NFC North: Ha-Ha Clinton Dix

GREEN BAY, Wis. – It's not the MVP award that everyone will recognize, but it might be the precursor to that. On Wednesday, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was named the Pro Football Writers of America's MVP.

Rodgers
Many of the same voters also select the Associated Press' MVP, which is widely recognized as the official honor.

The AP MVP – and the rest of its league awards – will be announced at the NFL Honors program on the eve of the Super Bowl.

Last year, Packers running back Eddie Lacy was the PFWA's rookie of the year and then later won the NFL offensive rookie of the year from the AP.

It was Rodgers' second MVP award from the PFWA. He also won in 2011, when he won the AP MVP award.

He's the second Packers quarterback to be honored as such by the PFWA. Brett Favre won it in 1995 and 1996. However, he did not win in 1997 (Barry Sanders did). That year, Favre shared the AP's award, his third straight league MVP, with Sanders.

On Tuesday, safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and center Corey Linsley were named to the PFWA's All-Rookie team.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- General manager Ted Thompson drafted Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to be an immediate starter. That's not what he had in mind for Corey Linsley.

Linsley
But the Green Bay Packers' first- and fifth-round picks, respectively, in last year's NFL draft both became full-time starters as rookies. Together, they were named to the Pro Football Writers of America All-Rookie team, which was announced Tuesday.

Clinton-Dix, the 21st overall pick in last year's draft, started 10 of the 16 regular-season games, the most starts by a Packers rookie safety since Nick Collins started all 16 games in 2005. Clinton-Dix finished second on the team with 95 tackles and also had a sack, an interception and 11 pass breakups.

Linsley, the 161st overall pick in the draft, started every game at center even though he didn't take over the job until the final week of the preseason after JC Tretter sustained a knee injury. Linsley went into the season having never even taken a preseason game snap with quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Linsley was rated as the NFL's fifth-best center this season by ProFootballFocus.com.

The Packers were one of seven teams to have multiple rookies selected. The full list can be found at the Pro Football Writers of America website. New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. was named this year’s PFWA rookie of the year.

Last year, Packers running back Eddie Lacy was named the PFWA's rookie of the year, a precursor to winning the AP's offensive rookie of the year award, which is the NFL's official award.

2015 Green Bay Packers' draft order TBD

December, 29, 2014
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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- With the playoffs in front of them, the Green Bay Packers aren't thinking much about the 2015 NFL draft.

However, they know they won't pick in the top 20. Those slots will go to the non-playoff teams or the teams that hold non-playoff teams' picks through trades.

In fact, the Packers can't pick any higher than 25th because they have a first-round playoff bye. The losers on wild-card weekend will be slotted in spots 21 through 24 in the first round.

The losers in the divisional round will occupy slots 25 through 28 in the draft, followed by the losers of the NFC and AFC title games at Nos. 29 and 30 and then the Super Bowl participants at Nos. 31 and 32.

The Packers have picked higher than 25th only once in the past four drafts, and it was this past draft when they selected 21st. They filled their greatest needed by selecting safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who has become a full-time starter.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- R-E-L-A-X seems like eons ago.

Yet if you listened closely to Aaron Rodgers on Tuesday, there was a hint of it in his voice again, even if he didn't spell anything out.

Rodgers
Just like he did to those who were panicked over the Green Bay Packers' 1-2 start, the quarterback had something for everyone who was ready to proclaim them the Super Bowl favorites after Sunday’s win over the New England Patriots.

"I think it's too early to talk about that," Rodgers said Tuesday on his ESPN Milwaukee radio show. "It's too early to say that."

He might as well have said it like this: "T-O-O E-A-R-L-Y."

When asked what will change for the Packers now that all eyes are on them, Rodgers said: "Not much, I don't think."

It's that even-keeled approach, which Rodgers embodies, that coach Mike McCarthy talked about Monday, when he called this his "most consistent team."

If Rodgers is not ready to say it's the best team he's been on since he became the starter in 2008, he was ready to say it's "our most mature team."

