, but that was also the case last year before he faded as many rookies do. There is a definite role available for a secondary pass-catching tight end alongside starter Jermichael Finley, and for the moment Williams is making a big push to grab it.