NFL Nation: Alex Green

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Out of playoff contention, the New York Jets are planning to use the final two games to evaluate certain young players. Reading between the lines, it could mean Rex Ryan feels secure and isn't worried about having to win the final two games to save his job.

Or it could mean nothing. It could mean general manager John Idzik is calling the shots. There are many ways to interpret it.

"We're going to utilize out entire defensive roster the next couple of weeks and we'll get a chance to evaluate some guys who haven't played as much," defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman said, mentioning safeties Josh Bush and Jaiquawn Jarrett among that group.

Thurman emphasized they're still trying to win the games. He acknowledged "it can be difficult" to balance it, adding, "But we have to try to do it. It's something that's important to us, to get a look at these guys on tape in game action against another team's first unit."

There was no official word on whether they will take the same approach on offense, but it wouldn't be surprising to see wide receiver Saalim Hakim, running back Alex Green and tight end Zach Sudfeld in expanded roles.

The Jets are starting five rookies on both sides of the ball, so it's not like the bench is filled with young players starved for playing time.

If Bush and Jarrett see more time, it would appear that future Hall of Famer Ed Reed would have a reduced role. Reed, 35, has played the vast majority of the defensive snaps since signing with the Jets last month.

Statistically, this has been a disappointing season for the defense, which ranks 12th in yards allowed. In eight seasons as a defensive coordinator (Baltimore Ravens) and head coach, Ryan's defense has ranked no lower than eighth -- and that was last season.

In the preseason, Ryan predicted a top-five finish.

"I just assumed that's where we'd always be," he said. "I'd just assumed we'd be there, but to me, it's just the wins and the losses. I think that's the disappointment. That's where the disappointment comes in."

Taking the blame for Vince Young

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reports: New York Jets claim RB, OLB

September, 1, 2013
The Jets acquired at least two players on waivers Sunday -- running back Alex Green (Green Bay Packers) and defensive end/outside linebacker Scott Solomon (Tennessee Titans), according to reports.

Green was the Packers' leading rusher last season (434 yards), but he became expendable with the emergence of rookie Eddie Lacy. Green, a third-round pick in 2011, was pedestrian in the preseason, rushing for 71 yards on 21 attempts. His agent tweeted the news that the Jets had claimed him.

This may not bode well for the Jets' No. 3 back, Kahlil Bell, who had a solid preseason. They also have Mike Goodson, suspended the first four games, waiting in the wings.

Solomon (6-foot-3, 262 pounds) is a hybrid player who was moved to defensive end this season. He was a seventh-round pick in 2012, appearing in 13 games last season but making only four tackles. The Jets now have 11 linebackers -- unless they plan to make him a lineman. He's undersized for the Jets' 3-4 front.

Green Bay Packers cut-down analysis

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

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

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

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

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

Players cut: QB: Vince Young. RB: Alex Green. FB: Jonathan Amosa. TE: Matthew Mulligan, Jake Stoneburner, D.J. Williams. WR: Charles Johnson, Tyrone Walker, Myles White. OL: Andrew Datko, Garth Gerhart, Kevin Hughes, Patrick Lewis. DL: Jordan Miller. LB: Terrell Manning, Dezman Moses, Donte Savage. CB: Loyce Means, Brandon Smith, James Nixon. S: David Fulton, Chaz Powell.

Midafternoon Packers cuts update

August, 31, 2013
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The biggest name among the Green Bay Packers' cuts so far clearly was quarterback Vince Young, who was released on Saturday morning.

But they also have cut a couple of players who saw significant playing time last season in running back Alex Green and tight end D.J. Williams.

Green was their leading rusher last season with 464 yards, and Williams played in 14 of 18 games last season (including playoffs).

With a few hours left before teams have to trim their rosters to 53 players, here’s the latest list of the players who have been released.

Note: This list is a compilation of our own reporting here at ESPN plus reports from the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Packer Report, and players with verified Twitter accounts. With 18 cuts already confirmed, the Packers will have to make four more roster moves to reach the 53-man limit.

