NFC North: Eddie Lacy

Lacy
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- It did not take Eddie Lacy long to enter into the NFL's consciousness.

By his fourth game as a pro last season, the Green Bay Packers running back had posted his first 100-yard game. By season's end, he was one of the league's most recognizable – and productive – running backs.

And 1,178 rushing yards later, he finds himself well within the top 100 offensive players in ESPN's #NFLRank project. When the next set of 10 players was unveiled on Friday, there was Lacy at No. 60.

It was Lacy's hard-charging running style that perhaps made him so popular with fans and respected by opposing defenses. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Lacy had the fourth-most yards after contact in the NFL last season with 531. He also was the only rookie with more than 1,000 rushing yards and at least 10 touchdowns in 2013.

The top-50 players on each side of the ball will be announced next week.

Here's a look at the Packers in the rankings so far:

Defense
No. 95: CB Sam Shields
No. 81: DT B.J. Raji

Offense
No. 77: G Josh Sitton
No. 66: WR Randall Cobb
No. 60: RB Eddie Lacy
GREEN BAY, Wis. – In a two-series appearance in last Saturday's preseason game at St. Louis, several things stood out from the Green Bay Packers’ starting offense.

Most marveled over quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who had only two incompletions in 13 attempts with 128 yards and one touchdown pass (plus another that was recalled by a penalty); or Eddie Lacy, who averaged 5.0 yards per carry; or receivers Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson, who each caught touchdown passes (although Nelson's was the one wiped out); or the precision of the no-huddle offense.

Perhaps what jumped off the film the most was the play of the right tackle.

Bulaga
In 24 snaps against the Rams, Bryan Bulaga did not allow a sack, hit or hurry, according to ProFootballFocus.com. It was exactly the same in an eight-snap appearance in the previous week’s preseason opener at Tennessee.

That's an impressive stat line for any NFL tackle, let alone one who went 634 days between game appearances. Before Bulaga played in the preseason opener at Tennessee, his last game came on Nov. 4, 2012, when his season ended because of a hip injury. He never made it to the 2013 preseason opener because of a knee injury that required ACL reconstruction last year.

"You've got a darn good football player back and a guy that works extremely hard, is very professional -- just his presence out there, he's a strong man that moves very well," said Packers offensive line coach James Campen, when asked about Bulaga's impact on the offense. "It obviously is a plus having him out there."

And Bulaga, 25, does not even feel like he's quite back in form yet. He has had to adjust to playing right tackle again after moving to the left side last offseason and get in sync with right guard T.J. Lang after lining up next to Josh Sitton for most of his career.

Three times in an answer to one question, Bulaga talked about the need to get his confidence back, something that he said remains a work in progress.

"I'm getting more and more comfortable, especially every game rep I get," Bulaga said.

The best part, in Bulaga’s mind, is that he has been able to work on that every day in practice. It was his goal while he rehabbed his knee and trained throughout last season to come to training camp without limitations. To do so, he rebuilt his physique, first by losing weight, and then building back up to his playing weight of between 315 and 320 pounds.

Before his ACL tear, Bulaga was on track to becoming one of the NFC's top tackles.

How close is the fifth-year pro to being that again?

"That's a long time ago; it's hard to say that," Campen said. "What I do know is since Day 1 that we put the pads on, as we've progressed, he's gotten better and better."
Halfway through the preseason schedule, the Green Bay Packers' roster and depth chart is starting to take shape.

Here's a look at who hurt their chances during Saturday’s 21-7 victory at the St. Louis Rams:

1. Derek Sherrod: A week ago, the Packers were raving about the return of the former first-round draft pick, who saw his first extensive playing time since he broke his leg late in his rookie season of 2011. A week later, they have reason to be concerned about whether he can be the backup swing tackle they need without Don Barclay (who was lost for the season to knee injury early in camp). Sherrod had all kinds of trouble with a pair of Rams backups. On his very first snap at left tackle, Sherrod got smoked by defensive end Eugene Sims, who drilled quarterback Scott Tolzien just as he released the ball. Later on the same drive, Sims beat Sherrod again to pressure Tolzien into an incompletion. "I thought Scott had some tough situations," coach Mike McCarthy said, referring to the protection problems. Sherrod also got some time at right tackle late in the game, but he did not fare much better. He got beat by rookie Michael Sam, who then sacked Matt Flynn. Although Flynn held the ball for 3.5 seconds (one full second longer than McCarthy wants), the responsibility for the sack should sit with Sherrod.

2. Aaron Adams: See above. Sherrod's running mate at tackle with the No. 2 offensive line had troubles of his own. Playing right tackle on the first series with Tolzien, Adams allowed rookie defensive end Ethan Westbrooks to beat him and then hit Tolzien as he threw. On the next series, Adams gave up a sack to Westbrooks on third down. Adams spent all of last season on the practice squad and had impressed the coaches during the early part of the training camp.

