NFC North: Alex Van Pelt

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- If the Seattle Seahawks think they have the Green Bay Packers' no-huddle offense figured out from watching Aaron Rodgers run it last Saturday at the St. Louis Rams, they should think again.

According to several Packers' players and coaches, the hand signals they are using in the preseason are nothing like what they will use to combat the noise when the regular season opens in the Pacific Northwest on Sept. 4.

"It's really geared towards our first game," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "So you don't want to show a whole lot. I think our players, particularly, on offense have done a great job with communication. No-huddle is a big part of what we do. To have a set of signals for preseason and a whole different set for the regular season, this is really the first year we've done that. So, we just have a lot more going on."

The reason for the different hand signals is two-fold:

1. The Packers want to keep the Seahawks guessing.

2. They believe several of the players they cut in their roster reduction at the end of camp may be picked up by other teams on their schedule.

"It's tough, especially when you play in a no-huddle situation," quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt said. "You have 90 guys in camp but 53 are going to be around so, obviously, some people aren't going to be here. You try to have the second group of signals ready to go. Use the ones we use in camp then say, 'All right, guys, let's wipe the slate and here's the new set.' That's part of dealing with crowd noise is having the ability to change signals. Maybe one week the signal is 'this,' and the next week the same signal becomes the double move off of that. Just try to keep the defense guessing."

While much of the talk this offseason has been about what new wrinkles defensive coordinator Dom Capers may throw at the Seahawks that they have never seen from the Packers before, there's also plenty McCarthy wants to be a surprise from Rodgers & Co. That's why at the start of practice, when the defense is outside going through its pre-practice walk-through, the offense works behind the closed doors of the Don Hutson Center.

"It's the same offense; it's just different plays," receiver Jordy Nelson said. "It's nothing difficult. It's just plays that, as I said, us older guys have seen every play in the book. There's just plays that we'll probably run more throughout the season than what we'll run in the preseason. Preseason games are very vanilla and watered down. We're just getting more into those plays that might be deeper in the playbook. It's nothing difficult."
GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers plan to take their backup quarterback competition through the final preseason game before naming a No. 2 to starter Aaron Rodgers.

Flynn
Flynn
Tolzien
"I would think that would be the fair way to do it," quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt said this week.

That means there's still much to be decided between Matt Flynn and Scott Tolzien, who appear to be locked in a tight battle that may have gotten even closer after Tolzien's impressive performance in the rain during last Saturday's preseason opener at Tennessee.

Any edge the more experienced Flynn held up to that point may be gone after Tolzien completed 8 of 12 passes for 124 yards and led one touchdown drive against the Titans.

"He did a nice job," Van Pelt said. "Matt had some horrible conditions. Scotty's were a little more favorable, still bad, but in those conditions I thought he handled himself well, threw the ball well."

Van Pelt, in his first season as the Packers quarterbacks coach, worked extensively with Tolzien on his footwork and delivery during their offseason workouts. Off the field, they broke down the offense from the beginning, a luxury Tolzien did not have last season after he arrived in Green Bay in September, first as a member of the practice squad and eventually on the roster after Rodgers broken his collarbone.

"The footwork was good, the reads were good," Van Pelt said of Tolzien's performance against the Titans. "I thought he was solid."

Coach Mike McCarthy would not say whether Flynn or Tolzien will follow Rodgers in Saturday's second preseason game at St. Louis. Flynn got the start against the Titans because Rodgers was held out and played 30 snaps to Tolzien's 23.

In practice this week, Tolzien's reps increased.

"We try to keep it even between the two, splitting them between the No. 2 and No. 3 group," Van Pelt said. "We're trying to make it as equal a competition as we can."

At least the conditions this week will be the same for both of them inside the climate-controlled dome in St. Louis.

The deluge made it difficult for both Flynn and Tolzien. Even though Flynn got the worst of it, Tolzien's arm strength perhaps made him more successful in those conditions.

"I would have liked to handle the ball a little better throwing-wise," said Flynn, who completed 5 of 10 passes for 49 yards. "I had difficulty controlling it. It was tough, but that's how it goes."

Van Pelt said Flynn -- who replaced Tolzien after two starts last season and went 2-2-1 in games he finished -- responded this week and, according to Van Pelt, "threw the ball as well as he had thrown it in camp, so to say it was anything other than the weather would probably be wrong.”

The issue might not only be who will back up Rodgers but how many quarterbacks the Packers will keep. They have not opened a season with three quarterbacks on their roster since 2008, Rodgers’ first as a starter.
GREEN BAY, Wis. – The last time Tom Clements was on the sideline for an NFL game, the temperature at kickoff was 5 degrees with a wind-chill of minus-10.

