NFC North: Dezman Moses

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- When ESPN's three days of live draft coverage finally goes off the air Saturday evening, 256 players will have been drafted.

But player acquisition will be far from over.

In fact, some NFL personnel executives have said the most stressful part of draft weekend is the process of signing undrafted free agents as soon as the seventh round finishes.

In a matter of a few hours, some teams sign as many as 20 undrafted rookie free agents. It's a process the Green Bay Packers take seriously. It's why they use many of their allotted pre-draft visits on players likely to go undrafted. They consider it part of the recruiting process.

But they aren't the only ones who actively recruit potential rookie free agents. The Seattle Seahawks distributed a 12-page brochure to agents showing them how the team covets and strongly considers undrafted free agents for its roster.

Among the charts in the brochure is one that shows preseason playing time for undrafted free agents and another with the percentage of undrafted free agents who make the 53-man roster.

In terms of playing time, last preseason, the Seahawks led the league in playing time percentage by undrafted rookies at 36.2 percent, according to their research. The Packers were second at 33.6 percent.

On that page, the Seahawks noted: "If your client doesn't get on the field in the preseason, he'll have a tougher time making that team's roster or any roster at all. Last season, the Seahawks ranked No. 1 in total offensive and defensive playing time by undrafted rookies."

When it comes to making the roster, the Seahawks said 22 percent of their undrafted free agents since 2010 have spent time on their active roster, which ranks eighth in the NFL, and according to the brochure, “the Seahawks have been selective in the number of UDFAs they sign each year. The team has signed 68 of them, which ranks 17th."

The Packers actually have a higher percentage of undrafted free agents who appeared on their active roster at various points during the season since 2010, according to the chart, at 24 percent, which is tied for fourth in the NFL.

The Packers have had at least three undrafted free agents make their opening-day roster each of the last four years. In that time, 13 undrafted free agents have made the Week 1 roster, which is tied for the third most in that span behind only St. Louis (17) and Cleveland (16), according to the Packers.

Here are the undrafted free agents that have made the Packers' roster coming out of training camp the last four years:

2013: S Chris Banjo, OLB Andy Mulumba, Lane Taylor.

2012: T Don Barclay, WR Jarrett Boykin, OLB Dezman Moses, S Sean Richardson.

2011: S M.D. Jennings, LB Jamari Lattimore, OLB Vic So'oto.

2010: G Nick McDonald, CB Sam Shields, OLB Frank Zombo.

Preparing for Clay Matthews' absence

October, 7, 2013
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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- When Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews missed a month last season because of a hamstring injury, not surprisingly, their pass rush suffered.

In four games without their defensive star, the Packers totaled just seven sacks and 23 quarterback hits. Five of those sacks and 10 of the hits came in one game: the first one Matthews missed against the Detroit Lions on Nov. 18. In one of those games, against Minnesota on Dec. 2, they failed to record a single sack.

With Matthews expected to miss the next month because of the broken right thumb he sustained in Sunday’s win over the Lions, the Packers must find a way to maintain their pass rush in his absence.

Matthews, who had 13 sacks in 12 games last season, broke his thumb on his third-quarter sack of Matthew Stafford on Sunday.

[+] EnlargeNick Perry
Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY SportsNick Perry, who had two sacks on Sunday, is one of the Packers linebackers expected to pick up the slack for injured star Clay Matthews.
“Clay’s one of those guys who’s going to make two or three plays a game,” Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers said Monday. “You’ve seen every game this year, there’s been two of three plays that he makes.”

Matthews, who also missed half of the Week 3 game at Cincinnati because of a hamstring injury, has a team-high three sacks this season.

This time around, the Packers might be in better position to absorb Matthews’ absence for two reasons: Mike Neal and Nick Perry.

When Matthews went down last season, Perry already had been lost for the season to a wrist injury, and the idea of moving Neal from defensive end to outside linebacker had not been hatched. The week after Matthews’ injury, the Packers’ starting outside linebackers were Dezman Moses and Erik Walden -- neither of whom are with the Packers anymore.

Neal’s adaptation to his new position happened so fast that he started ahead of Perry on Sunday against the Lions and played the best game of his four-year career, with six tackles and a sack. Perry, the Packers’ first-round pick in 2012, responded to his demotion with the first two-sack game of his young career.

“The one encouraging thing to me is, I think Mike Neal has made really good strides,” Capers said. “I think you saw him play his best game yesterday. I think you saw Nick Perry play his best game yesterday. And that’s the nature of this business.”

Behind Neal (who played 45 snaps against the Lions) and Perry (39 snaps), the Packers’ only other outside linebackers are Andy Mulumba, an undrafted rookie who played 17 snaps against the Lions, and Nate Palmer, a sixth-round pick who was inactive.

When Matthews returned from his hamstring injury last season, the Packers’ pass rush returned, posting 12 sacks over the final three regular-season games. Matthews had four of those.

This time around, it’s worth wondering how effective Matthews will be upon his return, because he might have to wear a large protective club-like cast. Packers safety Morgan Burnett played with one for part of the 2011 season to protect his fractured right hand but didn’t miss a game. Former Packers defensive end Cullen Jenkins also used one for part of the 2010 season. Neither had surgery.

“What position do they play, that definitely factors in,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said when asked how effective a player can be with a club cast. “Can they play a club? At what point in the rehab or the injury can you play with the club?”

The Packers also lost backup inside linebacker Robert Francois for the season to a torn Achilles tendon against the Lions. Francois had replaced starter Brad Jones, who left the game with a hamstring injury. But the Packers must feel good about Jones’ situation because they signed a cornerback, practice squad player James Nixon, to replace Francois on the active roster on Monday.

Taking the blame for Vince Young

September, 1, 2013
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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- After the Green Bay Packers released veteran quarterback Vince Young on Saturday, it was worth discussing -- as we did here -- whether more time in the system would have made a significant difference in his bid to be the team’s backup.

Packers general manager Ted Thompson, the man who waited until Aug. 5 to sign the 30-year-old quarterback, thinks that perhaps it might have done just that.

[+] EnlargeTed Thompson
AP Photo/Morry Gash"I probably should have had him in here earlier," Packers GM Ted Thompson said about Vince Young.
In discussing his roster moves on Sunday, Thompson placed the blame on himself for not acting sooner to bring in the former first-round draft pick.