"We're not having a lot of fines and stuff and guys being late or not being where they're supposed to be,” Rodgers said on his show. "It's a very focused team. It's a combination of the young guys we brought in, but also the veteran guys and the urgency that kind of we're trying to portray how important this opportunity is and how they don't come along like this all the time. We've won eight of out nine; we've got a good thing going. We've got to keep it rolling."

Perhaps more than any team Rodgers has been on in Green Bay, the Packers (9-3) have gotten major contributions from their rookies. From rock-solid center Corey Linsley to newest 100-yard receiver Davante Adams to emerging tight end Richard Rodgers on offense and hard-hitting safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix on defense, it's a draft class that has impressed him and the other veterans both on and off the field.

"You talk about young guys being leaders, often the best thing you can get out of young guys is not knowing how good they are, that desire to be a part of something special and not really realizing how good they can be," Rodgers said. "It's that hunger and approach that can really start to permeate through the entire team, especially the veterans, as you see these guys who are really starting to get it -- Richard Rodgers, Davante, Ha Ha on defense -- these guys who are playing big roles for us and doing a great job.

"That's inspiring as much as a play by Jordy [Nelson] or a play by Julius [Peppers] or Clay [Matthews] can be."
NEW ORLEANS -- The Green Bay Packers will be down to half of their starting secondary against the No. 2 passing offense in the NFL on Sunday night at the Superdome.

Safety Morgan Burnett, who was listed as questionable because of a calf injury, won't play against the New Orleans Saints. The Packers also won't have cornerback Sam Shields, who will miss his second straight game because of the knee injury he sustained on Oct. 12 at Miami.

Combine that with defensive end Datone Jones, who was declared out on Friday because of an ankle injury, and the Packers will be down three defensive starters against Drew Brees and Co. The Saints entered the week ranked second in the NFL in both yards per game (437.0) and passing yards per game (314.0).

Davon House will make his second straight start at cornerback. At safety, the Packers will start the combination of rookie Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Micah Hyde. Clinton-Dix made his first NFL start last Sunday against the Carolina Panthers in place of Hyde, who had started the first six games.

What remains unclear is what defensive coordinator Dom Capers will do in the nickel package, where Hyde typically moves to the slot position. If he wants to stick with that plan, he would play Sean Richardson at safety. Or he could leave Hyde at safety and play cornerback Casey Hayward in the nickel.

Much of that could depend on how Capers wants to cover Saints tight end Jimmy Graham, who is active despite being listed as questionable with a shoulder injury.

Here's the Packers' full list of inactives:
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was 13 yards away from Jerricho Cotchery when the Carolina Panthers receiver caught a swing pass at his own 48-yard line in the third quarter of Sunday's game at Lambeau Field.

In 1.4 seconds, Clinton-Dix had closed the gap.

The story would be better if the Green Bay Packers rookie made the tackle, but then safeties coach Darren Perry might not have anything to hold over the first-round pick.

[+] EnlargeHa Ha Clinton-Dix
Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY SportsRookie Ha Ha Clinton-Dix has become one of the Packers' surest tacklers.
In what was his first NFL start, Clinton-Dix led the Packers with eight tackles (including seven solo stops). That he missed Cotchery on what turned out to be a 9-yard catch-and-run actually sat well with Perry for one reason: Clinton-Dix was aggressive in his pursuit.

"Coach sees us out there giving effort, 100 percent effort, whether we miss the tackle or we make it, he can live with that," Clinton-Dix said Friday. "Once he sees us coming up short or kind of hesitating on making the tackle, then he really has a problem."

In just seven NFL games, the 21st overall pick went from the guy who was caught flat-footed on his open-field missed tackle that led to Seattle Seahawks receiver Ricardo Lockette's 33-yard touchdown in season opener to perhaps the most aggressive pursuer in the Packers' secondary.

Since the opener, Clinton-Dix has been charged with only one missed tackle, according to Pro Football Focus, although it should be noted that it did not give him a missed tackle against the Panthers.

But the Packers coaches gave him one.

"He's a guy that once he sees stuff, he comes down hill and goes and gets it," Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. "He doesn't hesitate. He shoots his gun so to speak. You saw him on Sunday, he had to cover space and made one really nice tackle, and then he missed one. But he's going after it aggressively. I think people, over a period of time, receivers know that when you've got a big safety coming downhill on them, it affects that middle of the field."