No wonder the Green Bay Packers' offensive coordinator has decided to move from the sideline to the coaches' box for games this season.

"I didn't want to get cold in the winter," the 61-year-old Clements said Thursday, referring to the Packers' playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers last January at Lambeau Field.

The change, which will make its debut in Saturday's preseason opener at the Tennessee Titans, comes on the heels of some shuffling of duties on coach Mike McCarthy's staff. New quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt will coach from the sideline on game days even though his predecessor, Ben McAdoo, the New York Giants' new offensive coordinator, coached last year from upstairs.

Clements last worked from the box in 2006, the first of his six seasons as Packers' quarterbacks coach. He moved down to the field the next season and remained there even when was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2012 after Joe Philbin left to become the Miami Dolphins coach. Philbin, incidentally, worked from the press box when he was the offensive coordinator.

"I just thought I'd have a better viewpoint up there and be more helpful," Clements said.

Rodgers
Rodgers
It will be the first time since quarterback Aaron Rodgers became a starter in 2008 that he won't have Clements at his side on game day.

"Tom has been a great supporter, a great ally, a great teacher for so many years," Rodgers said. "It will be a different role. But I'm sure that Alex and I and the quarterbacks would kind of look at the pictures together, talk about them and kind of make the adjustments."

It means Clements will not be able to go over the still-frame pictures that quarterbacks view between series.

"It's a change for Aaron, so we'll take the preseason to evaluate it, but Tom has great eyes," said Van Pelt, who also worked from the field last year when he was running backs coach. "Obviously, [Clements has] great knowledge of the system. He'll be a great source up in the box, you know seeing it from up top. You know I've always been on the sideline with the players, quarterbacks, running backs, so obviously it's nothing that will be different for me."

The Packers will have seven coaches in the box on game days: Clements, defensive coordinator Dom Capers, offensive assistant Luke Getsy, assistant offensive line coach Steve Marshall, defensive assistant John Rushing, defensive/special teams assistant Jason Simmons and cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt.

There will be something new for the coaches on the sideline this season. They will be able to use electronic tablets during games to view still-shots of plays in addition to traditional paper photos. Although they will not be able to play video through the tablets, they can use them to zoom in on certain players.

"The Hall of Fame game, I saw them using those," Van Pelt said. "Just reading some blurbs, I thought [Bills] Coach [Doug] Marrone [said] his didn't work at first or something, but then he really liked it once it started working. So I'm looking forward to seeing how that plays. Rain games, how is that going to affect it, sunny days, is that going to affect the screen? So there’s some bugs in the preseason."

W2W4: Packers' Family Night

August, 2, 2014
Aug 2
3:30
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – From a pure football standpoint (forget about the fireworks and the jersey giveaways) the best thing about the Green Bay Packers' Family Night was always the fact that it featured the first live tackling (except of the quarterbacks, of course) of the summer.

But even that is no more.

Coach Mike McCarthy decided to ditch the scrimmage this year in favor of a regular training camp practice. Fans still ate up the $10 tickets, and Lambeau Field is sold out for tonight's event, which gets underway with pre-practice activities at 5:30 p.m., but it surely won't be the same.

"Just the way the whole schedule laid out for Mike and his staff, we just needed that day as a normal practice day to be able to get everything accomplished that we wanted to get accomplished," Packers general manager Ted Thompson said this week. "And quite frankly, I don't know that it'll look a whole lot different. We still have some really good fireworks, which is a big hit in the locker room and with all the kids and that sort of thing."

With that in mind, here are a few things to watch:

QB competition: The last time anyone saw Scott Tolzien at Lambeau Field, he was getting benched in favor of Matt Flynn during the Nov. 24 tie against the Minnesota Vikings. So far in camp, Flynn holds the edge over Tolzien for the backup job behind Aaron Rodgers, but how Tolzien performs from here on out will determine whether the Packers have a difficult decision to make when it comes to deciding how many quarterbacks to keep.

"Matt knows what he does well and plays to his strengths," quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt said Friday. "He's won games for the Packers. Scott, he's still trying to catch up and learn. Having a year in the system in the offseason has helped him tremendously, so he's coming along as well. Matt's done a great job, and I think Scott should be commended as well."

One-on-one reps: The most competitive drill in training camp is almost always the one-on-one pass-rushing/pass-blocking drill and given that they did not do the drill on Friday, there's a good chance they will do so tonight.

Here's a look at the best records in the drill so far:

Offensive linemen: T.J. Lang (4-0), Bryan Bulaga (6-1), Corey Linsley (6-1), David Bakhtiari (5-1), Derek Sherrod (5-1), JC Tretter (5-2), Garth Gerhart (5-2) and Don Barclay (5-3).