“Quite frankly, it probably wasn’t fair to Vince,” Thompson said. “We threw a lot on his plate, and the fault is probably mine. I probably should have had him in here earlier.”

Thompson praised Young for being a good teammate and a humble guy.

“If there was fault, it was probably mine,” Thompson said.

The decision to release Young left B.J. Coleman, who spent all of last season on the practice squad, as the only quarterback behind Aaron Rodgers. Coleman’s shaky play early in training camp was one of the reasons Thompson turned to Young in the first place.

The Packers no doubt are exploring all of their options at quarterback, but the list of those available was far from impressive. They were expected to add a quarterback to the practice squad -- Scott Tolzien, the former University of Wisconsin starter who was released by San Francisco last week.

“We’re actively pursuing everything there is in the National Football League at every position,” Thompson said. “I’m not just making this up. At every position, we’re looking to see if we can get better.”

If the Packers stick with Coleman, it wouldn’t be the first time in recent years that they went into the season with an inexperienced backup. They did so last season with Graham Harrell, who like Coleman had previously been on the practice squad. And they did so in 2008 with rookie Matt Flynn.

When asked if Coleman, who completed just 41.2 percent of his passes this preseason, would be an adequate fill-in if something happened to Rodgers, Thompson said: “Well, we think he has a good chance to do that. Again, there’s a lot of things that he hasn’t seen yet. He’s played in preseason games but never played in a regular-season game. We’re getting ready to tee it off, so we’re getting ready to play.”

Note: The Packers have not announced their practice-squad signings yet. But in addition to Tolzien, they are expected to add receivers Charles Johnson and Myles White, tight end Jake Stoneburner and cornerback James Nixon, according to multiple media reports. Those four all were released by the Packers on Saturday. The Packers had hoped to bring back center Patrick Lewis to the practice squad, but he was claimed off waivers by Cleveland. Four others released by the Packers on Saturday were claimed off waivers: running back Alex Green (by the New York Jets), tight end D.J. Williams (Jacksonville), linebacker Dezman Moses (Kansas City) and linebacker Terrell Manning (San Diego).

Green Bay Packers cut-down analysis

August, 31, 2013
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Most significant move: After the Packers released Graham Harrell on Aug. 24, the backup quarterback job was Vince Young’s to lose. The former first-round draft pick on the Tennessee Titans lost it. After an unimpressive performance in the preseason finale at Kansas City on Thursday, when Young led only two field goal drives in 11 possessions, the Packers released him on Saturday.

Perhaps he was fighting a losing battle from the start, considering he wasn’t signed until Aug. 5. That was 11 days after the Packers opened training camp. He missed the first seven practices and a scrimmage.

It leaves an unsettled situation behind starter Aaron Rodgers. For now, the only other quarterback on the roster is B.J. Coleman, who spent all of last season on the practice squad. Coleman opened training camp as the No. 3 quarterback but slipped to fourth string after Young was signed and before Harrell was released. In the preseason, Coleman completed just 14 of 34 passes (41.2 percent) for 128 yards with one touchdown and one interception. It’s hard to imagine the Packers won’t explore other options over the weekend.

2011 revisited: With running back Alex Green and tight end D.J. Williams among the most surprising cuts on Saturday, it made a strong statement about the 2011 draft class. Packers general manager Ted Thompson drafted 10 players in April of that year. Only three of them – receiver Randall Cobb (second round), cornerback Davon House (fourth round) and tight end Ryan Taylor (seventh round) – remain on the roster. Tackle Derek Sherrod (first round) will start the season on the physically unable to perform list. He still has not returned from the broken leg he sustained on Dec. 18, 2011. Green was a third-round pick, while Williams was taken in the fifth round.

What’s next: Like all teams, the Packers will scour the waiver wire and free-agent lists. Their focus likely will be on the quarterbacks. Even if they find one they like, they might have to use Coleman as the No. 2 early in the season while the newcomer gets acclimated to the offense. The Packers haven’t carried three quarterbacks on their active roster since late in the 2011 season. They also can begin signing players to their eight-man practice squad on Sunday afternoon. Thompson is scheduled to meet with reporters on Sunday afternoon.

Players cut: QB: Vince Young. RB: Alex Green. FB: Jonathan Amosa. TE: Matthew Mulligan, Jake Stoneburner, D.J. Williams. WR: Charles Johnson, Tyrone Walker, Myles White. OL: Andrew Datko, Garth Gerhart, Kevin Hughes, Patrick Lewis. DL: Jordan Miller. LB: Terrell Manning, Dezman Moses, Donte Savage. CB: Loyce Means, Brandon Smith, James Nixon. S: David Fulton, Chaz Powell.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Perhaps the best thing that could happen now for Mason Crosby is that there are no field goals to even attempt in Thursday’s preseason finale at Kansas City.

Things can’t get any better for the seventh-year kicker, who is trying to win back his job.

When he woke up on Monday morning, he was one of three kickers on the Green Bay Packers’ roster. By the end of Tuesday, he was the only one.

In successive days, the Packers cut kickers Giorgio Tavecchio and Zach Ramirez.

[+] EnlargeMason Crosby (2) and Giorgio Tavecchio
AP Photo/Mike RoemerMason Crosby (2) beat out Giorgio Tavecchio (7) and Zach Ramirez, not pictured, for the Packers kicking job, but may still have work to do.
On Tuesday, Crosby drilled all 14 of his field goals, half of which were into a strong wind.

Meanwhile, Ramirez, who was signed on Sunday, failed to back up his 10-for-11 performance from practice two days earlier.

Ramirez made only 6-of-16 field goals. He got two more attempts thanks Crosby in the second of the two kicking periods because special teams coach Shawn Slocum wanted him to finish on a make. But he couldn’t do it, missing three straight to finish the period.

While coach Mike McCarthy refused to declare the kicking competition over shortly after practice, less than three hours later Ramirez was released.

It’s always possible the Packers will watch the waiver wire and add another kicker before the regular-season opener at San Francisco on Sept. 8. But as long as Crosby doesn’t stumble against the Chiefs, he may have won his job back.

Since Ramirez’s arrival, Crosby has missed just one of 25 field goals.

On Tuesday, Crosby made kicks of 33, 37, 40, 42, 45, 48 and 58 yards into the wind and 35, 40, 44, 47, 51, 54 and 64 yards going downwind. He improved his camp-long mark to 67-of-81, not including 4-of-4 in preseason game action.

