NFC North: Joe Thomas

Green Bay Packers cut-down analysis

August, 26, 2014
8/26/14
6:15
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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
5:15
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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.
GREEN BAY, Wis. – After Casey Hayward dropped out of practice on Tuesday, Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy said they were just being smart with their cornerback, given his hamstring problems of a year ago.

Three days later, Hayward remains out. He will not play in Friday's preseason game against the Oakland Raiders.

Hayward had not missed any practice time this summer before Tuesday. Last season, he played in only three games because of recurring hamstring problems that first popped up before training camp opened.

Here's the full list of Packers who will not play Friday:

Packers Camp Report: Day 18

August, 21, 2014
8/21/14
2:30
PM ET
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Green Bay Packers training camp:
  • Fans and reporters got their first look at what coach Mike McCarthy's new day-before-a-game practice looks like under his revamped weekly schedule. The session lasted just 58 minutes and featured 54 plays from scrimmage during designated 11-on-11 team periods. It also included a special teams period and individual drills. The entire practice was conducted without pads or shells -- just helmets, jerseys and shorts. McCarthy plans to continue this practice all season. It's the first time in his nine years as head coach that the Packers have practiced the day before a game. In the past, the final session wrapped up about 48 hours before kickoff. The six periods in the practice were: stretching, ball drills, last eight plays of the game, no-huddle, game situations and a 30-minute team period that was cut short with 8:32 still left on the clock.
  • During the game-situations period, a scenario had the Packers trailing 26-24 with 22 seconds left on third-and-7 at the defense's 35-yard line. After Aaron Rodgers threw an incomplete pass, Mason Crosby came on for a 53-yard field goal that he missed wide left. In all, Crosby was just 2-of-4 in the period. His other miss was from 38 yards wide left. He was good from 33 and 43 yards. After starting camp by making 28 of his first 30 kicks (93.3 percent), Crosby has made 17 of his past 22 (77.3 percent) in practice, giving him a camp-long mark of 45-for-52 (86.5 percent). He also has made all three of his field goals in preseason games.
  • Neither McCarthy nor the players were available to the media after practice, so there were no injury updates. However, cornerback Casey Hayward did not participate for the second straight session. After sitting out Tuesday's practice, a day off on Wednesday apparently was not enough to get him back on the field. All McCarthy has said about Hayward is that the team was being smart with him, given his past injury history. Hayward missed all but three games last season because of recurring hamstring problems.
  • Others who did not practice and appear unlikely to play on Friday against the Oakland Raiders were: running back Rajion Neal (knee), center Jordan McCray (shoulder), linebacker Joe Thomas (knee), guard/tackle Don Barclay (knee), receiver Jared Abbrederis (knee), tight end Brandon Bostick (lower leg) and defensive tackle Letroy Guion (hamstring).
  • Rookie tight end Colt Lyerla, who was placed on injured reserve on Wednesday, had his salary officially reduced to $303,000, according to ESPN Stats & Information salary data. Had Lyela made the team, his salary would have been $420,000, but he had what was called a split salary in his contract that calls for his pay to be reduced in the event he landed on injured reserve. That is common among undrafted rookie contracts.
  • After Friday's game against the Raiders (7 p.m. local time at Lambeau Field), there will be only be only two more training camp practices open to the public. They are Monday (11:45 a.m.) and Wednesday (10:15 a.m.)