Pass-rushers: Mike Daniels (6-2), Datone Jones (6-4), Mike Neal (3-3), Julius Peppers (2-2), B.J. Raji (4-6).

Crosby's kicks: If there was a low point for Mason Crosby, it might have been on Family Night last year. Coming off his worst NFL season and locked in a kicking competition with Giorgio Tavecchio, Crosby missed five of his eight kicks in the scrimmage. He eventually steadied himself to reclaim the job and went on to his best season. He has carried that over into training camp, where in two kicking sessions so far he has made 14-of-16. Special-teams coach Shawn Slocum said Crosby will kick tonight, but it won't be as extensive as last year's session.

"Last year he was under a pretty intense competition," Slocum said. "He did well toward the end of it and had a good season and has come back this year, I really like where he's at. I think he's in a good place right now."

Wild-card performers: In Family Nights of the past, there have been players who have come out of relative obscurity to make themselves noticed. One of the unknowns who has already worked his way up the depth chart is rookie free-agent linebacker Joe Thomas of South Carolina State, and he likely will get more opportunities to show whether he can make enough plays to earn a roster spot.

"I think I've just done enough to get the attention of the coaches and better my chances of making the team," Thomas said. "I've got to continue to progress each day to keep catching the eye of the coaches."

Until preseason games begin next week, there's no better chance to do so than on Family Night.

Abbrederis injury update: You won't see rookie receiver Jared Abbrederis on the field (although he may be in attendance), but we should learn more about his knee injury.

Indications are that the fifth-round pick from Wisconsin sustained a torn ACL, although he was awaiting another round of tests to be sure. If those tests confirm such, he will need season-ending surgery.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Over the last two weeks, you've heard quite a bit from Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who sat down recently with ESPN.com for a wide-ranging interview.

It's a good time to compile the best of Rodgers' comments in one place.

So here's the 30-year-old quarterback as he approaches his 10th NFL season:

Rodgers
Rodgers
On becoming more comfortable in the spotlight, such as when he was photographed recently with new girlfriend Olivia Munn: "I'm just going to live my life and enjoy my relationship and realize that comes with it. I still enjoy what little privacy I have left, and I'm going to hold on to that. But I'm not going to let that stuff bother me in ways that it used to."

On what he would do if he were in tight end Jermichael Finley's situation: "I would want to play until they told me I couldn't play anymore. He's younger than I am, and we're competitors. We have to be in our arena doing what we love to do, so it would be near impossible to keep me off the field. I'm sure he feels the same."

On his perfect attendance record in the offseason program: "This is such an important time, I think. This is when you can really get to know your teammates because it's a more relaxed atmosphere. There's no pressure on what we're doing. You have a lot more time and a lot more energy so that when you're done here today, you can go spend time with your teammates, you can go hang out. So this time of the year can start to build that chemistry with your teammates, and I've always found that's really important to success for a team."

On fellow Packers' legendary quarterbacks Bart Starr and Brett Favre: "I've always thought it would be fun to do something, the three of us, some sort of sit down where we could all talk about our experiences. I'm sure that's three interesting perspectives on this place and the appreciation for it. But Bart's been a great mentor and a great guy. It was a blast to win his award, and I think Brett's ready to be welcomed back the way he deserves to be welcomed back, and that will be exciting."

On what he likes about this year's team: "I think we’re a bigger, more physically intimidating team. We haven’t had the kind of physical talent as far as size here in a while. I think there's been times – I think back to playing Jacksonville in '08 in Jacksonville [a 20-16 Packers' loss], some of the battles we've had with our division teams at times – where you walk on the field and feel like you're kind of a JV team. We've still won a lot of games looking like that, but it's fun when you walk around the locker room and you've got guys like [Julius] Peppers, [Adrian] Hubbard, Datone Jones and then with Derek [Sherrod] back with his size, adding size at receiver, tight end with Richard Rodgers. We just haven't had guys in some of these positions with those body types, and that's exciting."

On whether the Packers' offense can be as explosive as it was in the record-setting 2011 season: "I think there's a chance."

On new quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt: "Alex and I are real good buddies, and it's been fun working with him. He sees the game through the eyes of somebody who played the position, so it's a different perspective. But I think he's been harping on a lot of things and wants to hold me accountable like Ben [McAdoo] and Tom [Clements] did, but he's attacking it a different way and I've been responding really well."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Aaron Rodgers has played for one head coach, Mike McCarthy, for all but his first NFL season.

The way things are going for the Green Bay Packers, there's a good chance this quarterback-coach combination will remain intact for years to come.