3. Corey Linsley: If the Packers were to lose center JC Tretter during a game, they might be more likely to move one of their starting guards rather than go with rookie Corey Linsley in the middle. Although the fifth-round pick has worked as the No. 2 center throughout camp, his performance against the Rams likely gave the Packers reason to believe he's not ready for regular-season game action. Linsley committed a pair of penalties, including one that wiped out a Tolzien touchdown pass to Myles White. Perhaps it was just a bad day in his first NFL game in a dome because Linsley has been solid in practice.

4. DuJuan Harris: Last season, running back Eddie Lacy fumbled only once – it came in his regular-season debut – in 15 games. If Harris is going to take some of Lacy's snaps this season, he can't cough up the ball like he did in the third quarter. The Packers like Harris as a change-of-pace back but if ball security is an issue, they have other options. Undrafted rookie Rajion Neal was impressive in Week 1 before he sustained a knee injury. He could return this week. Michael Hill averaged 4.3 yards on four carries and had a 27-yard reception against the Rams.

5. Brandon Bostick: The tight end literally hurt himself in the first quarter, when he left the game because of a lower leg injury and did not return. Although Bostick did not start (rookie Richard Rodgers did), he has been making a push for the job and at the very least would be in line for significant playing time. Injuries have slowed Bostick in the past. He finished last season on injured reserve because of a broken foot.

W2W4: Green Bay Packers

August, 16, 2014
Aug 16
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The Green Bay Packers (0-1) play their second preseason game Saturday against the St. Louis Rams (0-1) at the Edward Jones Dome. Kickoff is at 4 p.m. ET.

Here are three things to watch:

1. Back in action: After sitting out the preseason opener at Nashville this past Saturday, quarterback Aaron Rodgers will make his preseason debut. He's expected to play a few series in this game and a few more in the third preseason game against the Oakland Raiders on Aug. 22 and then likely won't play in the finale against the Kansas City Chiefs six days later. Running back Eddie Lacy and receiver Jordy Nelson also did not play against the Titans. Lacy was held out as a coach's decision, while Nelson had a hamstring injury. Both appear likely to play against the Rams. When asked whether it was important to get Rodgers playing time with Lacy and Nelson, coach Mike McCarthy said: "You want everybody to play. It's not just two guys."

2. More from Peppers: Julius Peppers admitted he "did not get much done" in his preseason debut with the Packers last week. He played only 10 snaps but did not make any impact plays. He is expected to see more playing against the Rams. The preseason might not seem important to a 34-year-old, 13-year veteran, but given that Peppers is playing a new position (outside linebacker) in a new scheme, surely the Packers would like to see him make a few plays. "It matters, it matters," Peppers said of the preseason. "We all are going to need these reps to get ready for the season, which is going to be upon us pretty soon. It's a chance to get better. We have a couple more opportunities to try to accomplish those goals."

3. Do it for real: McCarthy said it best this week when asked about rookie receiver Jeff Janis, saying he has "made a play every day he's been out there." It's time to see whether the rookie seventh-round pick from Saginaw Valley State can do it in a game. Janis was held out of the preseason opener because he had only a week of practice under his belt after missing the first seven practices because of a case of shingles. However, he has been impressive in practice, catching difficult passes against some of the Packers' top cornerbacks. "The biggest thing for me is just making the play whenever it comes my way," Janis said. "That's what I've been trying to do lately. So that's what's most important to me." Janis is locked in a battle for one of the last receiver spots with the likes of Kevin Dorsey, Alex Gillett, Chris Harper, Gerrard Sheppard and Myles White.
GREEN BAY, Wis. – It takes a lot to impress Eddie Lacy, but even the Green Bay Packers' laid-back running back was rapt as James Starks plowed his way through the Tennessee Titans in Saturday's preseason opener.

Lacy, who was held out of the game, saw Starks rush for 49 yards on just six carries and cap the opening drive with a 20-yard touchdown run in monsoon-like conditions.

Starks
"I think it was cool, especially in those conditions," Lacy said. "I don't know how the footing was because I wasn't on the field, but I think he ran the ball [well]."

Maybe that should not have been a surprise given how Starks ran it last season. His performance against the Titans looked like a continuation of 2013.

"He's in midseason form," running backs coach Sam Gash said. "He runs as angry as he did last year. He runs with a purpose."

While Lacy and his Packers' rookie rushing record of 1,178 yards received all the attention, Starks had the most productive of his four NFL seasons. He averaged 5.5 yards per carry, more than a yard better than his previous best of 4.3 in 2011.

Perhaps even more importantly, he played in 11 straight games to finish the season, the longest stretch he has stayed healthy since appearing in the first 12 games of 2011.