Packers Camp Report: Day 16

August, 18, 2014
8/18/14
9:30
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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Green Bay Packers training camp:
  • Maybe Monday will be remembered as the day the light went on for first-round pick Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. After going 15 straight practices without an interception, the rookie safety picked off two passes during a one-hour and 29-minute session without pads inside the Don Hutson Center. Clinton-Dix's first pick came off fourth-string quarterback Chase Rettig, who badly overthrew receiver Chris Harper. His second one was a little more impressive because it came on the second play of the two-minute drill by the starting offense. Running back James Starks let a dump-off pass from Aaron Rodgers ricochet off his hands and Clinton-Dix plucked it out of the air. You could argue that both interceptions were gift-wrapped to him, but at least he made a couple of plays. "I thought it was great to actually touch the ball again after a while, so that felt good," Clinton-Dix said.
  • The defense won both two-minute drills, although Matt Flynn went a little longer with the No. 2 offense than Rodgers' two-plays-and-out possession. Flynn directed an eight-play drive that ended on fourth-and-10 from the defense's 21-yard line. On the last play, safety Chris Banjo picked off a pass that went off the outstretched hands of tight end Justin Perillo.
  • Other than the two-minute period, it was a stellar day by both Flynn and Scott Tolzien, who remain in a competition for the backup job. Flynn's best throw was on a deep corner route to Alex Gillett. He placed the ball perfectly out of the reach of cornerback Jarrett Bush. Tolzien had a couple of noteworthy throws, a go route down the right sideline that Myles White caught without breaking stride and a 30-yard corner route to Perillo over Clinton-Dix. "I thought they had sharp practices," coach Mike McCarthy said of Flynn and Tolzien. "It was our best tempo of the year. We were done extremely early in every period and the takeaways by the defense in the two-minute drill obviously added to that, so I was very pleased with the energy and the tempo. I think it's going to be a lot of good video. So, I thought both of those guys did a lot of good things."
  • The only new injury was to tight end Brandon Bostick (lower leg). He is expected to miss the rest of the preseason. Others who did not practice were: running back Rajion Neal (knee), tight end Colt Lyerla (knee), offensive lineman Don Barclay (knee), receiver Jared Abbrederis (knee) and defensive tackle Letroy Guion (hamstring). McCarthy would not say whether Abbrederis or Barclay had their ACL reconstruction surgeries yet. Both will eventually be placed on injured reserve.
  • For the first time all camp, rain forced practice inside the Don Hutson Center. That means there are only four open practices left in training camp. The next one is Tuesday at 11:45 a.m. local time.

Packers Camp Report: Day 13

August, 12, 2014
8/12/14
7:30
PM ET
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Green Bay Packers training camp:
  • Rookie seventh-round receiver Jeff Janis continues to impress. Even though he had his first drop of camp on Tuesday in the two-minute drill, Janis made another eye-catching grab, laying out to catch a deep post from Aaron Rodgers during a team period. It followed a one-handed catch for a touchdown last week and a twisting catch in practice on Monday. It has been a remarkable return from shingles, which caused the seventh-round pick from Saginaw Valley State to miss the first seven training camp practices. "Jeff Janis has made a play every day he's been out there," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said after Tuesday's practice. "He made another big play today. He looks good. Hopefully, we can get him fully cleared by the medical staff for Saturday night [against the St. Louis Rams]. I really like what he's done so far."
  • Another receiver fighting for a roster spot came back after a bad day. Second-year pro Kevin Dorsey, who dropped two passes on Monday, made a difficult catch on a crossing route with cornerback Sam Shields in tight coverage.
  • Quarterback Scott Tolzien got to run the two-minute drill but could not lead a touchdown drive. Trailing by 28-24 with 1:31 on the clock and no timeouts starting at the 35-yard line, Tolzien drove the No. 3 offense to the 9-yard line with 6 seconds left. Tolzien got off two plays but couldn't finish either one. On third down, he went to Chris Harper on a corner route but safety Charles Clay broke it up. On fourth down, he rolled to his right and went to Harper again but could not connect.
  • Receiver Jordy Nelson returned to practice on Tuesday after sitting out Saturday's preseason opener at Tennessee because of a hamstring injury. Nelson did not practice Monday but was cleared to work on a limited basis.
  • Rookie safety Tanner Miller, who has been out since the first week of camp because of an ankle injury, returned to practice. The undrafted free agent from Iowa broke up a Rodgers pass intended for Randall Cobb.
  • Defensive end Josh Boyd (ribs) also returned. He missed only one day.
  • The Packers were not in pads, but McCarthy said that was the plan all along.
  • Those who did not practice were: receiver Davante Adams (wrist), running back Rajion Neal (knee), tight end Colt Lyerla (knee), linebacker Joe Thomas (knee), guard/tackle Don Barclay (knee), receiver Jared Abbrederis (knee), defensive tackle Letroy Guion (hamstring) and defensive end Jerel Worthy (back).
  • Lyerla said the second opinion he got on on his knee last week confirmed what he suspected: that he likely will miss the remainder of the preseason. Although he would not get into details about the injury, the rookie free agent said he will not require surgery but the healing time will make it nearly impossible for him to participate in any of the preseason games. The Packers will have to decide whether to place him on injured reserve or come to an injury settlement if he's not healthy by Week 1. "I don’t think I'll really find anything out until the cut day," he said.
  • The next practice is Wednesday at 11:45 a.m. local time. It is the last open practice of the week.