Rodgers
Rodgers
And that's something Rodgers says he's comfortable with.

Although the two have butted heads at times -- both chalking it up to their competitive natures -- Rodgers had nothing but good things to say about McCarthy and his coaching staff during last week's lengthy interview.

One thing that keeps things fresh for Rodgers is that he's on his third different quarterbacks coach in four seasons. His newest position coach, Alex Van Pelt, was promoted from running backs coach and follows Ben McAdoo (who left after two seasons to become the New York Giants offensive coordinator) and current Packers offensive coordinator Tom Clements.

When asked whether having the same head coach for almost his entire career makes it more important to work with different positions coaches, Rodgers said: "I think it's important to mix it up a little bit. Change is tough, but it can really be good for things that are getting stagnant."

Van Pelt is the only one of Rodgers' three quarterbacks coaches who has played the position in the NFL. Van Pelt spent his entire nine-year career with the Buffalo Bills, where was primarily Jim Kelly's backup and appeared in 31 career games.

Van Pelt has said one of his tasks has been to come up with new ways to challenge Rodgers in order to keep him fresh.

"I think time will tell as far as what's going to be different with my playing style on the field," Rodgers said. "But he's got his own way of doing things, just like Ben did and just like Tom did. I think you can really gain something from every perspective and learn. Alex and I are real good buddies, and it's been fun working with him. He sees the game through the eyes of somebody who played the position, so it's a different perspective. But I think he's been harping on a lot of things and wants to hold me accountable like Ben and Tom did, but he’s attacking it a different way and I've been responding really well."

Coming tomorrow: The best of Aaron Rodgers' comments.
A roundup of what's happening on the Green Bay Packers beat.

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- If the Packers want to keep their restricted free agents -- safety M.D. Jennings and linebacker Jamari Lattimore -- they shouldn't have much trouble.

It's unlikely that teams would make either one a substantial offer, if any offer at all, that would force the Packers to decide whether or not to match it.

The bigger issue might be whether or not the Packers will tender either one of them.

As ESPN's John Clayton wrote this week, the lowest tender for a restricted free agent in 2014 is $1.389 million. That tender would give the Packers the right of first refusal if another team made an offer, but would give them no competition if they chose not to match it.

The other tender offers -- $3 million and$2.124 million -- would carry first- and second-round compensation, respectively, if the teams did not match offers.

What the Packers have to ask themselves is if either Jennings or Lattimore is worth that kind of money. We can safely rule out that they would be candidates for the top-two tenders, and even a salary of $1.389 million might be a stretch.

Although Jennings was a starter last season, the Packers almost certainly will look to upgrade his spot. Lattimore was a fill-on on defense and a core special teams player.

The Packers could decide not to tender either one and perhaps try to sign them for something closer to the minimum for a fourth-year player, which is $645,000.

The deadline for teams to place tenders on their restricted free agents is March 11 at 4 p.m. ET.

In case you missed it on ESPN.com: Best of the rest:
A roundup of what's happening on the Green Bay Packers beat.

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Mike McCarthy now has a former running back coaching running backs and a former quarterback coaching quarterbacks.

Not that it's imperative to do it that way but in his most recent restructuring, McCarthy has restored some order to his staff with Sam Gash in charge of the running backs and Alex Van Pelt tutoring the quarterbacks.

Van Pelt, an NFL quarterback for nine years with the Buffalo Bills, spent the past two seasons coaching the Packers' running backs. It was the first time working at that position for him after serving as a quarterbacks coach with the Bills and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

McCarthy said he hired Van Pelt two years ago not necessarily because he thought he would excel as the running backs coach -- although he did so -- but in part to one day move him up on his staff.

“I think it definitely has broadened his horizons as far as coaching offense,” McCarthy said of Van Pelt. “I know he's very appreciative of the two years coaching running backs. But he's a quarterback coach. You're talking about a very talented football coach, played the position, knows this offense.”

Van Pelt replaced Ben McAdoo, who spent two years coaching quarterbacks despite having never played the position. McAdoo was hired last month as the New York Giants offensive coordinator.

“Anybody can coach the position,” Van Pelt said. “The only thing [having played quarterback] gives you is the ability to say, ‘Hey, I experienced this.' That's about it in that regard. I actually took a five-step drop and had to pressure out to the right side and threw an interception. I know what that's like. I've done that. That's really about all it does give you is [the ability to] say ‘Hey, I've had these experiences and this is what I've learned from them.'”

Meanwhile, Gash, a former teammate of Van Pelt's in Buffalo, was twice a Pro Bowl fullback in his 12-year NFL playing career and spent six seasons as the Detroit Lions running backs coach before sitting out of coaching last season.