It could not have come at a better time for Starks. He was in the final year of his rookie contract and perhaps answered some questions for the Packers -- and the rest of the NFL -- about his durability and production.

Still, running backs that rush for 493 yards, as Starks did last season, don't draw much interest. Although he said he had conversations with a few teams, Starks returned to the Packers on a two-year deal that included just a $725,000 signing bonus.

"I didn't really want to go anywhere else," Starks said. "I like it here. It's kind of like my family. This is all I really knew. I think it was a comfortable situation."

As long as Lacy is healthy, Starks, who not long ago was viewed as a possible long-term starter, will be No. 2 in Green Bay.

That could be a point of contention for some players.

"Starks isn't like that at all," Lacy said. "We definitely do push each other, but we understand it's not like because I'm a starter, I'm better than you are because you're second-string and used to play. There's not that kind of tension at all. We both understand what we have to do and we go do it."

Last season, Starks and Lacy combined for 2,017 total yards, including 1,671 rushing. They believe that -- and possibly more -- is doable again.

"It definitely should be," Lacy said. "We have the same approach. We're teammates but we're going to push each other so we can get the best out of each other."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- It's only his second NFL training camp, but the Green Bay Packers are taking a veteran approach with running back Eddie Lacy.

Maybe not quite the Adrian Peterson tactic, but close.

Lacy
The reigning NFL offensive rookie of the year was held out of Saturday's preseason opener against the Tennessee Titans and indications are Lacy might not do much, if anything, in the remaining three exhibition games.

It's not an injury issue; the 24-year-old Lacy has taken on a full workload in practice. But just like the Minnesota Vikings do with Peterson, the Packers may be taking a similar approach with their workhorse running back when it comes to the preseason.

"It's not my goal for his workload to be very high in preseason games," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Tuesday.

Peterson, 29, played one series in the third preseason game last summer, but before that had not carried the ball in the exhibition season since 2011.

Lacy said Tuesday he did not know if that was going to be the Packers' approach but doubted he would go into the regular-season opener at Seattle on Sept. 4 without any game action.

"That's definitely something else that you would have to ask the coaching staff," Lacy said. "But as far as me as a player, whatever opportunities I'm given, whether it's [playing in] preseason or held out until the first game -- which I highly doubt that -- whatever work I get will definitely help as far as getting timing and rhythm down."

If anything, Lacy's snaps in practice have increased. McCarthy wants to turn Lacy into a three-down back and practiced him extensively in that role during the early portion of camp.

But when it came time to suit up against the Titans, Lacy joined quarterback Aaron Rodgers in sweats on the sideline. James Starks started in place of Lacy and picked up where he left off last season, when he averaged 5.5 yards per carry as Lacy's primary backup. Starks rushed for 49 yards on just six carries, including a 20-yard touchdown, against the Titans.

Matt Flynn got the call in place of Rodgers, who is expected to start Saturday against the St. Louis Rams and again in the third preseason game against the Oakland Raiders but almost certainly will not play in the finale against the Kansas City Chiefs, one week before the opener.

"That's usually how it goes," McCarthy said of the preseason plan for Rodgers.

Questions about Lacy's durability have followed him since his days at Alabama. But his pounding style largely held up last season. He missed one full game and most of another because of a concussion early in the season and then missed half of another late-season game because of ankle injury. In 14 games, he rushed for a Packers’ rookie record of 1,178 yards.

But given the his penchant for contact, it's worth wondering how long Lacy can last.

"That's kind of a tough question," Lacy said. "It doesn't matter if you're a power back or a speed back, as long as you're a running back, nobody knows how long you can play the game."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- They're taking water breaks and serving snacks during training camp practices. They're using a GPS system to monitor players' movements.

They changed their practice plan, flip-flopping their Friday-Saturday in-season schedule, and even within those individual practices they moved drills that used to be at the beginning to the end, and vice versa.

All for one reason: To reduce the injuries that have befallen the Green Bay Packers in recent years.

And what good has it done?

They already have lost two players -- rookie receiver Jared Abbrederis and offensive lineman Don Barclay -- who almost certainly would have been on the opening day roster. Both suffered torn anterior cruciate ligaments within the first two weeks of practice.

Some injuries -- no matter what the training staff does to keep players energized for practice and regardless of how coach Mike McCarthy designs his schedule -- just have to be chalked up to bad luck.

"Watch either one of those things as it happened, it wouldn't give any sort of indication that it was going to be a bad deal," Packers general manger Ted Thompson said. "It's just the way it turned out."

But so far in camp, the number of missed practices due to muscle or fatigue-related injuries has been low. A year after hamstring pulls were the order of camp, the only serious muscle pull in the first two weeks was an oblique strain suffered by starting strong safety Morgan Burnett.

