NFC North: Gerrard Sheppard

Green Bay Packers cut-down analysis

August, 26, 2014
8/26/14
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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers reached the mandated 75-player roster limit on Tuesday by placing six players on injured reserve. Two days earlier, they waived seven players.

Most surprising move: When the Packers used to hold their offseason practices on the old practice field that bordered Oneida Street, there was a term for players who stood out in helmets and shorts and then faded when the pads came on. They were known as members of the “All-Oneida Team.” Put receiver Chris Harper in that category. The second-year pro drew praise from quarterback Aaron Rodgers and coach Mike McCarthy for his production during the offseason program. After a practice on June 3 during which Harper caught a deep pass, McCarthy said: "That’s the kind of explosiveness that he has." Two and a half months later, Harper did not even make it to the final cuts. He was one of seven players released on Sunday.

Change of plans: So much for tight end Colt Lyerla spending the season learning the Packers’ ways while on injured reserve. On Tuesday, they reached an injury settlement with him, the details of which can be found here. If the Packers truly wanted to develop Lyerla, it would seem logical that they would have kept him on injured reserve to keep a close eye on him.

Packers’ moves: After Sunday's release of seven players -- Harper, safety Charles Clay, cornerback Antonio Dennard, linebacker Korey Jones, fullback Ina Liania, quarterback Chase Rettig and receiver Gerrard Sheppard -- the Packers were at 81 on their roster. On Tuesday, they placed the following six players on injured reserve: receiver Jared Abbrederis (knee), guard/tackle Don Barclay (knee), running back Rajion Neal (knee), nose tackle B.J. Raji (biceps), linebacker Joe Thomas (knee) and guard Andrew Tiller (calf). Abbrederis, Barclay and Raji will remain on injured reserve for the entire season, but Neal, Thomas and Tiller most likely will be given injury settlements and released at a later date.

Packers Camp Report: Day 19

August, 24, 2014
8/24/14
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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Green Bay Packers training camp:
  • Before practice began on Sunday, the Packers released seven players. They were: safety Charles Clay, cornerback Antonio Dennard, receiver Chris Harper, linebacker Korey Jones, fullback Ina Liaina, quarterback Chase Rettig and receiver Gerrard Sheppard. That left the Packers with 81 players on their roster. NFL teams must cut down to 75 players by Tuesday, but the Packers might only have to release three more if they place receiver Jared Abbrederis (knee), guard/tackle Don Barclay (knee) and nose tackle B.J. Raji (biceps) on injured reserve. All have been lost for the season but remain on the roster.
  • Cornerback Casey Hayward, who did not play in Friday's preseason game against the Oakland Raiders, returned to practice on Sunday, although he appeared to be on a limited snap count. Hayward also missed two days of practice last week because coach Mike McCarthy said they were just being smart with him given that he missed all but three games last year because of a hamstring injury.
  • In addition to Raji, the Packers also were without another defensive starter, linebacker Brad Jones. McCarthy said Jones sustained a quadriceps injury and won't play in Thursday's preseason finale against Kansas City but should return for the season opener at Seattle.
  • Second-year pro Josh Boyd took most of Raji's snaps at nose tackle with the No. 1 defense on Sunday. Last season, Boyd played almost exclusively at defensive end. "Maybe things happen a little faster because it's got you closer to the ball," Boyd said. "It's a more closer area, more faster reactions, but it's nothing I can't handle."
  • It does not look like rookie running back Rajion Neal will return before the end of the preseason. Neal sustained a knee injury in the preseason opener at Tennessee but impressed the Packers early on with his hard-running style. Others who did not practice were: cornerback Demetri Goodson (concussion), linebacker Joe Thomas (knee), guard Andrew Tiller (calf), center JC Tretter (knee), tight end Brandon Bostick (leg) and defensive tackle Letroy Guion (hamstring).
  • Sunday's practice, which was closed to the public, lasted only one hour and 40 minutes. There will be just two more practices open to the public: Monday at 11:45 a.m. local time and Wednesday at 10:30 a.m.

W2W4: Green Bay Packers

August, 16, 2014
8/16/14
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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.

Camp Confidential: Green Bay Packers

August, 12, 2014
8/12/14
11:00
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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.

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