For the first six games, Clinton-Dix split time at free safety with second-year pro Micah Hyde, who started every one of them. But in the last three of those, Clinton-Dix actually played more snaps than Hyde, which made it only a matter of time before he took over as the starter and played every snap like he did against the Panthers.

"He's really come into his own and is starting to show that he can cover the field as well as fit within the run game and not only fit, but make big plays in space, which we haven't seen for some time since we lost Nick [Collins] and some of those veteran safeties and corners," Packers linebacker Clay Matthews said. "It's good to have a guy like that who you know you're going to be able to count on for years."

The Packers may have to count on him even more on Sunday against the New Orleans Saints. Veteran starting strong safety Morgan Burnett has not practiced all week because of a calf injury and was listed as questionable on Friday's injury report.

Plus, Clinton-Dix might have his toughest matchup of the season if he's asked to cover Saints tight end Jimmy Graham.

But he will have capable help. If Burnett can't play, either Hyde or Sean Richardson would start at the other safety spot. The Packers like Hyde's coverage ability, which is why he moves to the nickel spot when the Packers employ five defensive backs, and Richardson is an up-and-comer who has contributed in spots -- like his tackle for no gain on Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart on third-and-1 in the first quarter of Sunday's game.

It's an embarrassment of riches at safety, a position where last year the Packers could barely find one productive starter, and they have Clinton-Dix to thank for that.

"This is the way it's supposed to be," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- For the second straight week, the Green Bay Packers spent Friday facing the possibility of playing without two of their four starting defensive backs.

 Last Sunday against Carolina, they got one of them back -- cornerback Tramon Williams -- but played without cornerback Sam Shields.

A week later, they're again concerned about Shields, who has yet to practice because of the knee injury he sustained on Oct. 12 at Miami. The Packers listed him as doubtful for Sunday's game against the New Orleans Saints. Davon House would make his second straight start if Shields can’t play.

This time, the other issue is at safety, where Morgan Burnett has yet to practice this week because of a calf injury he sustained against the Panthers.

The situation might be more troublesome this week considering the Saints' high-powered offense, which ranks second in the NFL in yards.

On Thursday, coach Mike McCarthy expressed concern that Burnett's injury was not progressing as fast as he would have hoped.

But on Friday, there was a hint of optimism in his voice.

"Morgan was in here bright and early [going] through the treatments," McCarthy said. "He's obviously going through the Friday routine defensively with the walkthroughs and the classroom, so we'll give him every, plus it's a night game, too. We have more time."

The Packers have options if Burnett can't play. They could start Micah Hyde, who lost his starting spot to Ha Ha Clinton-Dix last week, but still played as the nickel defensive back. Or they could go with up-and-comer Sean Richardson and leave Hyde as the nickel.

Defensive end Datone Jones (ankle) was ruled out even though he practiced on a limited basis Thursday.

"Datone, actually, he went for it yesterday," McCarthy said Friday. "I appreciate him out there pushing through it. Frankly, watching the individual work with Mike Trgovac, our D-Line coach, you could clearly see he's not ready. So he's not going to make it."

Here's the full injury report:
  • Out: DE Datone Jones (ankle)
  • Doubtful: CB Sam Shields (knee)
  • Questionable: S Morgan Burnett (calf)
  • Probable: RB James Starks (ankle)
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers finished Sunday's win over the Miami Dolphins without either of their starting cornerbacks, but there's a chance both Sam Shields and Tramon Williams will be able to play this week against the Carolina Panthers.

Williams
Shields
Coach Mike McCarthy said Monday that neither the fluky looking knee injury that Shields sustained while trying to line up for a play in the third quarter nor the ankle injury that knocked out Williams two plays later turned out to be anything major.

"None of them were long term," McCarthy said. "But how fast [they recover] is still to be determined."

The same goes for linebacker Jamari Lattimore, who left the game in the first half because of a neck injury.

"I really don't have information as far as a timeline really until we see what they can do on Wednesday," McCarthy said. "That will probably be a better indicator."

Shields said after the game that team physician Dr. Pat McKenzie told him nothing was torn and tests on Monday confirmed that.