THREE REASONS FOR OPTIMISM

[+] EnlargeAaron Rodgers
Benny Sieu/USA TODAY SportsA rejuvenated Aaron Rodgers is showing no aftereffects -- so far -- of last season's broken collarbone.
1. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers turned 30 in December and is coming off the worst injury of his career (a broken collarbone), but you would never know it by watching him now. He has been humming along in training camp as well as he ever has. His command of the offense is so great that McCarthy has been able to cut several practices short because they have not been forced to repeat plays ruined by mental errors. Rodgers reported to camp about 11 pounds lighter than he was last season, thanks to a combination of workouts (which included yoga) and diet.

2. If there's such a thing as a distraction-free training camp, this has been it. They addressed their No. 1 contract concern by signing receiver Jordy Nelson to a four-year, $39 million extension on the morning camp opened. A few days later, they locked up Thompson with a multiyear extension and said McCarthy would be next. And perhaps they have finally put any bad vibes from Brett Favre behind them when they announced last week that their former quarterback will have his number retired next summer, when he also will be inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame. All of that has allowed the team to focus on its preparation without anything getting in the way.

3. The biggest area of concern last year, the safety position, now may be one their strengths. Micah Hyde's switch from cornerback has gone better than expected, and first-round draft pick Ha Ha Clinton-Dix looks game-ready. Then there's third-year safety Sean Richardson, who has made perhaps more big plays in practice than anyone on defense. If Burnett comes back soon from his oblique strain -- and finally starts to perform like the Pro Bowl-caliber player they thought he was when they gave him a four-year, $24.75 million extension last summer -- then there should not be any concerns.

THREE REASONS FOR PESSIMISM

1. The Packers still do not know -- and may not know for a while -- whether JC Tretter can handle the starting center job. After a rough start to training camp, the second-year pro seemed to settle into the position and was solid in the preseason opener. But given the opener is at the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks in perhaps the loudest stadium in the league, there's probably nothing that can prepare Tretter for what he will have to deal with in Week 1.

2. As good as the Packers feel about Nelson, receiver Randall Cobb and running back Eddie Lacy, they don't have many other proven weapons for Rodgers. No one from the tight end group has emerged as the favorite to replace Jermichael Finley, although Andrew Quarless, Brandon Bostick and rookie Richard Rodgers have had their moments (both good and bad). And among the receivers, Jarrett Boykin has been no better than average in his quest to replace James Jones as the No. 3 receiver. Every time it looks like rookie Davante Adams may take that job from Boykin, he drops a ball.

3. Outside linebacker Clay Matthews participated in every practice during the first two weeks but still is not ready to proclaim his twice-broken right thumb 100 percent. Perhaps it's more of a mental hurdle for Matthews, but he needs to be able to use his hand without restrictions in order to return to his Pro Bowl level. It's hard to tell if Matthews is babying the injury, but in the first two weeks of practice, he took only two reps in the one-on-one pass-rushing drill and lost both. He played a few snaps early in the preseason opener against the Titans and did not seem to have any issues.

[+] EnlargeB.J. Raji
AP Photo/Morry GashB.J. Raji, back at nose tackle after spending last season at defensive end, has had an impressive camp.
OBSERVATION DECK

  • B.J. Raji looks re-energized after moving back to nose tackle. He signed just a one-year contract (worth $4 million) after the free-agent market proved soft, and might be motivated by another chance to test free agency next offseason.
  • Defensive coordinator Dom Capers is preparing second-year pro Datone Jones for a big role. Last year as a rookie, the first-round pick played almost exclusively in the sub packages and hardly ever played in the base 3-4 defense. Now, Jones has been penciled in as a starting defensive end while also playing as an inside rusher in the nickel and dime defenses.
  • If there's a high draft pick who might struggle to get on the field early in the season, it's perhaps third-round defensive tackle Khyri Thornton. Much like defensive end Josh Boyd last season, Thornton might not be ready for playing time from the get-go. Last season, Boyd was inactive for the first five games and seven of the first nine before he found a role.
  • The same could be said for fourth-round pick Carl Bradford. The outside linebacker from Arizona State has struggled to make many impact plays.
  • Last year, safety Chris Banjo was signed a few days into training camp and made the team. Receiver Gerrard Sheppard has a chance to do something similar. He was claimed off waivers from the Baltimore Ravens five days after camp opened and has made some impressive catches.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Rajion Neal did exactly what Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy wanted someone to do in Saturday's preseason opener against the Tennessee Titans: The rookie running back got the attention of the coaches.

He did so by rushing for 39 yards on just five carries, including a 12-yard touchdown run in which he ran over a Titans defender at the goal line in the third quarter. And then without a moment's notice, his night ended when he took a blow to the knee at the end of his 22-yard kickoff return in the fourth quarter.