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- As far back as the NFL annual meetings in March, Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy had a plan in mind to improve his running game.

“You’d like to get into a one-two punch deal,” McCarthy said.

As he talked at the Arizona Biltmore hotel back in March, McCarthy had no way of knowing then what his roster would look like five months later, but it was clear he envisioned one of those two punches would be thrown by DuJuan Harris. McCarthy liked how Harris finished last season, when he started four games (including both playoff contests) and averaged 4.2 yards per carry with four touchdowns.

Even after the Packers drafted a pair of running backs -- Alabama’s Eddie Lacy in the second round and UCLA’s Johnathan Franklin in the fourth -- McCarthy continued to project Harris as his starter.

When Harris returned to practice Aug. 12 from the knee injury that kept him out for most of the offseason workouts, McCarthy’s vision became more clear: He would use the quickness of the 5-foot-8, 203-pound Harris and the power of Lacy (5-11, 230) to provide that one-two punch to jolt a running game that finished 20th in the NFL last season.

Less than two weeks before the season opener at San Francisco, McCarthy will be forced to alter that plan because Harris reinjured his knee in Friday’s preseason game against Seattle and is headed for injured reserve.

“It sucks, honestly,” left guard Josh Sitton said. “He’s a hell of a player. He was going to be a big part of this offense. You’ve got to move on.”

The Packers may have to ride Lacy, who despite a rough outing against Seattle in which he totaled minus-5 yards rushing on eight attempts has been impressive so far.

“He’s going to have to step up and probably have a larger role,” Sitton said. “He’s going to have to grow. He can’t be a rookie anymore.”

However, there are concerns about Lacy’s conditioning and injury history that may prevent McCarthy from giving his rookie a greater workload than was originally planned.

“Every offseason you go through an evaluation with your offense, you do offseason studies, you project how you envision your offense looking and having to firm things up after the draft,” McCarthy said Tuesday. “You have a vision of packages in place on how you’re going to start the season. That goes along with part of my individual focus for the season. So, last week was the first opportunity to play both DuJuan and Eddie Lacy as a one-two punch format.”

Because Franklin doesn’t look ready to contribute, that leaves returning veterans Alex Green and James Starks as possible alternatives to Harris currently on the roster.

Green was the team’s leading rusher last season with 464 yards but averaged only 3.4 yards per carry and wore down late in the season, a year after returning from reconstructive knee surgery. But he looks stronger this season and has the team’s longest rush of the preseason, a 31-yard gain against Seattle.

“It’s unfortunate for DuJuan; he’s obviously a great player,” Green said. “We’ll see what happens. But right now, I’m just having the same mindset I had when I first came here.”

Starks, who has missed 26 of a possible 48 games in his first three NFL seasons and played in only six games last season, may have new life now. He was seemingly headed for the trading block or the waiver wire after he fumbled against St. Louis on Aug. 17. He had fallen to fifth on the depth chart behind Harris, Lacy, Franklin and Green.

When asked about Starks and Green, who were seemingly battling for the last running back spot before Tuesday’s developments, McCarthy said: “It’s a long year. You need ’em all. And I think both those guys have had good training camps.”

Observation deck: Packers 19, Rams 7

August, 17, 2013

The Green Bay Packers evened their preseason record at 1-1 with a 19-7 victory at St. Louis on Saturday.