“I've always like Sam Gash,” McCarthy said. “He's an excellent fit for us. He's played the position. He's coached running backs. He did a very good job in the interview process. He's worked with Alex Van Pelt in the past, I think his transition will be very easy to our offense.”

In its current form, McCarthy's offensive staff includes four players who were NFL players at the position they now coach -- Gash, Van Pelt, offensive line coach James Campen (offensive line) and Joel Hilgenberg (assistant offensive line). In fact, all of his offensive position coaches played in the NFL. Tight ends coach Jerry Fontenot was an offensive lineman, and receivers coaches Edgar Bennett was a running back.

In case you missed it on ESPN.com:
  • In the wake of Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam revealing that he is gay, McCarthy said the Packers would view him like any other player in the draft and would evaluate him based on his playing ability and his character.
  • Despite some juggling of responsibilities on his defensive staff, McCarthy said he's committed to sticking with a 3-4 defense -- albeit with some tweaks.
  • The Packers might have the most overqualified assistant special teams coach in the NFL with the addition of two-time former college head coach Ron Zook in that role. But both McCarthy and Zook see it as a good fit.
  • Finally, please join me in our weekly Packers chat at 4 p.m. ET (3 p.m. in Green Bay and the surrounding areas). You can submit questions ahead of time or do it in real time. Either way, it can be found by clicking here.
Best of the rest:
  • In the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Mike Vandermause wrote that assistant head coach Winston Moss, whose role was expanded this offseason to coach both inside and outside linebackers, believes improvement on defense will come through technique and fundamentals rather than a change in scheme.
  • In the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Tom Silverstein wrote that Gash compared running back Eddie Lacy to Pro Football Hall of Famer Curtis Martin, who was Gash's teammate with the New England Patriots.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Aaron Rodgers knows what he’s getting in his next quarterbacks coach, Alex Van Pelt.

The Green Bay Packers quarterback has worked indirectly with Van Pelt for the past two seasons, when Van Pelt served as running backs coach.

Although Packers coach Mike McCarthy hasn’t announced any staff changes yet, he plans to make Van Pelt the new quarterbacks coach to replace Ben McAdoo, who was hired last month as the New York Giants' offensive coordinator.

“As far as Alex is concerned, him and I have been good buddies from his first day here,” Rodgers said on his ESPN 540 Milwaukee radio show this week.

Van Pelt has something McAdoo did not -- NFL playing experience. Van Pelt spent nine season with the Buffalo Bills, mostly as a backup quarterback. McAdoo never played the position at any level. Van Pelt also has previous experience as a quarterbacks coach, having served in that capacity for both the Bills (2008-09) and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2010-11). McAdoo came up as a tight ends coach.

Rodgers also has heard good things about Van Pelt from former Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.

“Ryan and I are friends in the league, and Ryan got to play for Alex,” Rodgers said. "From the start, I’ve heard good things about him. Alex gets the game. He played the position and if he’s the guy, I know it’s going to be a really smooth transition, and we’d have a lot of fun together.”
A roundup of what's happening in the Green Bay Packers beat.

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- When former Packers safety Nick Collins tweeted a couple of things that made it clear he still has a strong desire to play in the NFL, it was worth wondering if something had changed medically.

That does not appear to be the case.

While our efforts to reach Collins and his agent, Alan Herman, were unsuccessful, ESPNWisconsin.com's Jason Wilde did reach Herman on Tuesday evening and discovered that nothing had changed and doctors still believe Collins' neck injury leaves him at too much risk to return to football.

It was unclear whether that was Collins' own doctor who performed the spinal fusion surgery on his C-3 and C-4 vertebra or the Packers' doctors who would not clear him to return following his 2011 injury.

Either way, it appears those who got their hopes up that the former Pro Bowl performer might return to save a defense that has never really replaced him will be disappointed.