If the Packers can afford to lose two starters at the same position, it's probably at cornerback, perhaps their deepest position. Davon House replaced Shields, while Casey Hayward filled in for Williams. It also meant Jarrett Bush played in the dime (six defensive back) package.

"I felt good about the way Davon played," McCarthy said. "Jarrett Bush came in and played well. Casey Hayward played well."

In fact, McCarthy had praise for everyone in the Packers' secondary, but none more than his most recent first-round pick.

"Ha Ha Clinton-Dix played his best game as a Packer," McCarthy said.
DETROIT -- It's hard to hold Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers and his troops responsible for Sunday's 19-7 loss to the Detroit Lions.

Not when you consider they picked off two passes, recovered a fumble after a strip-sack and gave up just 10 points.

Peppers
"They basically kept us going there for the first two-and-half, three quarters," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said of the defense.

But that was little consolation to those on the defensive side of the ball after Sunday's game. Even though the Packers' offense gave the Lions almost as many points (seven on Eddie Lacy's fumble that the Lions returned for a touchdown and two on a safety), the Lions managed to keep things going in the second half, officially converting 6-of-8 third downs plus two more by penalty.

Rookie Ha Ha Clinton-Dix gave the Packers their first interception by a safety since Dec. 2, 2012, and cornerback Davon House added a second pick of Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, although after House was ruled down at his own 1-yard line rather than in the end zone for a touchback it led to the safety.

In the third quarter, with the Lions threatening to increase their lead, Julius Peppers registered his first sack as a Packer, forced a fumble on the play and recovered it on his own.

"I think statistics show that anytime you're able to come up with three turnovers, we've been shown the numbers before [but] I can't recall off the top of my head, but usually the games tilt in your favor," Packers linebacker Clay Matthews said. "Unfortunately, it didn't."

The stat Matthews was referring to: The Packers were 31-7 when registering three or more takeaways since McCarthy took over as head coach in 2006.

The problem was the Packers' offensive ineptitude forced the defense to stay on the field for more than 38 of the 60 minutes.

"We definitely took a step in the direction of getting pressure on the quarterback and getting turnovers," Packers defensive tackle Mike Daniels said. "There were a lot of plays where we could have even got more pressure and more sacks. There were a lot of plays where we had some more turnover opportunities. We need to take advantage of those opportunities when they come."

Packers' Hyde leaves with knee injury

September, 14, 2014
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – Green Bay Packers starting safety Micah Hyde was taken to the locker room midway through the third quarter of Sunday's game against the New York Jets because of a knee injury.

Hyde was injured late in the second quarter while returning a punt but came back out of the locker room and appeared ready to play. However, rookie first-round pick Ha Ha Clinton-Dix started the second half in place of Hyde.

Hyde spent the early portion of the third quarter riding the stationary bike before going back into the locker room.

The injury also left a hole in the dime defense, where the Packers inserted Jarrett Bush rather than Casey Hayward.

 
GREEN BAY, Wis. – This sounds like a bad combination: The Green Bay Packers, coming off their season opener in which they missed 18 tackles, will have to deal with perhaps the most elusive running back from Week 1.

On Sunday, they face running back Chris Ivory, who in the New York Jets ' victory over the Oakland Raiders on Sunday broke eight tackles. According to ProFootballFocus.com, Ivory was the NFL's most elusive running back in Week 1. The eight tackles he broke came on only 10 rushing attempts, and he averaged 9.0 yards per carry after contact, giving him PFF's highest "elusive rating" of the week.

[+] EnlargeChris Ivory
Brad Penner/USA TODAY SportsThe New York Jets' Chris Ivory was the NFL's most elusive running back in Week 1, according to ProFootballFocus.com.
The Jets rushed for a Week 1-best 212 yards, and Ivory, the fifth-year back who totaled for 833 yards last season, accounted for 102 of that total against the Raiders. His 10.2-yard average was the best by far among the running backs who posted 100-yard games last week.

"Football is about fundamentals, tackling is one of them," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said after Wednesday's practice. "You have drills that you do repeatedly and like all the fundamentals, it comes down to footwork. Our tackling progression of approach, contact and finish, the things we did not do very well were clearly in the area of approach. We had drills today that emphasized that and those are the things we'll continue to do."