Here’s a rundown of the night:
  • Aaron Rodgers played three series and looked sharp despite failing to get into the end zone. He completed 10 of 12 passes for 134 yards and a rating of 113.2, but the starting offense struggled on third down. A holding penalty on tight end Jermichael Finley on third-and-1 from the Rams’ 13-yard line wiped out a 7-yard run by Eddie Lacy on the first series. On the second series, the Rams stopped Lacy for a 2-yard yard loss on third-and-1 at the 29. On the third series, Rodgers was sacked on third-and-5. All three possessions ended with field-goal attempts, and the offensive starters totaled six points.
  • Finley, who has drawn repeated praise from Rodgers during training camp, made two big plays. He had a 25-yard reception on the first series and a 33-yard catch-and-run on the third series. He had four catches for 78 yards.
  • In his preseason debut, Lacy rushed eight times for 40 yards and showed off his ability to break tackles. On his first carry, he made a defender miss in the backfield and picked up 7. On his second carry, he broke two tackles and gained 15. He also had one catch that went for 11 yards thanks to a spin move that juked a defender. Lacy played the first three series (although Johnathan Franklin actually started) after missing last week’s opener against Arizona because of a hamstring injury.
  • Rookie cornerback Micah Hyde bounced back after giving up a 57-yard completion to speedy Chris Givens in the first quarter. On the same series, Hyde had good coverage and tackled rookie receiver Tavon Austin for a 1-yard gain on second-and-goal from the 3. On the next play, Hyde stopped running back Isaiah Pead for a 1-yard gain. It’s possible Hyde was counting on help from safety Jerron McMillian on the deep pass to Givens, but he might be better suited to play inside, where speed isn’t as big of an issue. Hyde also had a sack in the third quarter.
  • Hyde also got a crack at a punt return, and brought it back 13 yards. He had not previously been used as a returner in practice this summer.
  • Franklin made a major mistake as a punt returner in the third quarter. He failed to run up and catch a punt that hit one of his blockers, Brandon Smith, and was recovered by the Rams at the Packers’ 10-yard line.
  • Don Barclay got the start at right tackle and alternated series with Marshall Newhouse. Barclay had a good block on Lacy’s 15-yard run on the first series and another on a 13-yard rush by Alex Green in the third quarter. Newhouse also played left tackle in the second half.
  • Rookie left tackle David Bakhtiari made his first major mistake in pass protection since taking over for the injured Bryan Bulaga. Rams defensive end Robert Quinn beat Bakhtiari inside and sacked Rodgers on third-and-5 on Rodgers’ final series.
  • Tight end D.J. Williams, who had a poor showing against the Cardinals, dropped one pass and missed a block on a field goal that was partially blocked. His inconsistent play may have opened the door for Brandon Bostick, who caught three passes for 29.
  • Defensive tackle Johnny Jolly may have taken a big step toward completing an improbable return. In just his second game since returning to the NFL after serving a three-year drug suspension, Jolly was part of two turnover plays in the third quarter. First, he pushed back guard Barrett Jones and tipped a Kellen Clemens pass that Jarrett Bush intercepted. Then, he dropped into coverage and intercepted a Clemens pass that was tipped. Earlier, he fought off a double team and tackled running back Benny Cunningham for a 2-yard loss in the second quarter.
  • One the most impressive players of last preseason, outside linebacker Dezman Moses hasn’t looked the same this summer. He made a couple of glaring errors – a missed tackle that led to a 10-yard catch-and-run by Pead and a blown coverage on a 37-yard completion from Sam Bradford to tight end Jared Cook.
  • Backup quarterback Graham Harrell played three series and completed 5 of 10 passes for 44 yards and accounted for three points. He had no turnovers after losing a fumble and throwing an interception against Arizona last week.
  • Vince Young followed Harrell and played three series in the third quarter. He completed 5 of 9 passes for 26 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. He accounted for just three points, and it came on a short field after the Packers took possession at the Rams’ 29-yard line. On Young’s first series, he had receiver Myles White open down the seam but overthrew him on what could have been a 29-yard touchdown. Three plays later, Young was late on a fade to White, who ran out of room in the end zone.
  • B.J. Coleman followed Young and played the fourth quarter. He looked considerably better than he did in the Aug. 3 scrimmage and last week against the Cardinals. He led the only touchdown drive of the game, capping a 13-play, 75-yard drive with a 9-yard touchdown pass on the run to tight end Jake Stoneburner.
  • Running back James Starks lost ground in the running-back competition when he fumbled in the fourth quarter and was replaced by Green.
  • Mason Crosby looked solid on field goals of 34 and 48 yards. He also made a 30-yarder that was partially blocked. Giorgio Tavecchio missed wide left from 49 yards and made a 38-yarder.
  • Tight end Matthew Mulligan and linebacker Nate Palmer left with injuries. Their status was not immediately known.
  • The following players were not in uniform: WR Kevin Dorsey (hamstring), WR Charles Johnson (knee), WR Randall Cobb (biceps), RB DuJuan Harris (knee), S Sean Richardson (neck), CB Casey Hayward (hamstring), CB Tramon Williams (knee), OL JC Tretter (ankle), T Bryan Bulaga (knee), T Derek Sherrod (leg), TE Andrew Quarless (quad), TE Ryan Taylor (knee), WR Jordy Nelson (knee), DE Datone Jones (ankle) and DE Jerel Worthy (knee).
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Admit it: You chuckled when you saw DuJuan Harris listed as the starting running back after the Green Bay Packers released their first depth chart of training camp last week.