The undrafted rookie from the University of Tennessee did not practice on Monday, when a pair of crutches were propped up against his locker. Walking without the crutches, Neal vowed to return quickly, perhaps even for preseason game No. 2 at St. Louis on Saturday.

"I've got to play; there ain't no way around it," Neal said. "Being in the position I'm in, I can't afford it."

There's no denying his position improved based on his performance against the Titans. The 5-foot-11, 220-pound Neal had shown signs of that kind of ability during the first two weeks of practice and validated it when he averaged 7.8 yards per carry in his preseason debut.

Neal still faces a difficult task to make the team given the depth the Packers have in front of him with Eddie Lacy, James Starks and DuJuan Harris, but at the very least he has caught the attention of McCarthy, who said last week that he wanted players to "jump out" against the Titans.

"I thought he ran strong," McCarthy said Monday. "I thought he did a nice job running his course. Obviously, you like the finish on the touchdown run. I thought he played very well."

He also got the attention of teammates like Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson.

"Aaron and Jordy and all those guys gave me handshakes and told me they like the way I run," Neal said. "So it was definitely a moment you'll remember, and it felt good."

The Packers don't think Neal will be out for long. He said his knee is sore but otherwise sustained no other damage. He has three more preseason games to make his mark, and he intends to be ready.

"There's still a whole lot to prove and a lot more fun to be had," Neal said. "So I'm looking forward to it."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The last time Jordy Nelson had a hamstring injury, he missed four games.

Nelson
Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy does not think his star receiver has anything anywhere near as problematic this time.

"I think it's day to day," McCarthy said.

But Nelson did not practice on Monday, and it became clear why he was held out of the preseason opener at Tennessee two days earlier. Unlike quarterback Aaron Rodgers and running back Eddie Lacy, who were held out by McCarthy, Nelson was not a healthy scratch.

According to McCarthy, Nelson also did not participate in the team's closed practice on Friday.

Nelson attended practice on Monday but did not participate. Near the end of the session, he did some leg exercises off to the side.

He made only a brief appearance in the locker room and when asked about his hamstring, he said: "I told you I was fine two years ago."

Except that he wasn't, which makes Nelson's comment Monday rather ambiguous.

In 2012, Nelson pulled a hamstring in practice leading up to the Week 8 game against Jacksonville. He did not play against the Jaguars but returned to start the next four games only to re-injure his hamstring in Week 13 against Minnesota. He missed the next three games.

After signing Nelson to a four-year, $39 million contract extension last month, the Packers will want to make sure Nelson does not have a recurrence of the injury like he did in 2012.

Last season, Nelson missed all but one series of the preseason because of a knee injury that required surgery. He returned in time for the regular-season opener and went on to his best season with 85 catches for 1,314 yards and eight touchdowns.

Two other previously unreported injuries came out of Saturday's game. Rookie receiver Davante Adams sustained a wrist injury and defensive end Josh Boyd injured his ribs. Adams said the injury occurred on the second of his two muffed punts but he stayed in the game despite feeling some discomfort. The X-Rays were negative.

McCarthy said the two injuries that were reported immediately after the game -- running back Rajion Neal (knee) and linebacker Joe Thomas (knee) -- were not serious. Although neither of the rookies practiced on Monday, they were not classified as long-term injuries.
Aaron Rodgers sat out the preseason finale last summer, and he will do the same for the opener this year.

Nelson
Lacy
Rodgers
Rodgers
The Green Bay Packers quarterback, who said this week that he did not expect his preseason playing time to be any more extensive than it was last August, did not suit up Saturday night for the game against the Tennessee Titans in Nashville, Tennessee.

Rodgers has taken part in every practice so far during training camp.

Two other healthy starters also will sit: running back Eddie Lacy and receiver Jordy Nelson.

Rodgers played in the first three preseason games last year but only took five series in those three games. Only one of those series came in last year's preseason opener against the Arizona Cardinals.

Matt Flynn will start at quarterback. James Starks will get the call for Eddie Lacy, and Jarrett Boykin will start in Nelson's spot.

Coach Mike McCarthy also likely will take a long look at Scott Tolzien, who has split reps with Flynn so far in training camp.

On Thursday, McCarthy ruled out seven other players, who did not make the trip: safety Morgan Burnett (oblique strain), receiver Jared Abbrederis (knee), offensive lineman Don Barclay (knee), tight end Colt Lyerla (knee), safety Tanner Miller (ankle), defensive tackle Letroy Guion (hamstring) and defensive end Jerel Worthy (back).

Two other players who have been limited or out of recent practices will suit up: running back Michael Hill and receiver Jeff Janis. Hill sustained a concussion in last Saturday's Family Night practice. Janis returned Monday after missing the first week of practice because of shingles. He was on a rep count for most of the week.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- During a drill early in a training camp practice this week, Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy was running routes against inside linebackers and safeties.