Packers Camp Report: Day 12

August, 11, 2014
8/11/14
8:00
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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Green Bay Packers training camp:
  • As training camp practices go in Green Bay, Monday was a bit unusual. It was one of only a handful of summer sessions that was closed to the public. Reporters were allowed to watch, but it was made perfectly clear that any scheme or personnel-related activities were off limits. Clearly working on things coach Mike McCarthy did not want anyone to see, likely in preparation for the season opener against the Seattle Seahawks on Sept. 4, the Packers went for one-hour and 55 minutes with tarps pinned to the fence that surrounds Ray Nitschke Field. "It was exactly what we wanted," McCarthy said. "That's an in-season Wednesday practice for us, and I thought it was a very good practice."
  • Quarterback Aaron Rodgers used every bit of the 57 seconds the coaches gave him to run the 2-minute drill, but he capped a nine-play drive with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Randall Cobb. Rodgers completed 5 of 8 passes for 60 yards. He hit tight end Brandon Bostick for gains of 7, 8 and 5 yards on three of the first five snaps. He kept the drive going by converting a fourth-and-5 on a scramble in which he avoided a sack by Mike Neal.
  • Scott Tolzien and Matt Flynn alternated taking the No. 2 quarterback reps until the 2-minute period, when Flynn got a turn but Tolzien did not. He took the offense into the red zone but ran out of time. On his final play, on first down from the 15-yard line, Flynn missed tight end Jake Stoneburner in the end zone.
  • Starting left guard Josh Sitton had taken only one rep in the one-on-one pass blocking drill in camp before Monday. It came on July 31, a loss to Mike Daniels. Sitton, who said it was to give his sore back a chance to rest, was back in the drill on Monday and blocked rookie defensive tackle Carlos Gray in his only turn. Julius Peppers, who had split four reps during the first two weeks, won his only turn on Monday. He beat starting left tackle David Bakhtiari to the inside.
  • Apparently, Saturday's preseason opener at Tennessee wasn't enough to satisfy the players' desire to hit someone because there were at least three separate scuffles during Monday's practice.
  • Safety Morgan Burnett returned to practice after missing Saturday's games against the Titans because of an oblique strain, but the Packers still had their largest injury list to date. Those who did not practice were: receiver Davante Adams (wrist), running back Rajion Neal (knee), safety Tanner Miller (ankle), tight end Colt Lyerla (knee), linebacker Joe Thomas (knee), guard/tackle Don Barclay (knee), receiver Jared Abbrederis (knee), receiver Jordy Nelson (hamstring), defensive tackle Josh Boyd (ribs), defensive tackle Letroy Guion (hamstring) and defensive end Jerel Worthy (back).
  • The first of two open practices this week is Tuesday at noon local time.
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.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- One of the Green Bay Packers' top undrafted rookies, inside linebacker Joe Thomas, appears to have avoided a serious injury.