“I thought Mason hit the ball very well this week,” McCarthy said. “As you look forward, that’s what he’s done in the early part of his career. I’ve been very impressed with Mason in his last two kicking opportunities, lining up with a three-way competition on Sunday and then today. So, he’s had a very good week."

In one practice, Ramirez missed more kicks than Tavecchio did the entire training camp before he was released on Monday. Tavecchio was 56-of-64 in practice/scrimmage situations and 1-of-2 in preseason games, and the Packers left open the possibility of bringing him back.

Kicking from the same distances as Crosby but with two extra attempts from 58 yards at the end of practice, Ramirez only put the ball through the uprights from 33, 37, 40 and 45 yards into the wind and from 40 and 51 yards downwind.

“He’s only been here three days,” McCarthy said. “He really didn’t have the rhythm and cadence and the snap down. I think it affected him on the first set of kicks, and it carried over the to the second.”

In other developments on Tuesday:

  • Quarterback Aaron Rodgers took all of his snaps with the scout team for the third straight game, which is an indication he may not play in the preseason finale. “There’s a couple of conversations we need to have before we determine the play time for all those guys,” McCarthy said.
  • Rookie receiver Tyrone Walker closed out training camp by making another impressive catch. On second-and-10 from the defense’s 25-yard line, Walker ran a fade route against cornerback Loyce Means and made an over-the-shoulder catch against tight coverage before he went out of bounds at the 3-yard line.
  • Not only did quarterback B.J. Coleman put the ball right on the money to Walker but on the next play, he completed the drive with a 3-yard touchdown pass to tight end Brandon Bostick.
  • Despite practicing in pads, there were no one-on-one pass rushing/passing blocking drills for the seventh straight practice. The last time they conducted the highly-competitive drill was on Aug. 14, meaning there was no change to the one-on-one statistics since the last time they were updated. Said defensive coordinator Dom Capers: “This has been a short week, so we’ve tried to eliminate a few of those things this week.”
  • Following practice, most players walked along the fence in front of the stands on the East side of Ray Nitschke Field and thanked the fans by giving them high fives.
Medical report: Linebacker Dezman Moses returned to practice after dropping out a day earlier because of a toe injury.

That was the only change.

Those who did not practice were WR Kevin Dorsey (toe), CB Jarrett Bush (ankle), CB James Nixon (ankle, knee), S Sean Richardson (neck), CB Casey Hayward (hamstring), S Morgan Burnett (hamstring), LB Jarvis Reed (ankle), LB Brad Jones (hamstring), OL J.C. Tretter (ankle), T Bryan Bulaga (knee), T Derek Sherrod (leg) and DE Jerel Worthy (knee).

What’s next: Wednesday is a travel day in advance of Thursday’s preseason finale at Kansas City.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers needed some good news in their secondary, and it came on Monday in the form of cornerback Tramon Williams’ return to practice after missing nearly a month because of a knee injury.

For the first time since July 30, the fourth practice of training camp, Williams was back in action, clearing the way for him to be ready for the Sept. 8 regular-season opener at San Francisco.

It was not a full-pads practice, so Williams couldn’t put his knee through a complete test. But he took part in most of the practice drills and even took a few reps as a punt returner. Williams described his injury as a bone bruise, and he wore a protective wrap on his knee.

“Coaches limited my reps, obviously, but it felt good for the most part, moving around against different guys,” Williams said. “I wondered how that would feel. It held up.”

With only one more practice remaining before Thursday’s preseason finale at Kansas City, it looks like Williams won’t get any exhibition snaps before the opener.

“I still don’t want to go out and say that I will be there Week 1,” Williams said. “But for me to be out there now, I think it’s definitely a possibility.”

Even with Williams back, the Packers were still missing two key players in the secondary -- safety Morgan Burnett and cornerback Casey Hayward. Both sustained hamstring injuries on Friday against Seattle and have been ruled out against the Chiefs.

In other developments on Monday:
  • Tight end Brandon Bostick saw his role increase on special teams. He was on the No. 1 punt return, the No. 1 kickoff return and No. 1 punt coverage units. If a player is on several of the top special teams units, it can be a sign he’s in good shape to make the roster. However, on the final play of practice, Bostick dropped a touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers. It came on the same day in which ESPN’s Ed Werder reported the Packers are fielding trade calls about their tight ends, including Bostick.
  • Rookie linebacker Nate Palmer made one of his best plays of training camp, when he broke up a deep pass to tight end Jermichael Finley. Palmer, a sixth-round pick from Illinois State who is on the bubble to make the roster, had good coverage on Finley’s seam route and knocked the ball away.
  • Vince Young threw a pair of interceptions, one by safety M.D. Jennings and one by cornerback Micah Hyde.
  • Receiver Tyrone Walker had perhaps the catch of the day on a back-shoulder fade from Rodgers.
  • Heavy rain forced the Packers indoors for the first time during training camp.
Medical report: Rookie receiver Kevin Dorsey was back on the sidelines because of a toe injury. Dorsey missed 10 practices and two preseason games earlier this summer because of a leg injury.

Linebacker Dezman Moses dropped out of practice halfway through because of a toe injury.

The Packers were still waiting for the results of more tests on running back DuJuan Harris’ knee injury.

Linebacker Brad Jones (hamstring) was added to the list of players who would not play against the Chiefs.

A total of 12 players did not suit up for practice. They were CB Jarrett Bush (ankle), CB James Nixon (ankle, knee), S Sean Richardson (neck), LB Jarvis Reed (ankle), OL J.C. Tretter (ankle), T Bryan Bulaga (knee), T Derek Sherrod (leg), DE Jerel Worthy (knee) Hayward, Harris, Burnett and Jones.

What’s next: The final practice of training camp is Tuesday at 11 a.m. local time.

Packers' 53-man roster projection

August, 22, 2013
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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers have two preseason games and three training camp practices left to evaluate their roster before final cuts are due on Aug. 31.

Here’s a position-by-position projection of how the 53-man roster would look if the final cuts were made today. It is based on camp-long conversations with coaches and NFL scouts and could easily change in the next nine days.

[+] EnlargeVince Young
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesVince Young could be tabbed to be Aaron Rodgers' backup.
Quarterbacks (2): Aaron Rodgers, Vince Young

Analysis: Keeping three quarterbacks is unlikely, so the Packers have to decide between Young and Graham Harrell. There’s a growing sense within the organization that they need a better backup than Harrell. Young might not have a firm grasp of the offense for several more weeks or even months, but it’s a risk they may be willing to take.