In case you missed it on ESPN.com:
  • Shortly after writing about Collins, we embarked on the first of what we hope will be weekly Packers chats. Not surprisingly, there were many questions about Collins' possible return. You can read the entire chat transcript here.
  • Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, on his final ESPN Milwaukee radio show of the season, talked about his weekend in New York for the Super Bowl, whether or not the Packers can emulate the Seahawks' defense and more.
  • If you have an ESPN Insider subscription, you could find out what former NFL head coach and current ESPN analyst Herm Edwards thinks is the biggest question facing the Packers Insider this offseason. If you don't, well, you should get one because I'm not giving it away.
Best of the rest:
  • At ESPNWisconsin.com, you can listen to Rodgers' radio show in its entirety.
  • In the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Pete Dougherty wrote that Rodgers expects a smooth transition to new quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt, who is expected to replace Ben McAdoo (who was hired as the New York Giants offensive coordinator last month).
  • In the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Tyler Dunne wrote that although Rodgers' collarbone injury was a reminder of how a quarterback's injury can derail a season, the Packers shouldn't curtail Rodgers' improvisational plays.
  • And finally, the Packers announced that they have hired veteran Wisconsin sports writer Cliff Christl as the team historian. Christl, who becomes the first person to have that role since Lee Remmel retired in 2007, is one of the most experienced and well-respected reporters that has ever covered the team. He has worked for both the Press-Gazette and Journal Sentinel and is one of the voters for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The signing of fullback Ina Liaina doesn't necessarily mean anything relating to the status of veteran fan-favorite John Kuhn, who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in March.

Liaina (5-foot-11, 240) has almost no NFL experience. He was signed by the Miami Dolphins last spring as undrafted free agent from San Jose State but was released on June 13, 2013, and never went to training camp with an NFL team.

Kuhn
He was signed by the Packers on Monday to a reserve/futures contract.

The Packers still have a decision to make about Kuhn, who will turn 32 in September. Despite limited playing time (28.1 percent of the offensive snaps), he played a key role last season in his seventh year with the Packers. He served as the primary third-down back and also helped pave the way for rookie running back Eddie Lacy to rush for 1,178 yards, a team rookie record, when the Packers weren't in a single-back set.

“He wasn't credited for one sack this season,” said Alex Van Pelt, who coached the Packers running backs last season. “When he was in there in protection, he was outstanding. Not only in the fact he was on the right guy but he'd often make adjustments to the offensive line when Aaron [Rodgers] was out and quarterbacks may not have been as comfortable making a certain adjustment where John would see it and go ahead and relay it to the line and get it communicated. The value right there of protecting on third downs is huge.”

Kuhn also continued his role as one of the core players on special teams. He made $2.35 million (including a $1.8 million base salary) in 2013, and it's unclear if the Packers want to make a similar investment in what is essentially a part-time position.

The Packers have not reached out to Kuhn about a contract extension yet, but there's still plenty of time for that to happen given that free agency doesn't open until March 11. The Packers also brought another fullback into training camp last season, but they cut rookie Jonathan Amosa at the end of the preseason.

“You have a comfort level with John that's huge,” Van Pelt said shortly after the season. “That would be a hole we'd have to fill.”
A roundup of what's happening on the Green Bay Packers beat.

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Mel Kiper Jr. liked the Packers draft right away last April and with a full season to watch the rookies, the ESPN NFL draft analyst saw nothing to change in his mind.

In an ESPN Insider piece Insider, Kiper gave the Packers' 2013 draft class the same grade -- a B-plus -- after the season that he gave it right after the draft.

We can't give away everything Kiper wrote -- that's what Insider subscriptions are for -- but here are some snippets:
“At the time, I wrote, ‘I love what Green Bay got out of this draft, particularly at two spots -- defensive end and running back.'”

Of course, he was talking about first-round pick Datone Jones, the defensive end from UCLA, and running backs Eddie Lacy (second round) and Johnathan Franklin (fourth round).
“After one season, I still love what the Packers got at running back, as Lacy has been everything they could have hoped for and completely changes the manner in which this offense can threaten you. But we'll need to see more from Jones, who was OK but not great and isn't yet a first-team player. But the draft was crucial elsewhere.”

Kiper went on to praise fourth-round pick David Bakhtiari, who started every game at left tackle, and fifth-round pick Micah Hyde, who played as the nickel defensive back and primary punt returner.
“Name another rookie who played a whole season at left tackle. Fifth-rounder Hyde also was good in a return role. Not a bad start for this draft class, and you have to believe Jones can and will give them more.”

In all, the Packers have retained 10 of their 11 draft picks. Only seventh-round receiver Charles Johnson is gone. He was signed off the practice squad by the Cleveland Browns in October. Another seventh-round receiver, Kevin Dorsey, spent the entire season on injured reserve.