His agent, Brian Anderson, said Sunday that the knee injury that knocked out Thomas after only four defensive snaps in Saturday's preseason opener at the Tennessee Titans is not expected to require surgery.

That was one of two injuries coach Mike McCarthy announced after the game. The other was to fellow undrafted rookie, Rajion Neal. The running back from Tennessee also left with a knee injury after a promising start, which included a 12-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.

There was no additional injury information available about Neal on Sunday.

Thomas also played six snaps on special teams, where he was credited with one tackle. The 6-foot-1, 227-pounder from South Carolina State saw his playing time increase in training camp practices last week after making a favorable impression on the coaches.

The Packers were off on Sunday and return to work on Monday, when they will hold a closed practice.

W2W4: Green Bay Packers

August, 9, 2014
8/09/14
12:00
PM ET
The Green Bay Packers (0-0) and Tennessee Titans (0-0) open the preseason Saturday night at LP Field in Nashville, Tennessee. Here are three things to watch:

1. Quarterback play: Aaron Rodgers won't play much on Saturday -- he did not last preseason, either -- in part because coach Mike McCarthy wants to take a long look at his backup quarterbacks. If Scott Tolzien is going to supplant Matt Flynn for the No. 2 job -- or convince McCarthy and GM Ted Thompson to keep three quarterbacks -- then he needs to perform better in the preseason games than he has in the first two weeks of practice. Tolzien has improved as camp has gone on, but to date he probably has not done enough to make the Packers think he's a better option than Flynn, who has proven he can win games as a backup in Green Bay. Whichever quarterback wins the job, the Packers feel like they are in a much better position behind Rodgers than they were a year ago, when they brought in Vince Young to compete with Graham Harrell and B.J. Coleman. A year later, all three of those quarterbacks are out of the league.

2. Rookie reactions: There will be first-game jitters and mistakes, McCarthy and his staff know that about their rookies, so they're not going to complete their report on any player based on the preseason opener. But the coaches would like to see how some key players take what they have been doing on the practice field into the games. Can first-round pick Ha Ha Clinton-Dix make the big plays that were lacking from the safeties last season? Can second-round receiver Davante Adams get over the drops and continue his push for the No. 3 spot? Will third-round tight end Richard Rodgers take another step toward winning the starting job? All will get chances, especially Clinton-Dix, who may start given the absence of Morgan Burnett (oblique strain). Said McCarthy: "I'm looking for players to jump out. I want someone to jump out and do exactly what they're supposed to do with the energy and the efficiency that you say, 'Hey, I gotta get ready [because] I'm going to have more opportunities.'"

3. Undrafted gems: You might not know much about guys like Carlos Gray, Mike Pennel, Jayrone Elliott and Joe Thomas but if they continue to play like they have in practice, then you just might become more familiar with them. So far, those four have been the standouts of the undrafted rookie class. Gray and Pennel could challenge for a roster spot on the defensive line, while Elliott has made plays from the outside linebacker position and Thomas from the inside backer spot. The Packers have a history of doing well with undrafted free agents. In the past four seasons combined, they have had 13 of them on their Week 1 roster.

W2W4: Packers' Family Night

August, 2, 2014
8/02/14
3:30
PM ET
GREEN BAY, Wis. – From a pure football standpoint (forget about the fireworks and the jersey giveaways) the best thing about the Green Bay Packers' Family Night was always the fact that it featured the first live tackling (except of the quarterbacks, of course) of the summer.

But even that is no more.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Indications are that the fifth-round pick from Wisconsin sustained a torn ACL, although he was awaiting another round of tests to be sure. If those tests confirm such, he will need season-ending surgery.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- After three days of training camp practices, the Green Bay Packers are taking Tuesday off.

It's a small sample size, but before they get back on the field Wednesday morning, here's a look at what we've learned about them so far.