After all, how could a guy who had not passed his physical or taken one single snap in organized team activities or minicamp practices this past offseason be the starter?

[+] EnlargeDuJuan Harris
Benny Sieu/USA TODAY SportsMike McCarthy intends to continue letting DuJuan Harris carry the load in Green Bay's back field.
To be sure, Harris finished last season as the starter and provided a late-season spark to an otherwise punchless running game. But so much has changed in the Packers’ backfield since then. They drafted two running backs, Alabama’s Eddie Lacy in the second round and UCLA’s Johnathan Franklin in the fourth, and two others, veterans Alex Green and James Starks, have come back healthy.

On Monday, Harris finally passed his physical and practiced for the first time since he sustained a knee injury before OTAs began. Though he was on a limited snap count, sure enough Harris took the first rep with the No. 1 offense during a team period that was focused on the running game.

“The way we finished the season, I would classify him as a starter on our football team,” coach Mike McCarthy said Monday. “That doesn’t mean he goes out and plays every down, [but] I have confidence in him.”

Still, it’s worth wondering whether McCarthy merely listed Harris as the starter because that’s how last season ended or perhaps he wanted to send a message to Lacy and Franklin that just because they were drafted, doesn’t mean they will be handed jobs.

Of the top-five running backs on the Packers’ roster, Harris was the only one who was undrafted coming out of college. He entered the NFL in 2011 as a free agent with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Surely, Harris’ height (5-foot-8) played a part in that, however the Packers have never viewed Harris’ size as a detriment. They like his quickness and feel that he has enough power at 203 pounds.

“A lot of players are undrafted and frankly DuJuan Harris being undrafted is probably one of the best things to ever happen to him and the fact that he was out of football,” McCarthy said. “There’s a different level of motivation for guys that go that route in my opinion. Entitlement is abundant sometimes when you’re dealing with some of these guys coming into our league from college and when you see a young man like DuJuan Harris, it’s refreshing to see how motivated he is.”

Signed to the practice squad in Week 8 last season, Harris was promoted to the active roster on Dec. 1. Eight days later, he started against the Detroit Lions and averaged 4.4 yards per carry on seven attempts, including a 14-yard touchdown run. In four regular-season games, he averaged 4.6 yards per carry -- tops among the five different backs the Packers used in the regular season -- and then started both playoff games.

“Last year was last year,” Harris said. “I’ve got to bring something new to the table this year.”

On Monday, it also was more difficult to figure out where Harris fit in because Lacy was held out of practice with a hamstring injury. Lacy did not play in last Friday’s preseason opener against the Arizona Cardinals either. Before his hamstring injury, it looked like Lacy’s strong start to training camp was enough to win him the starting job. The rotation behind Harris during the first team period on Monday was Starks, Green and Franklin. Harris didn’t get any work during the second team period.

“If [McCarthy] believes in me, I believe in myself also,” Harris said. “I’m not going to let him down.”