He popped free and caught a pass over the middle.

Lacy
To hear coach Mike McCarthy tell it, at the end of the play Lacy turned to his coach and said: "Man, I did this drill all last year and never got open."

So when people ask what Lacy can do to follow up his first NFL season – when he rushed for 1,178 yards, won offensive rookie of the year honors and was the best thing that's happened to the Packers' running game since Ryan Grant of 2007-08 – the answer might be found in that kind of detail.

McCarthy said early in the offseason that he wanted Lacy, and the rest of his running backs, to become proficient on all three downs so the offense don't have slow down to put a designated third-down back in the game. A significant part of that involves pass protection, but it also could put Lacy in position to become a bigger factor in the passing game.

Lacy caught 35 passes for 257 yards (a 7.3-yard average) last season, the most by a Packers running back since Tony Fisher had 48 catches for 347 yards in the 4-12 season of 2005. The last Packers back to reach 50 receptions was Ahman Green in 2003, when he had the exact same average as Lacy did last season.

It's not exactly Randy Moss receiving numbers, but last season Lacy started calling himself "Moss" when he caught passes in practice, and people keep bringing it up with him.

"I'm thinking that’s starting to get a little out of hand," Lacy said. "But I mean, I'm a pretty decent catcher."

That said, Lacy's game is still going to be based on the power he packs on his 5-foot-11, 230-pound frame. It was on display Friday, when he ran over cornerback Tramon Williams during a team drill.

"We're not going to line up and feature Eddie in the passing game," McCarthy said. "He still needs to be standing back there behind the quarterback getting the ball, running with his shoulders square."
GREEN BAY, Wis. – If JC Tretter can handle the likes of defensive tackles B.J. Raji and Josh Boyd in practice, Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy thinks his new starting center will be able to handle anything.

But so far in the first two days of full-pads training camp practices, Raji has proven too much for Tretter to handle.

"If you ever want to get a center ready, B.J. Raji and Josh Boyd are your guys because they definitely present a challenge to covering up a center," McCarthy said after Wednesday's practice.

As pleased as the Packers are with Raji's start – assuming it's not simply a product of Tretter's struggles – it means Tretter still has work to do in order to convince them he can handle the giant task of starting at center on opening night against the Seattle Seahawks.

By now, Tretter's backstory has been told time and again. A fourth-round pick in 2013, he broke his ankle during his first OTA practice as a rookie and never played in a game – preseason, regular season or playoffs – last year. He came off PUP and began practicing last November at center after playing his college career at Cornell as a tackle.

He became the favorite to win the starting job – the fourth different starting center the Packers will field in as many seasons – after Evan Dietrich-Smith signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a free agent.

It has been anything but a seamless transition. Tretter has a 3-2 record in the one-on-one pass-rushing drill so far. That's a small sample but in a drill that favors the offense, that's a mediocre winning percentage. He's 2-2 against Raji and 1-0 against Boyd. Raji also manhandled Tretter in the one-on-one run-blocking drill on Wednesday and also during a team period for a tackle for loss on running back Eddie Lacy.

"He's getting a lot better," Boyd said. "He's got a very strong punch, very strong hands. He's getting a lot stronger with his feet, and he's a real quick guy. He's going to be good; he's just got to keep working at it."

The Packers seem inclined to give Tretter the time.

“He needs every rep,” McCarthy said. “I can’t tell you if there is someone in the locker room that’s prepared himself as much as he has, and he’ll continue to do so. It’s not going to look clean; our team isn’t clean. Let’s be honest with you, we’ve missed blocks, we’ve did some wrong things. That's why you practice. Our fundamentals are critical, and that goes from the player to the group all the way through. But JC needs this work."
Examining the Green Bay Packers' roster:

Quarterbacks (3)
The Packers have not kept three quarterbacks on their opening-day roster since 2008, but they might be inclined to do so this season in order to avoid a situation like last year, when Rodgers broke his collarbone. Coach Mike McCarthy is high on Tolzien, who made two starts last season, but Flynn has proved he can win as a backup in Green Bay.

Running backs (4)

The return of Harris, who missed all of last season because of a knee injury, gives the Packers insurance behind Lacy and Starks. Kuhn is valuable both as a fullback and on special teams. It's possible they'll keep a fourth halfback, but the loss of Johnathan Franklin to a career-ending neck injury has left them without a strong in-house candidate for that spot.

Receivers (6)

The Packers often keep only five receivers, but given that they drafted three -- Adams (second round), Abbrederis (fifth round) and Janis (seventh round) -- there's a good chance they will keep six. Abbrederis and Janis will not only have to show they're better prospects than second-year pros Myles White and Chris Harper, but they also could help themselves if they can return kicks.