After looking at the offensive side of the ball, it’s time to examine the defense:

Youth movement: It's clear the Packers have moved on from the days of having three, 330-plus pound defensive linemen up front. On most days, the Packers have lined up with Datone Jones, B.J. Raji and Mike Daniels on the defensive line in the base 3-4. In order, those are players who weigh 285, 337 and an even 300. If the Packers want to go a little bigger, they have used the 310-pound Josh Boyd as a base end in place of Jones. That's a far different look than what the Packers had last year with Raji, Johnny Jolly (325) and Ryan Pickett (340).

Not so predictable: Although there are schemes defensive coordinator Dom Capers has not shown (or does not want other teams to know about yet), one thing is clear: the Packers aren't going to simply play 3-4 on first down, nickel on second down and dime on third as had become their pattern at times last season. Already, we have seen linebackers like Clay Matthews line up in spots not traditionally manned by an outside linebacker. The signing of Julius Peppers has given Capers more flexibility with the rest of his outside linebackers.

Serious about Hyde: Capers and coach Mike McCarthy would not have given so many of the starter's reps at free safety to Micah Hyde if they weren't serious about giving him significant snaps at that position even after drafting Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the first round. All signs point to Hyde playing safety in the base and perhaps even the nickel package and then moving to a slot position in the dime package, in which Clinton-Dix would then play free safety.

House
House call answered: Although there's no reason to think veteran cornerback Tramon Williams' job is in jeopardy, the Packers should feel good about the position behind him given Davon House's play, which has carried over from the offseason. The 24-year-old House appears to have improved his cover skills without sacrificing the physical presence he brings to the position at 6-1, 195.

Rookie linebackers: General manager Ted Thompson and his scouting staff always seem to find some hidden gems among the undrafted linebackers. This year looks like another strong class. Out of the group of the following players, it would not be a surprise to see one or two end up on the opening-day roster: Jake Doughty (inside linebacker), Joe Thomas (ILB), Jayrone Elliott (outside linebacker) and Adrian Hubbard (OLB).

Packers Camp Report: Day 3

July, 28, 2014
7/28/14
6:30
PM ET
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Green Bay Packers training camp:


  • Lest you forgot about Sean Richardson when it came time to talk about playing time at the safety position, the third-year pro reminded everyone of his potential on Monday. With the pads on for the first time, Richardson made a play that has rarely been replicated by a Packers safety since the days of Nick Collins or Charles Woodson. During a team blitz period, Aaron Rodgers fired a pass over the middle to Jordy Nelson but Richardson jumped in and snatched the ball away from Nelson for an interception.
  • For the first padded practice of camp, the temperature on Monday morning when things kicked off at 8:20 a.m. local time was just 56 degrees. An hour into the practice, it was not yet 60 degrees, but the Packers took one of their TV timeout regeneration breaks and followed it with one short period followed by another water break. Still, when asked whether it was fun to put the pads on, veteran guard Josh Sitton said, "I mean, fun is a little strong." The practice lasted 2 hours, 26 minutes – or about 10 minutes longer than the non-padded practices each of the first two days.
  • Nose tackle B.J. Raji got off to a strong start in the first one-on-one pass-rushing drill. He won all three of his reps. Of course, when someone wins, it means someone else looked bad. Twice, Raji beat JC Tretter, who is trying to lock down the starting center job. Raji beat Tretter with his quickness on one turn and then overpowered him on another. Tackle Bryan Bulaga also looked good in his first turns since blowing out his knee last camp. He won all three of his reps, including one at left tackle against Clay Matthews.
  • In other odds and ends from practice: Cornerback Davon House had a strip-sack of Matt Flynn and recovered the fumble during the team blitz period. … If you're looking for an undrafted rookie to watch, keep an eye on inside linebacker Joe Thomas of South Carolina State. He's a bit undersized (6-1, 227) but is around the ball often. … In what could be a bad sign for undrafted rookie tight end Colt Lyerla, he was relegated to the scout team that worked against the defense at the start of practice while the majority of the offensive players, including fellow undrafted rookie tight end Justin Perillo, practiced inside the Hutson Center at the start of the session.
  • Outside linebacker Mike Neal said he could be cleared to practice as soon as Wednesday. He remains on the PUP list with a core muscle injury but is scheduled to be examined on Tuesday. He said he reported to camp lighter than ever, at 263 pounds. He played last season at 275, which is about 25 pounds lighter than he was is first three seasons, when he played defensive end.
  • In addition to Neal, others who remained out were: Nick Perry (foot, knee), Jamari Lattimore (illness), Jeff Janis (illness), Letroy Guion (hamstring), and Jerel Worthy (back). Janis made an appearance at practice for the first time in camp.
  • The Packers do not practice on Tuesday. They return to the field on Wednesday at 8:20 a.m. local time.