Harris said he hopes to play in Saturday’s preseason game at St. Louis, but that might be a stretch considering all the time he has missed.

Last year, Harris took a crash course in the Packers’ offense just to get ready to play late in the season and would have benefited from a full offseason program this year. However, his knee injury and an emergency surgery in June to have a cyst removed from his chest set him back.

“It took us a while to get him ready last year,” McCarthy said. “But I thought he finished the season very strong, and I look for him to just get through this week, and we’ll evaluate him as he comes off this injury. I’m very confident that sometime next week, he’ll be where he needs to be.”

What to watch: Packers-Cardinals

August, 9, 2013
GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers open the preseason Friday night against the Arizona Cardinals at Lambeau Field.

Here are five things to watch:

1. David Bakhtiari. In most preseason openers, Packers coach Mike McCarthy plays his starters only a few series. But look for new starting left tackle Bakhtiari to stay on the field even after the rest of the No. 1 offensive line retires for the night.

“He needs to learn to play the position at this level and speed and see the things he’s going to see in Week 1,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy tabbed the fourth-round pick from Colorado to start after Bryan Bulaga sustained a season-ending knee injury, and so far the 21-year-old from the University of Colorado has performed well.

“To his credit, he has picked things up really nicely and done a good job for being book smart, but he transfers that onto the field,” Packers offensive line coach James Campen said. “He’s the type of guy who’s very cerebral and can go out there, see it in the meeting, take the information, process it and put it on the field.”

2. The kickers. Special teams coach Shawn Slocum could not have been put it any more directly when asked about veteran kicker Mason Crosby’s on-going struggles.

“It’s time to make some field goals,” Slocum said this week.

Of course, he said the same thing last season when Crosby went through a horrible stretch in which he missed 12-of-24 field goals on the way to an NFL-worst 63.6 percent conversion rate. Crosby had another woeful performance in last Saturday’s scrimmage, when he made just 3-of-8 field goals. He bounced back with a 3-for-4 performance in the lone field goal period during practice this week but is just 15-of-23 so far in training camp.

The challenger, unproven first-year kicker Giorgio Tavecchio, can’t match Crosby’s leg strength but has been far more accurate (19-of-23). Fundamentally, they are completely different kickers. The right-footed Crosby use a two-step approach, while the left-footed Tavecchio uses a three-step approach.

“I’ll tell you this, I’m going to withhold my judgment until we see these games start to occur,” Slocum said. “That’s the biggest stage we can evaluate with right now, and that’s where we’ll do that.”

(Read full post)

Packers practice report

August, 6, 2013

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- On most days, an unexpected surgery for a starting receiver who combined for 22 touchdown catches the last two seasons would be the news of the day.

But Tuesday was no ordinary day in Green Bay Packers’ training camp. It was the debut of new backup quarterback Vince Young (more on that below) and the first look at the offensive line without injured left tackle Bryan Bulaga.

Still, before we get to the rest of what happened on Tuesday, it’s worth noting how the absence of receiver Jordy Nelson impacts the Packers. Nelson, who caught seven touchdowns last season and 15 in 2011, is expected to miss the rest of training camp. Coach Mike McCarthy said he was hopeful Nelson would be ready for the season opener at San Francisco on Sept. 8.

What’s more, receiver Randall Cobb dropped out of practice on Tuesday with what McCarthy called a bicep injury. That means two of the top-three receivers were out. Of that trio, only James Jones remained standing. Given how often the Packers use a three-receiver set, they consider Cobb, Jones and Nelson all to be starters.

Combine that with the fact that two of the top candidates to be the Nos. 4 and 5 receivers -- rookies Kevin Dorsey (leg) and Charles Johnson (knee) -- have been out since the second day of camp, it’s a thin receiver group.

The Packers signed one receiver, rookie Justin Wilson of Delaware State, on Tuesday, but placed another Sederrick Cunningham (wrist) on injured reserve.