In case you missed it on ESPN.com:
  • The Packers haven't officially announced the move, but running backs coach Alex Van Pelt will become the new quarterbacks coach. He will replace Ben McAdoo, who left to become the New York Giants offensive coordinator. It was a natural move for Van Pelt, who played the position in the NFL and has previously coached quarterbacks in the league.
  • We continued our position outlook series with the focus on the tight ends, where there are plenty of questions.
  • In our “Next Big Thing” feature, we looked at the most pressing concerns for the offseason.
  • Finally, Ian O'Connor authored a fantastic piece on legendary former Packers coach Vince Lombardi by talking to those who knew him when he was a young high school coach and teacher in New Jersey.
Best of the rest:
  • At ESPNWisconsin.com, Jason Wilde wrote about Van Pelt's path to becoming the Packers quarterbacks coach.
  • In the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Pete Dougherty talked to an NFL scout who said that of the two new coaches in the NFC North, the Packers should be more worried about what Mike Zimmer will do for the Minnesota Vikings than Jim Caldwell with the Detroit Lions.
  • In the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Tyler Dunne looked at some of the receivers at the Senior Bowl that might interest Green Bay, including one who has ties to Packers receiver James Jones.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- As soon as Ben McAdoo's name came up as a possible candidate for a new job, it became clear who the favorite would be to take over as the Green Bay Packers quarterbacks coach.

On Thursday, nine days after McAdoo left to become the New York Giants offensive coordinator, the most logical candidate to replace him has apparently done just that. CBSSports.com was the first to report that Packers running backs coach Alex Van Pelt, a former NFL quarterback who coached his old position for two different NFL teams and also served one season as an offensive coordinator, will coach Aaron Rodgers and the rest of the Packers quarterbacks next season.

The Packers have not yet announced the move. An NFL source said that was expected to happen soon but perhaps not until coach Mike McCarthy fills his other two staff openings.

[+] EnlargeGreen Bay's Alex Van Pelt
AP Photo/Scott BoehmAlex Van Pelt, who spent the past two seasons as the Packers' running backs coach, will coach the quarterbacks in 2014.
Van Pelt spent the last two years as the Packers running backs coach. Previously, he coached quarterbacks for the Buffalo Bills (2008-09) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2010-11). Early in the 2009 season with the Bills, he became their offensive coordinator for the remainder of that season.

Before he came to the Packers in 2012, he had never before coached running backs.

“Obviously I've learned so much about the run game the past two years,” Van Pelt said earlier this month. “It's been a huge experience for me. It really has. I really threw myself into it. I enjoyed it. I love it.”

Now, his attention will turn back to his specialty.

Van Pelt played quarterback for the Bills from 1995-2003 and appeared in 31 games (including 11 starts). He has a long history with McCarthy, who was an assistant coach at the University of Pittsburgh when Van Pelt played there.

In fact, when McCarthy first became the Packers coach in 2006, he wanted to interview Van Pelt for the position of quarterbacks coach. However, Van Pelt had just taken a job at the University at Buffalo and opted to remain in that position.

Van Pelt's name surfaced as a possible offensive coordinator candidate for new Cleveland Browns coach Mike Pettine. The Packers could have blocked that move because Van Pelt was under contract for the 2014 season, according to the Green Bay Press-Gazette. McAdoo had reached the end of his deal and thus was free to pursue other opportunities.

Van Pelt will become the third quarterbacks coach to work under McCarthy. The first, Tom Clements, served in that position from 2006-11 before being promoted to offensive coordinator when Joe Philbin left to become the Dolphins head coach. McAdoo, who had been tight ends coach since 2006, replaced Clements.

In Van Pelt's new job, his responsibilities will be two-fold. He will need to prepare Rodgers on a weekly basis while also developing a capable backup in order to avoid a repeat of 2013, when the Packers broke training camp without settling on a No. 2 quarterback.

The move still leaves the Packers with two openings on their coaching staff -- Van Pelt's old running backs job and outside linebackers, which opened last week when Kevin Greene resigned.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- There are no statistics, no numbers to measure exactly what a quarterbacks coach does for a team. It makes the loss of Ben McAdoo, who tutored the Green Bay Packers quarterbacks the last two seasons, difficult to gauge from that standpoint.

But listen to Aaron Rodgers talk about his position coach -- not just McAdoo but all of the ones he has had -- and you'll know why it's an important job.

“He listens when you talk,” Rodgers said recently on his ESPN Milwaukee radio show when asked about McAdoo's role. “He asks good questions. He understands the nature of certain conversations that need to stay in the room, which need to be filtered up the chain of command.”

[+] EnlargeGreen Bay's Alex Van Pelt
AP Photo/Scott BoehmCould Alex Van Pelt be Aaron Rodgers' next quarterbacks coach?
In other words, that person needs to be sounding board.

With McAdoo off to the New York Giants, who on Tuesday hired him to be their offensive coordinator, Rodgers needs a new sounding board. The Packers have a natural one already on their coaching staff in Alex Van Pelt, who was hired two years ago to coach running backs.

Van Pelt played quarterback in the NFL -- something Rodgers thought he needed two years ago when McAdoo was hired -- and also coached the position for four years, two with the Buffalo Bills and two with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers sandwiched around one season as the Bills' offensive coordinator.