Running backs (5): DuJuan Harris, Eddie Lacy, Johnathan Franklin, Alex Green, John Kuhn

Analysis: James Starks looks like the odd man out. He plummeted down the depth chart after his fumble on Saturday at St. Louis. The Packers could see if there’s any possibility of trading Starks or Green, but they haven’t received any offers yet. Kuhn still has value as the lone fullback because of his blocking, leadership and special teams contributions.

Receivers (5): Randall Cobb, James Jones, Jordy Nelson, Jarrett Boykin, Tyrone Walker

Analysis: Given the injuries to Cobb (biceps) and Nelson (knee), they may have to consider keeping a sixth receiver. That could bring Jeremy Ross, Kevin Dorsey or Charles Johnson back into play. But for now, the undrafted rookie Walker has the edge for the final spot. The Packers had hoped Ross would show more as a receiver so that they could also make him their kick returner. Rookies Dorsey and Johnson, both seventh-round picks, missed so much time because of injuries that there’s not enough information to go on. At this point, they look like practice-squad candidates if they clear waivers.

Tight ends (4): Jermichael Finley, Ryan Taylor, Brandon Bostick, Jake Stoneburner

Analysis: This is perhaps the most muddled position after the starter, Finley. There’s no clear-cut No. 2. Taylor is on most of the top special teams units but so is D.J. Williams. The problem with Williams is his inconsistency. He practices well but doesn’t carry it over to the games. Bostick may have the most upside because at 6-foot-3, 250 pounds, he’s built like Finley. Stoneburner, an undrafted rookie, has made a strong impression of late. Veteran Andrew Quarless can’t stay healthy and hasn’t played in nearly two years. Meanwhile, veteran free agent Matthew Mulligan, another blocking tight end with special teams ability, has an elbow injury that may have derailed his chances.

Offensive line (8): David Bakhtiari, Josh Sitton, Evan Dietrich-Smith, T.J. Lang, Don Barclay, Marshall Newhouse, Greg Van Roten, Lane Taylor

Analysis: Last year, the Packers kept only seven but would prefer to keep eight. If Barclay holds on to the starting right tackle job, Newhouse would be the swing tackle. Van Roten can back up all three interior positions and has even played a little tackle. Taylor, an undrafted rookie, has impressed at guard. Derek Sherrod (leg) and JC Tretter (ankle) will likely start the season on PUP, while Bryan Bulaga (knee) will go on IR.

Defensive line (6): Ryan Pickett, B.J. Raji, C.J. Wilson, Datone Jones, Mike Daniels, Johnny Jolly

Analysis: Despite coach Mike McCarthy’s insistence that Mike Neal is a defensive end, he’s going to count as an outside linebacker, where he has seen more practice time. Jolly has been impressive in short stints and has overcome long odds after missing the last three seasons because of a suspension. If the Packers keep a seventh defensive lineman, it will be rookie fifth-rounder Josh Boyd, who is big and athletic but might not be ready to play right away. Jerel Worthy (knee) will likely start the season on PUP.

Linebackers (10): A.J. Hawk, Brad Jones, Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, Robert Francois, Jamari Lattimore, Sam Barrington, Terrell Manning, Mike Neal, Andy Mulumba

Analysis: The inside spots are fairly clear cut behind the starters, Hawk and Jones. Francois, Lattimore, Barrington and Manning will play on special teams. Behind Matthews and Perry on the outside, Neal might be the next-best option. Mulumba, an undrafted rookie, has shown more than sixth-round pick Nate Palmer or second-year pro Dezman Moses. However, Mulumba’s knee injury this week could slow him down.

Defensive backs (10): Sam Shields, Tramon Williams, Casey Hayward, Micah Hyde, Davon House, Jarrett Bush, Morgan Burnett, M.D. Jennings, Jerron McMillian, Chris Banjo

Analysis: There’s concern that Williams’ knee injury may prevent him from being ready for the opener, so that could force the Packers to keep another cornerback, likely Loyce Means or James Nixon. Banjo, who was signed off the street on July 29, has a hold on the No. 4 safety position but that could be a spot that’s addressed via the waiver wire. Hyde also could be the punt returner.

Specialists (3): Brett Goode (long snapper), Tim Masthay (punter), Mason Crosby (kicker).

Analysis: Crosby's spot is most tenuous. He could ease some of the concerns about him if he makes a few long field goals on Friday against Seattle. Those concerns were heightened on Wednesday, when he missed three straight kicks from 42, 42 and 44 yards in practice. His competitor, Giorgio Tavecchio, didn’t do himself any favors by missing a 49-yarder at St. Louis on Saturday. Whereas Crosby is a power kicker, Tavecchio is a form kicker. If the Packers went with Tavecchio, they would be sacrificing distance. The Packers reached out to former Miami Dolphins kicker Dan Carpenter, who decided he had a better chance to win the job in Arizona, so it’s possible their opening-day kicker isn’t currently on the roster.

Packers' rookie WRs still a mystery

August, 2, 2013
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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- A week into training camp, the Green Bay Packers don’t know much more about rookie receivers Kevin Dorsey and Charles Johnson than they did when they drafted them back in April.

The two seventh-round picks missed most of the offseason program because of injuries, and they dropped out again during the second practice of training camp last Saturday. Neither has returned.

Though there’s plenty of time for them to make a run at the fourth and fifth receiver spots, those positions are no longer as wide open as they first appeared thanks to the play of Jarrett Boykin and Jeremy Ross.

Boykin was the last receiver to make the team last season but was used sparingly. He has caught just about everything thrown his way in the first week of camp. That continued Friday night, when he had perhaps his best practice to date. In a team period early in practice, he stretched out to make a tough catch on a deep ball from Aaron Rodgers. Two plays later, Rodgers hit Boykin on a hitch that he quickly took up the field.

Ross, who was promoted from the practice squad last season but was used primarily on special teams, stood out during the two-minute period that ended practice. On a four-play scoring drive, Ross had catches of 15 yards on consecutive plays.

Boykin and Ross also have been given extensive roles on special teams.

"They’ve definitely created a value for themselves individually and continue to improve and make plays," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said after practice.

Daniels dominates: Defensive tackle Mike Daniels continued to shine in pass-rushing drills. The second-year pro won three of his four reps Friday to improve his camp-long record to 9-8 in a drill that heavily favors the offensive player.