Packers eyeing Wisconsin lineman

February, 20, 2014
2/20/14
2:55
PM ET
INDIANAPOLIS -- The University of Wisconsin has produced plenty of quality NFL offensive linemen recently -- from Travis Frederick to Peter Konz to Joe Thomas to Ricky Wagner to Kevin Zeitler.

None of them, however, has made the short trip north to play for the Green Bay Packers.

It has been more than 10 years since the Packers drafted a lineman from Wisconsin. In back-to-back years (2000 and 2001), they picked tackle Mark Tauscher (seventh round) and guard Bill Ferrario (fourth round). Tauscher went on to become a longtime starter, while Ferrario lasted only one season as a backup.

There’s another former Badgers lineman on the Packers’ radar this year. Ryan Groy said Thursday that he met with Packers offensive line coach James Campen on Wednesday at the NFL combine.

Groy played mostly guard for the Badgers, starting every game at left guard last season. But he also has experience at tackle (three starts in 2012) and center (one start in 2011).

With the Packers potentially in the market for a center depending on whether they re-sign Evan Dietrich-Smith, who will be a free agent next month, Groy might be someone the Packers would consider in the late rounds.

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. rated Groy as the 10th-best guard in the draft , although he’s not limiting himself to just that position.

“A lot of guys have asked me that, and what I’ve told them mostly is the inside three [positions],” Groy said on Thursday at Lucas Oil Stadium. “That’s where I feel most comfortable. I feel very comfortable at guard [and] center, and I told them if need be I can play tackle. I’m not afraid to go out there. I’m not afraid to play it.”

Groy’s lone start at center came against Illinois as a sophomore.

“Pete Konz went down against Minnesota, hurt his ankle, and then I played [center] at Illinois,” said Groy, who said he was measured at 6-foot-4 and 316 pounds at the combine. “Travis switched to center in the third quarter and I played left guard the last three games [of that season].”
Phil Taylor, Adrian PetersonGetty ImagesPhil Taylor and the thus-far stout Browns run defense gets a major test in Adrian Peterson.
A pair of teams desperate for their first victory square off in Minneapolis this weekend when the Minnesota Vikings host the Cleveland Browns.

The Vikings are coming off a last-second loss in Chicago, after which players were venting about the defensive call that led to the Bears’ touchdown with 10 seconds left. Minnesota goes from Minneapolis to London for a date with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the Vikings are in dire need of some positive momentum.

The Browns, meanwhile, have scored just 16 points in a pair of losses, and already have made major changes. They will start Brian Hoyer at quarterback this weekend with starter Brandon Weeden out because of a thumb injury. Meanwhile, the Browns traded running back Trent Richardson on Wednesday, parting with their top playmaker in exchange for the Indianapolis Colts' 2014 first-round draft pick.