One bright spot among the receivers was second-year pro Jarrett Boykin. He made a tough, back-shoulder catch for a 16-yard gain during the no-huddle period. Two plays later, he picked up 20 yards on a post that set up Aaron Rodgers' 16-yard touchdown pass to Jermichael Finley to end the drill. Look for Boykin to get even more opportunities this preseason.

Young’s role: In his first practice in nearly a year, Young spent most of it standing next to quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo.

Young, who last was on an NFL roster with the Buffalo Bills last August, took only two snaps in team (11-on-11) periods, and both were handoffs. Young took part in all of the individual drills, much of which concentrated on his footwork. McCarthy considers footwork to be an integral part of playing quarterback. As much as Young will have to learn the offense, he also has much to work on in the fundamental aspect of the game.

“You don’t want to spend the majority of your time with that, but just the way the quarterbacks are trained on a day-to-day basis, it’s part of our daily operation,” McCarthy said. “He’ll definitely be trained in it, but we have to teach him the language and get him up to speed.”

Young said there was some carryover from the offense he ran in 2011 with the Philadelphia Eagles, where he spent one season. Then-Eagles coach Andy Reid runs a West Coast offense similar to McCarthy’s.

If Young doesn’t know enough to play in Friday’s preseason opener against the Arizona Cardinals, it might be one of the last opportunities for backups Graham Harrell and B.J. Coleman to make a better impression. While Harrell has shown improvement over last season, Coleman has struggled during the first week of training camp.

By signing Young, the Packers clearly sent the message that Harrell and Coleman haven’t convinced them that they could serve as a capable backup.

Odds and ends: David Bakhtiari, who took over for Bulaga at left tackle, won all four of his reps in the one-on-one pass blocking drill, including a turn against outside linebacker Clay Matthews. He improved his camp-long record in that drill to 14-4. Said guard Josh Sitton: “I’ve been impressed by him; he seems to win a lot of his blocks. He’s done really well in the one-on-one drills.” Bakhtiari took all of his reps with the No. 1 offensive line at left tackle. Marshall Newhouse stayed at right tackle, while Don Barclay also took some reps there. ... Every time it appears Jeremy Ross has done enough to allow the Packers to take Cobb off kick return duties, Ross makes another mistake. After returning a kickoff 49 yards during Saturday’s scrimmage, Ross muffed a punt off the machine on Tuesday. ... It should come as no surprise considering how well he performed in Saturday’s scrimmage, but running back Eddie Lacy opened Tuesday’s practice as the starter.

Medical report: In addition to Bulaga, Cobb and Nelson, the other new injuries were: defensive end Datone Jones (illness), running back Alex Green (knee) and defensive tackle Johnny Jolly (cramps). There’s concern about Green because it’s the same knee that he blew out in 2011 and gave him problems last season.

Others who missed practice were: RB DuJuan Harris (knee), S Sean Richardson (neck), CB Casey Hayward (hamstring), CB Tramon Williams (knee), OL JC Tretter (ankle), DE Mike Neal (abdominal), T Derek Sherrod (leg), TE Andrew Quarless (quad), TE Ryan Taylor (knee) and DE Jerel Worthy (knee).

What’s next: The Packers practice at 8:20 a.m. CT on Wednesday.
GREEN BAY, Wis. – When the Green Bay Packers won Super Bowl XLV, it was worth wondering whether that might be the beginning of a dynasty.

With a star quarterback in the prime of his career and enough young playmakers on both sides of the ball, talk of multiple titles didn’t seem all that far-fetched.

In the two seasons since quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ Super Bowl MVP-winning performance against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Feb. 6, 2011, the Packers have put together regular seasons of 15-1 and 11-5 that resulted in a pair of NFC North titles.

But in that same span, they have won only one playoff game -- last season’s wild-card round against a Minnesota Vikings team that had to make the last-minute switch to backup quarterback Joe Webb because injured starter Christian Ponder couldn’t go.