At just 6-foot and 291 pounds, Daniels probably isn’t big enough to be an every-down player, but he might be carving out a significant role in the sub packages. In a limited role last season, he had two sacks.

Odds and ends: Defensive tackle Johnny Jolly, who is attempting to make an NFL roster for the first time since the 2009 season after serving a three-year suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, stripped the ball from Alex Green during a team run period. It was believed to be the first fumble by a running back in an 11-on-11 period this camp. However, Jolly still hasn’t made much of an impression in the one-on-one drills. He lost all five of his reps in the pass-rushing drill on Friday and only one was against a projected starting offensive lineman. ... Outside linebacker Nick Perry, whose rookie year ended last season after only six games because of surgery on his left wrist, has been practicing with a large protective brace that covers most of his left forearm. ... Practice ended with the most efficient no-huddle period of camp by the offense, which needed just 36 seconds to go 70 yards on four plays. It ended with tight end Jermichael Finley’s best catch of camp, a 15-yard touchdown on a seam route against tight coverage by safety Jerron McMillian. ... Friday’s session was the only night practice of training camp, and it drew perhaps the largest crowd of the summer.

Medical report: Receiver Jordy Nelson missed his first practice of the summer because he had a recurrence of an old knee injury, McCarthy said. Another starter, linebacker Brad Jones, dropped out midway through practice because of a finger injury. Rookie linebacker Nate Palmer returned after missing two practices because of a shoulder injury.

Others who missed practice were WRs Sederrik Cunningham (wrist), Dorsey (leg), Johnson (knee); RB DuJuan Harris (knee); S Sean Richardson (neck); CB Casey Hayward (hamstring); CB Tramon Williams (knee); S David Fulton (knee); OLB Dezman Moses (toe); LB Jamari Lattimore (illness); OL JC Tretter (ankle); DE Mike Neal (abdominal); T Derek Sherrod (leg); TE Andrew Quarless; and DE Jerel Worthy (knee).

What’s next: The annual Family Night scrimmage at Lambeau Field is Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET.
All we know for sure is that on May 21 -- more than two months before training camp and 109 days before the start of the regular season -- Mike Neal was working as an outside linebacker during a Green Bay Packers organized team activity (OTA).

Does that mean Neal has a new position? Or is this simply a spring experiment? I doubt even the Packers have an answer to that question yet.

Neal
Neal has been a defensive end for the past three years, and despite his well-chronicled athleticism, his listed weight of 294 pounds would be rare even in a 3-4 scheme. Based on his comments to local reporters Tuesday, Neal hasn't been asked to slim down or prepare in any other way for a new position.

Coach Mike McCarthy didn't provide specifics but seemed to confirm the Packers want to use Neal in different ways this season, referencing the way some teams ask defensive linemen to drop into coverage during zone blitzes.

Asked about having a 294-pound linebacker, McCarthy said: "It depends on how you use big guys in space. [You can have] a defensive end dropping in the fire zone, too. Schematically, we're going to do some different things. I want to expand Mike Neal's role. The specifics of that, I'm sure you can wait until Week 1 of the regular season to get into that."

Neal had his most productive season last year, finishing with 4.5 sacks, mostly because he was healthy enough to play in 11 games. But his path to a full-time role in 2013 is probably blocked, even with 2012 second-round pick Jerel Worthy recovering from an ACL tear. The Packers made defensive end Datone Jones their No. 1 draft pick last month, veteran Ryan Pickett is returning and the team plans to give Johnny Jolly a chance to resume his career after a three-year suspension.

Meanwhile, at least from the outside, the Packers seem set at outside linebacker with Clay Matthews, Nick Perry and Dezman Moses on the roster. Veteran Brad Jones has also played outside.

So what does this mean for Neal? The guess is the Packers want to use him in some of the hybrid roles that defensive coordinator Dom Capers is known for creating. The Minnesota Vikings attempted a similar experiment last season with defensive end Everson Griffen, who worked as a linebacker during part of training camp en route to a role that occasionally saw him working as a stand-up pass-rusher/linebacker.

In the end, this is the time of year to find out if a talented player can contribute in non-traditional ways, especially if the roster could be set up for others to fill the traditional roles. Mike Neal is athletic enough to do it. We'll see if he and the Packers can make it work.

NFC North wrap: all-division team, more

December, 27, 2012
12/27/12
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NFC Season Wraps: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five things to know and my 2012 all-division team:

[+] EnlargeAaron Rodgers
Jeff Curry/US PresswireAaron Rodgers leads the league in passer rating (106.2) despite two of his top receivers missing significant time with injuries.
Division MVP: If your definition of this award is the player who has the most impact on his team's winning percentage, then our MVP is Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. If your MVP is the player who had the best season, then it's Minnesota Vikings tailback Adrian Peterson. I lean toward the first definition, so Rodgers is the choice. He was the one elite constant in an injury-ravaged season that limited most of the team's top players. Rodgers has helped cover for 24 missed games by defensive back Charles Woodson, linebacker Clay Matthews and receivers Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson. Along the way, he helped receiver Randall Cobb approach stardom and fed 13 touchdown passes to former No. 4 receiver James Jones -- and he still is leading the NFL in passer rating (106.2). Rodgers might not have matched his 2011 MVP performance, but he was the most important player on the division's top team. Peterson has had a career year by all accounts, but he has actually been more productive in the Vikings' wins than their losses. Quarterback Christian Ponder's play has been more closely tied to the Vikings' winning percentage. Honorable mention: Lions receiver Calvin Johnson overcame a midseason spate of injuries to himself and most of his fellow receivers to set the NFL record for receiving yards in a season. Johnson has 1,892 yards and can become the NFL's most productive receiver on a per-game basis in a season with 104 yards Sunday against the Chicago Bears.

Biggest disappointment: The Detroit Lions brought back 21 of 22 starters from last season's 10-6 team and assumed their young nucleus would continue to improve. Instead, the Lions stumbled to a mistake-filled abomination of a year that will lead to a difficult offseason. Among the issues: They have effected a 23-point swing in their takeaway/giveaway ratio from 2011. Opponents have 10 touchdown returns via special teams, fumbles and interceptions. The Lions have committed a division-high 118 penalties. Quarterback Matthew Stafford has taken a step back, especially in his drop from 41 to 17 touchdown passes, and has an untenable $20.3 million salary-cap charge for 2013 that will have to be adjusted. Meanwhile, most of the Lions' defensive starters -- including both outside linebackers and their entire secondary -- are eligible for free agency after the season.