Tight ends (4)

McCarthy likes tight ends (he has kept five before), and the wild card is undrafted rookie Colt Lyerla.

Offensive linemen (8)

The Packers typically only activate seven offensive linemen on game day, so they can get away with keeping just eight on the roster. Barclay's ability to play all five positions also allows them some freedom. Lane Taylor could be the ninth lineman if they go that route.

Defensive line (7)

Worthy and Guion have work to do to make the roster, but there's room for them if you count Julius Peppers and Mike Neal among the outside linebackers, which is where they lined up more often in the offseason.

Linebackers (8)

There will be some tough cuts here. Second-year pros Nate Palmer and Andy Mulumba both played last year as rookie outside linebackers. It also may be tough for highly touted undrafted rookie Adrian Hubbard to make it.

Cornerbacks (6)

Hayward's return from last season's hamstring injury means he likely will return as the slot cornerback in the nickel package, a role played last year by Micah Hyde (who may primarily play safety this year).

Safeties (4)

The major question here is whether Hyde or Clinton-Dix will be the starter alongside Burnett. Chris Banjo, who played primarily on special teams last season, might be the odd man out.

Specialists (3)

There's no competition at any of these spots.

Packers want to speed up offense

July, 14, 2014
Jul 14
10:00
AM ET
GREEN BAY, Wis. – The faster the better.

That's what Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy has planned for his offense this season.

And why not, especially with Aaron Rodgers on board with the idea?

[+] EnlargeAaron Rodgers
AP Photo/Mike RoemerAaron Rodgers and the Packers are determined to play faster and thus run more plays in 2014.
McCarthy and his quarterback have one primary goal in mind for 2014: Run 75 plays per game.

Do that, and everything else -- big numbers for Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson, Jarrett Boykin and possibly one of the new rookie receivers; another 1,000-plus-yard season for Eddie Lacy; solid pass protection -- will fall into place.

"That seems to be the answer to some of the different things that defenses are doing," Rodgers said during an interview this offseason.

The first hint of McCarthy's plans came in February, when he stood at the lectern at the NFL scouting combine and declared that he wants Lacy -- and all of his running backs -- to turn into three-down players in order to limit the need for substitutions, which, of course, slows down the game.

"We play pretty fast, but you always want to play faster," McCarthy said during an interview near the end of the offseason program last month. "With a guy like Aaron, he plays faster than anybody I've ever been around."

McCarthy's offense isn't Chip Kelly's, which averaged 80-plus plays per game when he ran the fastest game in college football at Oregon. But Kelly's offense in the NFL -- despite 53 plays in the first half of his first game as the Philadelphia Eagles' coach last season -- wasn't Kelly's offense in college, either.

The Eagles finished last season 13th out of 32 teams in total offensive plays with 1,054, an average of 65.875 per game.

The Packers ranked 11th with 1,074 total plays (67.125 per game) -- their second-highest total in McCarthy's eight seasons as head coach -- but averaged nearly 69 plays in the games Rodgers finished last season.

"Aaron Rodgers is a beast the way he plays the game, the way he attacks the defense, whether it's his cadence, his ability to recognize defenses to take advantage of a certain pressure, and then on top of it he's so well-rehearsed in this offense," McCarthy said. "If anything, you worry about him just sometimes playing too fast. Not that he's playing too fast, he has the ability to play at such a fast level, it's keeping everyone coordinated to be able to play with him."

And that's where the running backs come into the picture.

As Lacy pounded his way to well-earned yards on first and second down last season, he usually came off the field on third down -- not because he needed a blow but because McCarthy and his offensive staff felt better about using another back (often fullback John Kuhn) in pass protection. That plan usually worked (remember Kuhn's game-saving block on Julius Peppers in the Week 17 division-clinching win over the Bears), but the Packers had to downshift in order to make the change.

This year, McCarthy sees no need to change speeds and no reason to give the defense time to adjust.

"We've always been a fast-tempo offense," he said. "To me, there are two approaches to playing the game of football. Historically, in my opinion because I don't want to offend anybody, defensive coaches want to slow the game down, run the ball, shorten the game. Your offensive coaches more want to pick it up.

"I've always been of the belief of getting as many shots as you can, so we've always emphasized playing as fast as you can. When you have as many three-down players as you can possibly have, obviously your substitution patterns are cleaner. You're not subbing because you have to, you're subbing just when you need to."

That could mean even more no-huddle series this season. Rodgers, who has excelled in the no-huddle offense, likes the plan.