As the teams meet for the first time since 2009, ESPN.com Vikings reporter Ben Goessling and ESPN NFL Insider Matt Williamson break down the game:

Goessling: Matt, the last time these two teams faced each other, it was on opening day in 2009, Brady Quinn was under center for the Browns and Brett Favre was playing his first regular-season game in a Vikings uniform. How things have changed since then. The Vikings have their own quarterback issues -- Christian Ponder probably keeps his job for now after a solid second half in Chicago last week, though he’s in serious need of some consistency. With Hoyer at quarterback, Richardson gone to Indianapolis and Josh Gordon coming back from a suspension, what can we expect from the Browns’ offense?

Williamson: I was feeling optimistic about Cleveland's offense going into Week 3 with Gordon returning and the disaster at the right guard position seemingly resolved. But now Weeden is out and Hoyer is in. That doesn’t bother me nearly as much as the loss of Richardson, who should be the foundation of this offense as a runner and underrated receiver. I truly think the Colts got themselves a great young back. But that leaves the Browns in a very precarious situation in the backfield. It is going to be a long year on this side of the ball.

The Vikings had an outstanding rookie class in 2012 and made three picks in the first round of this latest draft. Although there are obvious concerns at the quarterback position, Minnesota has quietly established a fine young nucleus. What roles do you see for its three first-round picks for this game, as well as going forward in 2013?

Goessling: It’s interesting you bring that up, because Cordarrelle Patterson's role -- or perhaps his absence -- has been a big topic of conversation this week. He got only five snaps in the Vikings’ first game, and had just six as a receiver last Sunday, even after he ran the opening kickoff back 105 yards for a touchdown. He’s young, and raw, but he might also be one of the most dangerous players the Vikings can put on the field, aside from Adrian Peterson. Coach Leslie Frazier all but called for Patterson to be on the field more during his news conference Monday. The challenge for the Vikings is to either work him into their base offense or go to enough multiple-receiver sets that they can use him, but I don’t doubt we’ll see him more going forward.

That could be especially important considering how good the Browns have been against the run in their first two games. They’ve allowed just 59.5 yards per game -- how will they fare against Peterson this weekend?

Williamson: Well, facing Peterson is obviously the ultimate challenge, and his run blocking, including the tight ends and fullbacks, is quite good as well. But I am very impressed with the Browns’ run defense -- and it starts up front. I believe that Phil Taylor is on the verge of stardom; his battle with John Sullivan, an excellent center in his own right, in the middle of the formation, will be crucial for the success of Cleveland’s interior run defense. But the Browns also have very good size at outside linebacker and do a nice job containing the outside run; their second- and third-level defenders get to the ball carrier well.

I mentioned before that the right guard position has been a nightmare, but the Browns’ excellent set of offensive tackles, Joe Thomas and Mitchell Schwartz, also has struggled much more than would be expected against two formidable defenses. As you know, Jared Allen is still playing at a very high level. But as some might not know, Brian Robison is also excelling this year and Everson Griffen is a highly athletic and intriguing end, too. Could Minnesota’s defensive ends rule the day?

Goessling: They certainly could. They struggled in Week 1 in Detroit, as Matthew Stafford found Reggie Bush on a number of early screen passes before the rush could get home. But the Vikings put consistent pressure on Jay Cutler last week, and Allen caused a Cutler fumble that Robison returned 61 yards for a touchdown. The Vikings also have not played at home yet, which means they will have the advantage of the crowd disrupting the opposing offense’s snap count for the first time this year. Minnesota has enough issues on the back end of its defense that it needs a strong pass rush to cover up for some of those deficiencies, and if the defensive line can get to Hoyer, the Vikings should be able to slow the Browns down and win the game.

To close this up, what’s the biggest thing you think the Browns need to do to win the game? What kind of a shot will they have without Weeden and Richardson?

Williamson: I really don’t like Cleveland’s chances at all, but its defense could keep this game close and limit Peterson’s production. Of course, Ponder could have a very poor game, or the Browns could score on defense or special teams. But I can’t see their offense this week moving the football with any sort of consistency. As Cleveland's front office is doing, it is time to start looking toward next year.

 

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