Draft help: By intent or chance, the Packers demonstrated this year that it's possible to draft for need and get immediate help despite annual warnings from football gurus that the approach is short-sighted. Disappointed with the performance of their 2011 defense, the Packers used their first six draft picks on defensive players. Five of them have been significant contributors. First-round linebacker Nick Perry had two sacks in six games before suffering knee and wrist injuries. Cornerback Casey Hayward has been one of the NFL's better cornerbacks, producing six interceptions and 26 pass breakups. Safety Jerron McMillian is a part of the nickel rotation, and defensive linemen Jerel Worthy and Mike Daniels have combined for 4.5 sacks. The Packers have also gotten a productive season from undrafted rookie linebacker Dezman Moses, who has four sacks. In all, the Packers rank No. 10 in the NFL in total defense (329.6 yards per game allowed) and No. 7 in scoring defense (19.9 points per game allowed). Their goal of injecting youth and energy has been accomplished.

Ponder's future: At his best, Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder has been efficient this season. At his worst, he has played like a career backup. But there are a number of factors suggesting Ponder will be back in 2013 as the Vikings' unquestioned starter. One is his recent upswing, which includes a 96.9 Total Quarterback Rating (QBR) in Week 15 and a 78.5 QBR in Week 16. Both were top-10 performances in the league during the respective weeks. Another is the relatively poor class of quarterbacks in the 2013 draft along with a limited set of options in free agency. This week, coach Leslie Frazier told ESPN 1500 this week, "I don't know any scenario that's going to come up to say, 'You know what? We need to be looking for a replacement for Christian in the offseason.'" Ponder is a good leader and has proved an explosive scrambler at times, ranking fourth among NFL quarterbacks with four rushes of at least 20 yards. But given the quarterbacks in Green Bay, Detroit and Chicago, it's difficult to project Ponder as anything more than the fourth-best quarterback in this division for the foreseeable future.

Whither Bears? The Chicago Bears opened the season with Super Bowl hopes and roared to a 7-1 start. Their 2-5 record since then has brought them to an organizational crossroads. They could still qualify for the playoffs, and perhaps they will make a run once they get there. But that wouldn't erase the issues that have arisen, most notably an aging defense that might lose middle linebacker Brian Urlacher, a pending free agent who has slowed noticeably at age 34. Meanwhile, the Bears' offense became a two-man team between quarterback Jay Cutler and receiver Brandon Marshall. They got almost no production from the rest of their pass-catchers -- Marshall has 72 more receptions than their second-most productive player -- and tailback Matt Forte was slowed by injuries. Forte had 12 runs of at least 20 yards in 2011 but has managed only six this season in about the same number of carries. Finally, the Bears slogged through a third consecutive season with a patchwork offensive line that still has more questions than answers. Whether or not they make the playoffs, the Bears will have to address those issues in order to be a more consistent team in 2013.

A few notes on the 2012 All-NFC North team below:

  • As I did for the midseason team, I chose three receivers and deleted the fullback position. Vikings fullback Jerome Felton had a great season at his position, and there is no doubt he had a big impact on Peterson's performance. But through 15 weeks, Felton has played about 38 percent of the Vikings' offensive snaps. We have more flexibility with these teams than, say, Pro Bowl voters do. So I decided to take advantage and use the spot on someone who has been closer to a full-time player.
  • This division is so deep at receiver that good players fell short despite the extra spot. The Lions' Johnson and the Bears' Marshall were obvious choices, and for the third position I chose the Packers' Cobb. I know how many touchdown passes Jones caught, but on the whole, Cobb has been the Packers' best receiver. Not only does he lead the team with 80 receptions for 954 yards along with 8 touchdowns, but he has also caught an NFL-high 78.4 percent of the passes Rodgers threw him according to Pro Football Focus (PFF). Cobb has been an exceptional open-field runner, piling up nearly half of his yards after the catch and forcing opponents to miss 15 tackles according to PFF.
  • I considered dropping the tight end position as well so that I could add Jones and give us four receivers. But Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph has had a recognition-worthy season. Rudolph has more touchdown receptions (nine) than all NFL tight ends except the New England Patriots' Rob Gronkowski. He has a higher percentage of his team's total receiving touchdowns (60) than any other NFL player, the fourth-highest percentage in the past 20 NFL seasons. His other numbers (51 receptions for 473 yards) are less impressive, but you have to put them in context of the Vikings' passing offense, which ranks No. 32 in the NFL in terms of yards. Rudolph has actually accounted for a higher percentage of the Vikings' yardage (18.7) than Gronkowski (17.2).
  • My original team had four defensive tackles, with Nick Fairley (Lions) and B.J. Raji (Packers) joining Henry Melton (Bears) and Ndamukong Suh (Lions). I thought that quartet represented the best four defensive linemen in the division for much of this season, even though none of them play defensive end. But late surges from veteran ends Jared Allen (Vikings) and Julius Peppers (Bears) made me rethink the decision. Peppers now has 11.5 sacks and Allen has 11. It's tough to leave players off an all-division team if they have double-digit sack totals. There are only 15 players in the league with 10 or more sacks at the moment.
  • Once again, I eliminated a safety spot to give us extra room for an exceptional crop of cornerbacks. The Bears' Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman were no-brainers, and that still left the Packers' Hayward competing with teammate Tramon Williams and the Vikings' Antoine Winfield. I chose Hayward because of how consistently he has turned away challenges from the opposition. He was an obvious target as a rookie, but he responded with the NFL's fifth-most interceptions and third-most pass breakups.
  • Finally, here are links to All-NFC North teams in previous seasons: 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008.