Even if the Packers weren't playing an elusive back such as Ivory, who shares the job with former 2,000-yard rusher Chris Johnson (who rushed for 68 yards on 13 carries in the opener) – McCarthy surely would have made tackling an emphasis this week, given that only one team, the New Orleans Saints (with 23 missed tackles), had more problems tackling than the Packers did last week.

"One thing about our coach: Once he decides to work on something, he beats it home," Packers defensive end Josh Boyd said. "That's a good thing for us, because it's a little bit easier when we get to games."

No player had more missed tackles on the Packers last week than rookie safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Despite playing just 40 of the 70 snaps, he missed three tackles, including one that would have prevented a touchdown.

"I definitely have to work on my tackling," Clinton-Dix said. "That's definitely a good back we played against. I just have to keep working at it."

Packers must correct tackling problem

September, 8, 2014
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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The short view is that the Green Bay Packers have a tackling problem -- again.

Of the 28 teams that have played in Week 1 so far, only one missed more tackles than the Packers did in their 36-16 season-opening loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

According to ProFootballFocus.com, the Packers whiffed 18 times against the Seahawks. The New Orleans Saints, in their loss to the Atlanta Falcons, missed 23 (see accompanying chart).

In the long run, however, it might be too soon to say missed tackles will doom the Packers once again. They have corrected the problem in the past. In 2011, they missed 101 tackles. The next season, they cut that number to a manageable 68 – or about four per game. Last season, it spiked to 116 – or about seven per game – which was their highest total since Dom Capers took over as defensive coordinator in 2009. The Packers are not going to miss 18 tackles every week but if they did, they would finish the year with 288.

When coach Mike McCarthy stood at the podium the day after the game and offered his review of the Seahawks' loss, tackling was the second thing he mentioned.

"The one that jumps off the page at you is tackling," McCarthy said. "We had way too many missed tackles and the fundamentals of footwork and the things that go into that that's practiced every day didn't carry onto the field."

The worst offenders were inside linebacker Brad Jones and rookie safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Each missed three tackles. Clinton-Dix missed one that would have saved a touchdown in the second quarter. He dove at the legs of Seahawks receiver Ricardo Lockette at the Packers 14-yard line, and Lockette easily avoided him on the way to a 33-yard touchdown.

"Our footwork was poor," McCarthy said. "When you start leaving your feet to tackle people, it puts you in a compromising position. The biggest part of our tackling issue was the fundamentals of footwork and running through the near hip and the ability to come to balance in stressful situations. We just didn't do a very good job of it."

Maybe the coaches will give Clinton-Dix a pass because it was his first NFL game, but Jones deserves no such exoneration. As the only inside linebacker who played all 70 snaps, Jones, who missed only seven tackles in 13 games (including playoffs) last season, must be better or risk losing playing time to A.J. Hawk (66 snaps), Sam Barrington (zero snaps) or Jamari Lattimore (zero snaps).

"Brad didn't have his best game," McCarthy said.

How important was tackling to winning in Week 1? In 12 of the 14 games played so far, the team with fewer missed tackles was the victor. The only exceptions were the Buffalo Bills, who won despite 12 missed tackles to the Chicago Bears' 6, and the San Francisco 49ers, who won despite 13 missed tackles to the Dallas Cowboys’ 11.

The Packers' next opponent, the New York Jets, was one of the most sure-handed tackling teams of Week 1. They missed only three in their victory over the Oakland Raiders (10 missed tackles).

"You are what you are, and after one game, we've put out there our performance," McCarthy said. "And our next opponent will stress us in those areas that we did not perform very well in."

Green Bay Packers not so young anymore

September, 1, 2014
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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- There was a time not too long ago when the Green Bay Packers were perennially the NFL's youngest team.

They held that distinction in each of coach Mike McCarthy's first four seasons (2006-09).

Not anymore.

Peppers
Although the NFL waits until after Week 1 to calculate official ages of opening-day rosters because transactions will continue throughout this week, Philly.com did its own calculations after last weekend's final roster cuts, and the Packers came in as the sixth-youngest team in the NFL with an average age of 25.62. In those same rankings, the Packers also were the sixth-youngest team last season and the fifth-youngest in 2012.