"We always kind of struggle with that, trying to get guys to stay on the field and play all three downs," Rodgers said. "We've had so many injuries over the years, it's made John Kuhn such an irreplaceable guy because he can be the guy who can run and get you a few yards and also be a third-down protection back. He's been amazing at it in two-minute drills. I mean, last year, he made the block of the year. But it would be nice if we could have drives where Eddie can go three plays in a row or James [Starks] could go three plays in a row or DuJuan [Harris] could go three plays in a row and not have to take them out, so we could not have to bring in any subs and you could stay pressuring the defense.

"There’s a lot of substitution that goes on by both teams. The key substitution is usually for third down, because teams run so much on third down. After second down, if you're subbing four or five guys on and off, it's tough to run an offense where you're up-tempo, because everybody has to get the call, and it just takes a little longer. We'd like to play a little faster."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Between now and when the Green Bay Packers report to training camp on July 25, we will spend considerable time looking at the roster from a variety of angles.

In the days leading up to camp, we will break things down by position group. And before that, we will look at several players who need to give the Packers more than they did last year.

But before we do any of that, let's reset the depth chart as it likely stands heading into training camp. This is an unofficial assessment, but it is based on observations during organized team activities and minicamp practices combined with interviews with assistant coaches and scouts.

First up is the offense:

Quarterbacks: Aaron Rodgers, Matt Flynn, Scott Tolzien, Chase Rettig.

Notes: Expect a legitimate battle for the No. 2 job between Flynn and Tolzien in the preseason. Coach Mike McCarthy noted several times how much Tolzien improved thanks to a full offseason with the Packers. The biggest question here is whether the Packers will keep three quarterbacks rather than only two. Rettig looks like a camp arm, at best.

Running backs: Eddie Lacy, James Starks, DuJuan Harris, Michael Hill, Rajion Neal, LaDarius Perkins.

Notes: The loss of Johnathan Franklin to a career-ending neck injury struck a blow to what appeared to be a deep position. But it also sorted out things somewhat, although Harris still needs to show that he can be productive like he was late in the 2012 season. The knee injury that cost him all of last season does not appear to be an issue. Neal and Perkins, a pair of undrafted rookies, both are slashing backs similar to Harris with Perkins (5-foot-7, 195 pounds) also being similar in stature.

Fullbacks: John Kuhn, Ina Liaina.

Notes: There's no reason to think the veteran Kuhn won't be around for another season.

Receivers: Outside -- Jordy Nelson, Jarrett Boykin, Davante Adams, Jeff Janis, Kevin Dorsey, Chris Harper. Slot -- Randall Cobb, Jared Abbrederis, Myles White, Alex Gillett.

Notes: Adams, the rookie from Fresno State, may eventually supplant Boykin, but he will have to catch the ball more cleanly than he did in the offseason. He battled drop issues at times during the OTAs and minicamp. Fellow rookie Janis showed up regularly during team periods. Harper was off to a strong start until a hamstring injury knocked him out. In the slot, Abbrederis looks like a natural fit. White bulked up after contributing some as a rookie last season and should not be ignored.

Tight ends: Richard Rodgers, Andrew Quarless, Brandon Bostick, Ryan Taylor, Jake Stoneburner, Colt Lyerla, Justin Perillo.

Notes: Even if Quarless is healthy for the start of camp, Rodgers might still have the edge for the starting job after a strong offseason. He's more dynamic as a receiver than Quarless, who missed the entire offseason because of an undisclosed injury. Bostick came back late in the offseason from foot surgery. While there are high expectations for Lyerla, the undrafted rookie did not flash often enough during offseason practices.

Tackles: Right side -- Bryan Bulaga, Don Barclay, Aaron Adams, John Fullington. Left side -- David Bakhtiari, Derek Sherrod, Jeremy Vujnovich.

Notes: Bulaga practiced with a large brace on his surgically repaired left knee and has something to prove after missing all of last season, but the fact that he's back at right tackle shows how much the Packers believe in Bakhtiari on the left side. Sherrod made it through the full offseason program for the first time, which is something of an accomplishment considering his injury history. But he's running out of time to show he can play like the first-round pick that he was in 2011. Barclay, who started 18 regular-season games the last two seasons, has split his time between right tackle and guard and looks like the No. 6 offensive lineman.

Guard: Right side -- T.J. Lang, Barclay, Lane Taylor. Left side -- Josh Sitton, Barclay, Andrew Tiller, Jordan McCray.

Notes: Barclay likely would be the top back up at both guard spots, although Taylor worked at right guard with the No. 2 offensive line while Barclay played right tackle or left guard.

Center: JC Tretter, Garth Gerhart, Corey Linsley.

Notes: Tretter took all the snaps with the number one offensive line this offseason. It is his job to lose, but his lack of experience makes him something short of a sure thing. Gerhart worked ahead of Linsley, a fifth-round pick, but if anyone is going to challenge Tretter it might be Linsley.

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