Not only could Van Pelt serve as a confidant for Rodgers but also will bring a fresh perspective to the quarterback room much like McAdoo did coming from tight ends coach.

Last week, Van Pelt was asked how coaching running backs the last two years has changed his perspective on the offense.

“Obviously I've learned so much about the run game the past two years,” Van Pelt said. “It's been a huge experience for me. It really has. I really threw myself into it. I enjoyed it. I love it. I'm sad to say when the 7-on-7 [passing drill] comes on the [video] screen, I kind of buzz through that quickly now, which is sad. I'm more excited to get to the inside run game, so it's been a good experience.”

Whether coach Mike McCarthy promotes Van Pelt or hires someone else, the Packers next quarterbacks coach not only needs to work closely on the day-to-day aspect of preparing Rodgers to play at his best, but also must develop a capable backup so they avoid the situation they were in this past season, when they failed to come out of training camp with a No. 2 quarterback.

“I think I'm getting to the point of my career where I need someone who can continue to give me the things I need during the week as far as preparation; make sure they stay on me as far as fundamentals,” Rodgers said last week on his radio show. “I think it's more of a tandem cooperation between the quarterbacks coach and myself helping out the young guys. That's kind of my legacy as a teammate is helping out the young players.

“As a quarterback coach, I think you really want to develop young talent and if you have a talented guy like myself now being my 10th season next year, I think it's more about getting that guy ready to play and getting him all the necessary looks and preparation and conversation that I need before game day.”
A roundup of what's happening on the Green Bay Packers beat.

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The first day of the Packers' offseason on Monday was spent mostly talking to and writing about players who may or may not return next season.

With 17 unrestricted free agents, there's bound to be significant roster turnover (more on that in the "In case you missed it" section below).

But every offseason there's also the possibility of turnover on the coaching staff and in the personnel department. This season, there are not only questions about the status of defensive coordinator Dom Capers, but also the possibility that coach Mike McCarthy could lose members of his offensive staff.

Multiple reports, including one from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, indicate that quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo appears to be a hot candidate for an offensive coordinator job or possibly even a head-coaching position.

One such possibility could come with the Miami Dolphins, where coach Joe Philbin parted ways with offensive coordinator Mike Sherman. Philbin, the former Packers offensive coordinator, spent six seasons on the same staff with McAdoo in Green Bay. It was Philbin's departure for Miami in 2012 that opened the door for McAdoo to move from tight ends coach to quarterbacks coach.

Before McAdoo was promoted two years ago, quarterback Aaron Rodgers expressed an interest in having a coach who had played the position -- something McAdoo did not do. McCarthy now has a member of his coaching staff who fits that profile. That's running backs coach Alex Van Pelt, who spent nine seasons as a quarterback with the Buffalo Bills.

In case you missed it on ESPN.com:
  • Perhaps the most interesting thing to come out of Monday's final open locker room session was what cornerback Tramon Williams had to say. He said he thinks the Packers need more veteran players, especially on defense.
  • We broke down the list of free-agents-to-be into two categories -- those on the offensive side of the ball and those on the defensive side.
  • There were so many defining moments to the 2013 season, but we've tried to narrow them down to the 10 that most shaped the season. We will count them down over the next two weeks. Here's number 10.
  • On a personal note, we've made it through our first season here -- although not without a bit of a medical scare -- and I appreciate everyone's interest. Things will continue to evolve here over the next few months. We'll keep the Starter Pack alive for at least a little while longer as the early stages of the offseason tend to be rather newsworthy, and then we'll see where things go from there. Your input is always welcome. At this point, the best way is to reach out to me on Twitter @RobDemovsky.
Best of the rest:
  • The NFL's official transaction wire indicated the Packers signed six of their eight practice squad players to futures contracts for next season. They were: receiver Alex Gillett, running back Orwin Smith, cornerback Antonio Denard, guard Andrew Tiller, center Garth Gerhart and tackle Aaron Adams. It was unclear why receiver Tyrone Walker and guard Lanier Coleman were not immedialy signed.
  • At ESPNWisconsin.com, Jason Wilde wrote that McAdoo would be a logical choice for Philbin in Miami and that running back DuJuan Harris (who missed the entire season with a knee injury) hopes to return next season and join with Eddie Lacy to provide a 1-2 punch.
  • In the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Pete Dougherty wrote that although there have been no signs that McCarthy is pondering a change at defensive coordinator, that possibility can't be dismissed.
  • In the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Tyler Dunne and Tom Silverstein came up with a list of things general manager Ted Thompson will have to address in the offseason.

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