The Rams were the youngest team this season with an average age of 25.01, and the Raiders were the oldest at 27.0.

The rest of the NFC North checked in this way: Vikings (No. 5, 25.58), Lions (No. 21, 26.34) and Bears (No. 30, 26.72).

The Packers have only six players age 30 or older with Julius Peppers (34) being the oldest, by three years over John Kuhn (31) and Tramon Williams (31). Aaron Rodgers, Jarrett Bush and A.J. Hawk all are 30.

Nine rookies made the Packers’ final cuts, with Davante Adams and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix being the youngest at 21.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- It often takes an injury or an unusually poor preseason showing for a Green Bay Packers draft pick to get cut at the end of his rookie training camp.

Take last year's class as an example. Of the 11 players picked, eight made the opening-day roster.

The three who did not – fourth-round pick JC Tretter plus seventh-rounders Charles Johnson and Kevin Dorsey – all had injury issues. Tretter missed all of camp because of a broken ankle that forced him to start the season on the physically unable to perform list, while Johnson and Dorsey battled injuries throughout the offseason. Johnson played in only two preseason games, while Dorsey played in only one. Johnson landed on the practice squad before the Cleveland Browns signed him, and Dorsey spent the season on injured reserve.

With that in mind, here's a look at where things stand for each member of general manager Ted Thompson's 2014 draft class heading into Thursday's preseason finale against the Kansas City Chiefs, plus the undrafted rookies who could be on the verge of winning a roster spot:

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S (first round): After a slow start to training camp, Clinton-Dix has found himself around the ball more often of late. He has three interceptions during practices this summer, which ties safety Sean Richardson for the camp lead. However, it looks like he won't unseat second-year pro Micah Hyde for a starting job. That means Clinton-Dix likely will play only in the dime (six defensive back) package to start the season.

Davante Adams, WR (second round): Early in camp, Adams was pushing Jarrett Boykin for the No. 3 receiver spot but inconsistent play derailed that. Meanwhile, Boykin has overcome a slow start to secure that spot. If Adams can refine his route running and shore up his hands, he could still make a push for more playing time as the year goes on.

[+] EnlargeRichard Rodgers
Benny Sieu/USA TODAY SportsRookie Richard Rodgers is in line to be the Packers' starting tight end.
Khyri Thornton, DE (third round): Much like fifth-round defensive end Josh Boyd last season as a rookie, it's been a big adjustment for Thornton. Thompson has never cut a third-round pick coming out of his first training camp, but Thornton might have trouble getting on the field early in the season. Playing mostly against second- and third-stringers in preseason games, Thornton has just one quarterback hurry and no sacks or hits in 81 snaps, according to ProFootballFocus.com. Boyd was inactive for six of the first eight games last season. Thornton could follow a similar path.

Richard Rodgers, TE (third round): Without much fanfare, Rodgers appears to have won the starting job over veteran Andrew Quarless and up-and-comer Brandon Bostick (who went down with a foot injury in the second preseason game). However, Bostick almost certainly would have been the tight end in two-minute situations and likely will be when he returns next month. Rodgers' blocking has to catch up to his pass-catching ability.

Carl Bradford, LB (fourth round): It doesn't matter how the Packers spin the last-minute decision to switch Bradford from outside to inside linebacker this week, that's a tell-tale sign that they're concerned he may never be able to be a productive pass-rusher off the edge. Thompson has not cut a fourth-round rookie since receiver Cory Rodgers in 2006, but Bradford has been just as disappointing. If he makes it, it's solely because they're not ready to give up on him yet.

Corey Linsley, C (fifth round): This was supposed to be a redshirt season for him, but the knee injury to Tretter last week means Linsley might be the most important rookie on the team when the Packers open the regular season in Seattle. His responsibility as the starting center, even if it's only until Tretter returns, is far greater than what any other member of this draft class faces. Physically, he looks the part, but his mental errors have hampered him.

