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Monday, July 29, 2013
What we've learned: Packers' offense

By Rob Demovsky

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers opened training camp with practices on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. And on the fourth day, they are resting.

Before they get back on the field Tuesday morning, it’s a good time to review what we’ve learned about them so far. Let’s start on the offensive side of the ball:

Money changes nothing: Aaron Rodgers’ five-year, $110 million contract extension doesn’t appear to have changed anything about the quarterback. The Super Bowl XLV MVP and 2011 NFL MVP has looked as sharp as ever in practice. He ended each of the first three practices by leading no-huddle drives that resulted in touchdown passes -- a 33-yarder to James Jones on Friday, a 20-yarder to Jarrett Boykin on Saturday and a 10-yarder to Boykin on Sunday. “I thought Aaron probably had clearly one of his best offseasons,” coach Mike McCarthy said when camp opened. “He’s been here throughout the whole offseason. He’s in good shape. He’s ready to go. He really understands his role as far as the leadership and (being) one of the veteran leaders on our football team.”

Running back by committee: When the Packers drafted two running backs -- Alabama’s Eddie Lacy in the second round and UCLA’s Johnathan Franklin in the fourth -- it seemed reasonable to write off the oft-injured duo of Alex Green and James Starks. Not so fast. When camp opened, Green took the first reps with the starters and showed some of the burst he had pre-ACL tear of 2011. On Day 2, Starks, who has missed 26 of a possible 48 games in his first three NFL seasons, ran with power. On Day 3, when the Packers put on the pads for the first time, it was Franklin’s turn to shine. He showed his quickness and ability to change directions. On one carry, Franklin looked bottled up in the middle of the line but bounced outside and to the second level of the defense. Lacy may end up as the best of the bunch but hasn’t done much yet. And last year’s late-season sensation, DuJuan Harris has yet to get on the field. He’s still recovering from an offseason knee injury. McCarthy has stuck to his offseason claim about the running game: “We’ll be better, I promise you.” And now it looks like he has plenty of options with which to do it.

A new big three: For some teams, losing a pair of receivers who combined for 114 career touchdowns and five Pro Bowl appearances would cripple the offense. The Packers haven’t thought twice about it. Randall Cobb, James Jones and Jordy Nelson -- who last season combined for 193 catches and 29 touchdowns in the regular season -- have made Donald Driver (retired) and Greg Jennings (signed with Minnesota) a distant memory by catching pass after pass early in camp. “If there’s anything that I’m excited about, it’s being able to stay on the field the whole game,” said Jones, who last season posted career highs in catches (64), yards (784) and touchdowns (14) in a part-time role. “I know me and Randall and Jordy may move around positions on the field, but it’s a three-receiver offense, and I’m excited to be able to get a lot of snaps.” The only question about this position is who ends up behind the top three. Rookie seventh-round draft picks Kevin Dorsey (lower body) of Maryland and Charles Johnson (knee) of Grand Valley State couldn’t get through the first two days of camp, and undrafted rookie Sederrik Cunningham needed surgery to repair the dislocated wrist he sustained on day one.

O-line issues: The much-discussed revamped offensive line, which saw the starters on the right side (tackle Bryan Bulaga and guard Josh Sitton) switch sides with the starters on the left (tackle Marshall Newhouse and guard T.J. Lang), remains a work in progress. Bulaga, who hadn’t played left tackle since the 2009 season at the University of Iowa, likened the change to a left-handed hitter in baseball learning to hit right-handed. “I think I’d be an idiot to say I’m 100 percent confident (that the changes will work),” Sitton said. “There’s always a tiny bit of doubt.”