Free Head Exam: Green Bay Packers

November, 19, 2012
11/19/12
11:30
AM ET
After the Green Bay Packers' 24-20 victory over the Detroit Lions, here are three issues that merit further examination:

  1. Free Head Exam
    ESPN.com
    J-Mike is back. Or, at least, we saw that tight end Jermichael Finley hasn't lost any of the skills that appeared set to make him one of the NFL's most dynamic tight ends. Finley hasn't appeared to have the confidence of quarterback Aaron Rodgers in recent weeks, and those watching games on site saw him routinely protesting downfield when balls weren't thrown his way. Sunday, however, Rodgers found him wide open on a play that was designed to be a screen in the second quarter, leading to a 20-yard touchdown. And Finley's 40-yard catch-and-run in the fourth quarter helped set up the game-winning score. The best part of the Sunday's developments was that Rodgers revealed he has been "spending time" with Finley and that "his head has really been in it the last couple weeks." That's unquestionably good news for one of the Packers' most mercurial players. Finley was fired up after the game, predicting that Rodgers will start "looking at me" more often and acknowledging: "It's big for the team to get me and [Rodgers] on the same page for this last stretch to the playoffs. I'm excited. I feel like a rookie right now." He even suggested that he and receiver Randall Cobb could form an indefensible playmaking duo. I'm not sure about that, but it's great for the Packers to have Finley thinking big thoughts -- and following up on them on the field -- once again.
  2. It's always dangerous to make a full judgment on an offensive lineman based only on the plays you noticed him on. Typically, that offensive lineman does his job on the plays you didn't notice. So we'll just say this: Left guard Evan Dietrich-Smith was overwhelmed enough in the early going to make him a target of future Packers opponents. There is no doubt that the Lions have one of the NFL's most aggressive defensive lines, and that defensive tackle Nick Fairley in particular has been a beast of late. But while this was Dietrich-Smith's first start of the season, it wasn't the first of his career. You would have hoped for a more even performance before the Packers made some protection adjustments in the second half. The sight of Fairley pushing Dietrich-Smith into the backfield early on is one that will linger.
  3. Given the circumstances, I thought Sunday marked one of the Packers' most impressive defensive games since we started this blog in 2008. With cornerback Charles Woodson and linebacker Clay Matthews sidelined, they sacked Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford five times and forced four total turnovers, one of which they converted into a touchdown. It probably should have been five turnovers, but safety Morgan Burnett allowed an interception to slip through his hands on Calvin Johnson's 25-yard touchdown reception. Still, the Packers have to be encouraged to see second-year safety M.D. Jennings return an interception 72 yards for a score, while also seeing linebacker Erik Walden with two sacks and rookie Dezman Moses with one, along with a forced fumble. Meanwhile, rookie cornerback Casey Hayward's tight coverage led to an interception and a total of five passes defensed. I don't think the Packers know whether they'll get Woodson or Matthews back for Sunday night against the New York Giants, but for one game at least, their replacements stepped up.
And here is one issue I still don't get:
Based on Twitter, it appears that some of you are mad that coach Mike McCarthy hasn't already cut place-kicker Mason Crosby, who has missed seven of his past 13 attempts, including two in Sunday's game. But Crosby has put McCarthy in a tough spot, considering the risk involved in replacing a kicker on a playoff-bound team this late in the season. Quite frankly, there are no obvious solutions available. McCarthy's best bet is to hold tight and hope Crosby will straighten himself out, much as he did in 2009 -- when he had a stretch of four misses in 10 attempts. What's impossible to know is how long McCarthy will let this go. Would Crosby have to blow a game before he would be replaced? Kicking is as mental as any task on a football field, and a kicker can "find it" as quickly as he "loses it." But other than positive thinking, I'm not sure anyone in the organization knows how this will play out.

BBAO: Down the stretch they come ...

November, 19, 2012
11/19/12
8:15
AM ET
We're Black and Blue All Over:

DETROIT -- Well, lookie what we have here.

The Green Bay Packers' winning streak, extended to five games by Sunday's 24-20 victory over the Detroit Lions, has pulled them within a half-game of the NFC North-leading Chicago Bears. And as we've been discussing for several days, the Packers would technically finish Week 11 atop the division if the Bears lose Monday night at the San Francisco 49ers.

Both teams would be 7-3 at that point, but the Packers would get the tiebreaker (if it were necessary) because of their Week 2 victory over the Bears.

In the big picture, of course, we are headed toward an awesome and unprecedented finish to the NFC North season. There are scenarios in which the Bears, Packers and Minnesota Vikings could all win the division, most simply by winning out. The Bears and Packers will meet Dec. 16 at Soldier Field, and don't forget the Vikings have two games apiece remaining against the Bears and Packers.

I'm making my way back to NFC North blog headquarters. While we can grab a breath, let's take a tour around Monday morning coverage:
  • Here is some high praise of Packers coach Mike McCarthy from Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "McCarthy's cutting-edge offense takes advantage of all the rules changes and the strength of his personnel. His demanding, creative coaching has gotten the best from Aaron Rodgers. In moments like these, one should pause to remember just how well-coached the Packers are."
  • Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com compares the Packers' recent performances to the look of those who are participating in Movember: "Their team's victories might not be particularly stylish -- the latest being Sunday’s rough-and-tumble 24-20 victory over the Detroit Lions at Ford Field -- but they’re adding up to a five-game winning streak, potential control of the NFC North and turning around what could have been a lost year amid a dispiriting start and injuries to key player after key player."
  • Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette: "Three of the biggest plays the Green Bay Packers made on defense Sunday against the Detroit Lions came from Casey Hayward, Dezman Moses and M.D. Jennings.That's a rookie second-round pick, an undrafted rookie and a second-year former undrafted free agent."
  • According to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, Lions receivers coach Shawn Jefferson was upset with receiver Titus Young at the end of Sunday's game, prompting what appeared to be an outburst toward offensive coordinator Scott Linehan.
  • Mitch Albom of the Free Press: "[Y]ou could feel the weight of the Lions’ deferred 2012 dreams coming down on their heads like a theater curtain that snaps off its rods. They were not supposed to be the last-place team in their division. They were not supposed to lose to Minnesota on the road and then Green Bay at home, the 13th loss in 14 games to the Packers. Those were the old Lions, right? Those were days gone by. These were the days ahead. Weren’t they?"
  • Bob Wojnowski of the Detroit News: "The Lions have collapsed, and at the desperate, defining juncture, it was their starry strength that let them down. Something hasn't seemed right with Matthew Stafford and the offense, and on a telling Sunday, it fell apart."
  • Stafford looks like "a different quarterback this season," writes Anwar S. Richardson of Mlive.com.
  • Michael C. Wright of ESPNChicago.com takes a detailed look at the Bears' matchup with the 49ers, ultimately predicting a 17-13 victory by the 49ers.
  • With quarterback Jason Campbell set to make his first start for the Bears, this would be a good game for the Bears' running game to take over, writes Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune.
  • The Bears' heavy use of receiver Brandon Marshall is reminiscent of the way offensive coordinator Mike Tice used receiver Randy Moss in the famed "Randy Ratio" offense with the Vikings in 2002. Sean Jensen of the Chicago-Times explains.
  • Vikings general manager Rick Spielman on tight end John Carlson, an expensive and minimally productive free agent pickup, via Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com: "I think John Carlson has a lot of football (left) and is a very good football player for us and will be a good football player in the future."
  • This link will take you to all three parts of a bye week interview of Vikings coach Leslie Frazier by Dan Wiederer of the Star Tribune.