Jared Abbrederis, WR (fifth round): The former Wisconsin standout almost certainly would have made a strong push for the No. 5 or 6 receiver spot if not for a torn ACL in the first week of camp. He also would have had a chance at the kick return job but instead will spend his rookie season on injured reserve.

Demetri Goodson, CB (sixth round): The former college basketball player at Gonzaga who then played three years of football at Baylor has struggled mightily in coverage despite obvious athleticism. He sustained a concussion in last Friday's preseason game against the Raiders, leaving his status his doubt.

Jeff Janis, WR (seventh round): Still raw and unschooled in the complexities of the Packers’ offense, Janis' speed can't be ignored, which is why Thompson likely will keep him on the roster. After his impressive 34-yard, catch-and-run touchdown in the second preseason game, it's likely a team would claim him before the Packers could sneak him through to the practice squad.

Undrafted rookies with a chance: Defensive tackle Mike Pennel of Colorado State-Pueblo is a virtual lock to make the roster after B.J. Raji's season-ending injury, while outside linebacker Jayrone Elliott (who is tied for the NFL preseason lead in sacks with four) might be only one more good showing away from joining him on the 53.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Mike McCarthy has not named a starting center, tight end or free safety.

But Green Bay Packers training camp is in its fourth week, and the coach has not made changes at any of those positions where there was a new starter to be found.

For that matter, there has not been a single starting job that has changed hands since practice began on July 26 -- something that has to be a first in McCarthy's nine training camps as head coach.

[+] EnlargeRichard Rodgers
AP Photo/Mark ZaleskiRookie TE Richard Rodgers has been a part of the Packers' process in building continuity this preseason.
With half the preseason gone, if a starting lineup change was coming, it probably would have happened in practice this week.

But the same players who have taken the regular starter's reps since camp opened were in their usual spots as the Packers began preparation for the third preseason game, at home against the Oakland Raiders on Friday, when the starters likely will see their most extensive action of the preseason. Some of them will then sit out the preseason finale in preparation for the season opener at the Seattle Seahawks.

That likely means that barring injury between now and Sept. 4, the Packers will open the regular season with JC Tretter as their starting center, rookie Richard Rodgers as their starting tight end and Micah Hyde at free safety. All three have started each of the first two preseason games, and all three were in those same spots on Monday and Tuesday.

"Teams that play together, particularly practice together every day, get better," McCarthy said. "That's always been my experience. The opportunity to grow takes time on the practice field. Obviously, once you start getting into the games, you have the opportunity to grow there. The continuity's been good."

That does not mean there won't be some variety from play to play or series to series. McCarthy has multiple personnel groups on offense just as coordinator Dom Capers does with his defense. For example, the Packers will use more than one tight end. And on defense, first-round pick Ha Ha Clinton-Dix will play some safety when Hyde moves to the slot cornerback in some sub packages.

"We're still trying to play as many different combinations of players as we move forward," McCarthy said. "You'll see some of those changes as we get ready for Oakland and the way we go about it Friday night against Oakland. We have targets that we're trying to hit based on schemes we’re trying to run [with] different combinations of players. The biggest thing is the same guys are practicing every day together. It's been good that way."

Perhaps that's why when the No. 1 offense took the field for the first time as a complete unit on Saturday at St. Louis, quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Co. put together a pair of 12-play drives that resulted in a touchdown and a field goal in their only action of the preseason so far.

"It's really important," Rodgers said of the continuity. "Although there were some questions early on about the center position, I think JC definitely separated himself, and we were really able to operate as a No. 1 offense with really, other than the tight end position, not many of those spots where there's a gray area on who was going to be the guy."

There has not even been much turnover at the bottom of the roster. General manager Ted Thompson claimed receiver Gerrard Sheppard off waivers on July 30 and that's the only other roster move the Packers have made since was last week's trade of defensive end Jerel Worthy to the New England Patriots for a conditional seventh-round draft pick.

"Sometimes you keep adding to the mix, it gets too salty," Thompson said. "Sometimes you have to stop and say, 'OK, let's try to figure this out.' And quite frankly it's just a reflection of where you are, if you've gotten somebody nicked up. When we claimed Sheppard, we had just had a couple of receivers with a bump or two and you don't want to get too light at those running positions, especially early in training camp."

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