Packers-Lions: Approaching kickoff

November, 18, 2012
11/18/12
11:41
AM ET
DETROIT -- Greetings from Ford Field, which welcomed me so kindly I felt competed to document it on our new NFC North Instagram account (kevinseifert_espn), also viewable on Twitter. We've got the list of inactive players for Sunday's game between the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers, and there are no real surprises.

The Packers won't have cornerback Sam Shields (shin), who returned to practice last week but isn't ready to play. Rookie Casey Hayward will start in Shields' place, and rookie Dezman Moses will start at outside linebacker for Clay Matthews (hamstring).

The Lions, meanwhile, will again have backup safeties Erik Coleman and Ricardo Silva starting for the injured Louis Delmas (knee) and Amari Spievey (concussion, placed on injured reserve Saturday). Defensive end Ronnell Lewis is inactive, allowing former Packers cornerback and new Lions addition Pat Lee to be active for this game. Cornerback Drayton Florence is also active for the Lions.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- A few thoughts after witnessing Sunday's events at Lambeau Field:

What it means: The Green Bay Packers won their fourth consecutive game and will take a 6-3 record into their bye. They'll need the extra week of rest, however, after another round of injuries to key players. The Packers have struggled to put away inferior teams at home the past two weeks, but those victories count in the win column the same as blowouts would.

Injury report: Receiver Jordy Nelson, who has been dealing with a hamstring injury, rolled his right ankle in the first quarter on the only pass thrown his way and did not return. A hip injury sent right tackle Bryan Bulaga to the sideline in the second quarter, forcing the Packers to move T.J. Lang to right tackle and insert Evan Dietrich-Smith at left guard. And linebacker Clay Matthews injured his hamstring and did not return after limping off in the third quarter. After Matthews departed, the Packers used rookie Dezman Moses and veteran Erik Walden as their outside linebackers. We'll get you updates on Nelson, Bulaga and Matthews as soon after the game as we can.

Tom Crabtree?!? With Nelson sidelined and the offensive line in flux, the Packers' offense struggled after halftime. The Cardinals pulled within a touchdown at 24-17, but tight end Tom Crabtree put the game away on the final play of the third quarter. Lined up in the backfield, Crabtree slipped through the line, got a step on Cardinals linebacker Paris Lenon and turned Aaron Rodgers' pass into a 72-yard touchdown play. It was the longest reception by a Packers tight end since 1979. (Paul Coffman, 78 yards.)

RodgersWatch: Rodgers hit on only 14 of 30 passes, but he made the completions count. Four went for touchdowns, including two to Randall Cobb and one each to Crabtree and James Jones. Through nine games, Rodgers has 25 touchdown passes and five interceptions. Cobb has five touchdowns in his past three games.

Running game: James Starks replaced Alex Green in the starting lineup for this game and the pair split carries in what amounted to the Packers' best rushing performance of the season. Starks finished with 61 yards on 17 carries and Green had 53 yards on 11 carries. Overall, the Packers piled up 176 yards on 39 attempts, both season highs. Starks had one fumble, which Rodgers recovered, and that probably curtailed some of his snaps. But I was fine with Starks getting on the field. Green hasn't been productive in three starts. You can only spend so much time waiting for a player, young or not, to find his groove.

What's next: The Packers have their bye and return to the field Nov. 18 at the Detroit Lions.

Wrap-up: Packers 24, Jaguars 15

October, 28, 2012
10/28/12
4:54
PM ET
A few thoughts on Sunday's events at Lambeau Field:

What it means: Fortunately for the Green Bay Packers, ugly and/or short-handed victories count the same as blowouts in the standings. This game against the Jacksonville Jaguars was a struggle from the start, but ultimately the Packers held on to win their third consecutive game and improve to 5-3.

Offensive struggles: The Packers played without their top two receivers, Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson, as well as their top running back, Cedric Benson. And it showed. They put up a season-low 238 yards of offense, and quarterback Aaron Rodgers finished under 200 yards for only the 11th time in 70 career starts. The Packers worked hard to establish their running game against the NFL's worst-ranked run defense, but tailback Alex Green managed 54 yards on 22 carries. One of the biggest plays of the game was Rodgers' decision to take a shot downfield on third-and-7 with two minutes, 44 seconds left. Receiver James Jones couldn't make the catch, but a pass interference call on the Jaguars' William Middleton moved the ball 38 yards to the Jaguars' 38-yard line. That field position put the Packers in position for a 25-yard field goal that made it a two-score game.

Special teams excitement: Davon House's blocked punt in the second quarter, eventually recovered for a touchdown by rookie Dezman Moses, was the play that allowed the Packers to operate with a lead during some tough times in the middle of the game. House came unblocked off the right side of the Jaguars' formation. The Packers tried a trick play from the Jaguars' 37-yard line in the third quarter, shifting from a field goal formation into a punt formation before punter Tim Masthay unleashed a long and incomplete throw down the right hash mark. Replays showed Masthay had tight end Ryan Taylor open for a first down. That's the risk of such calls. Masthay is a punter, not a quarterback. As easy as it might look on television, you can't assume a non-quarterback will make the right decision on a throw. It's not his professional expertise.

Defensive struggles: The Packers did well to hold the Jaguars to 15 points considering quarterback Blaine Gabbert had receivers open for most of the afternoon. Gabbert completed 27 of 39 passes for 303 yards in the Packers' first game without cornerback Charles Woodson, and the Packers' tackling was inconsistent. Linebacker A.J. Hawk won't want to watch replays of his miss in the flat of running back Rashad Jennings, leading to a 24-yard pass play in the fourth quarter.

Injury report: Nose tackle B.J. Raji returned to the lineup, but the Packers lost two other defensive linemen during the game. Rookie Jerel Worthy suffered a concussion and Mike Neal injured his ankle.

What's next: The Packers will host the Arizona Cardinals next Sunday at Lambeau Field.

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