What’s more, in the two playoff losses -- to the New York Giants on Jan. 15, 2012, and to the San Francisco 49ers on Jan. 12, 2013 -- the Packers were, as linebacker A.J. Hawk so bluntly put it this week, “blasted.”

The Packers gave up a combined 82 points in the two playoff losses. The 45-31 loss to the 49ers, who piled up 579 yards of offense, has put Dom Capers’ defense under intense scrutiny heading into this season in large part because 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick made the Packers look completely unprepared for the read-option offense. Kaepernick rushed for 181 yards (the most ever in a game by an NFL quarterback), including a 56-yard touchdown run that broke a 24-24 tie midway through the third quarter.

“We went to the playoffs twice and got blasted,” Hawk said. “We got beat bad. They took the game from us.

“Specifically, as defensive guys, we let our offense down, so that’s something as a defense we need to get some pride back and take it. That’s why I think this whole offseason, if you’ve watched anything, our practices or whatever we’re doing, it’s almost stepped up a notch.”

Capers has spent at least a small portion of almost every training camp practice working against the read-option, using some of what he and his staff learned during their March visit to College Station, Texas, where they met with the Texas A&M coaches to study the read-option.

While Capers has insisted throughout the offseason that his defense’s performance against the 49ers was an anomaly and pointed to the statistical improvement -- to 11th in yards allowed in 2012 after finishing dead last in 2011 -- the lasting image of his unit from last season is them chasing (and almost never catching) Kaepernick.

“We kind of hit the perfect storm there,” Capers said. “We’d made so many strides with so many young players, and it kind of went out the window. Because when you have a game like that, you kind of say, ‘How the hell did that happen?’ It can happen real easy in this league. That offense, the next week went for about 400 [yards], and then in the Super Bowl it was like a track meet after that blackout.”

When it comes to defending that offense, Capers’ defense will be tested early. The Packers open the season at the 49ers and then host the Washington Redskins in Week 2. If Robert Griffin III is back from his knee injury by then, they will face two read-option quarterbacks in as many weeks.

“I think every team right now is working on that. Every defensive coordinator is trying to figure out how to stop this pistol-read option,” Hawk said. “At the same time, offensive coordinators are working on new wrinkles to beat these defenses, so we’ll see. That’s what’s fun. Week 1 and Week 2, we get a nice, big test. We’re looking forward to it.”

Three hot issues

[+] EnlargeAaron Rodgers
Wesley Hitt/Getty ImagesThere's no question that Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers is absolutely integral to the Packers' chances in 2013.
1. Protect the investment. There’s nothing more important to the Packers than protecting Rodgers, who signed a five-year, $110 million contract extension this offseason. Rodgers was sacked a league-high 51 times last season. Not all of the sacks were the fault of the offensive line; sometimes, Rodgers held the ball too long. Nevertheless, coach Mike McCarthy decided to revamp his front five, moving right tackle Bryan Bulaga and right guard Josh Sitton to the left side. T.J. Lang went from right guard to left, and the right tackle position was declared an open competition that has yet to be decided.

"You say, 'Look, we have to protect the backside of the quarterback, so let’s put the two most accomplished guys to date there,'" offensive line coach James Campen said.

The problem is, one of those two most accomplished players is already a scratch. Bulaga injured a knee during Saturday night’s scrimmage and will miss the entire season.

The jury remains out on whether the line changes will work.

"It’s a progression," Campen said. "I’d say we’re climbing the hill now."

2. Find a running game: The Packers haven’t had a running back gain 100 yards or more in a regular-season game since Brandon Jackson rushed for 115 against the Redskins on Oct. 10, 2010. Their streak of 43 straight regular-season games without a 100-yard rusher is the longest in the NFL.

It got so bad last season that when opposing defenses often left both safeties deep and dared the Packers to run, they still couldn’t do it. They finished 27th in rushing yards per game using a handful of different backs who either couldn’t stay healthy or didn’t produce.

Enter second-round draft pick Eddie Lacy of Alabama and fourth-round pick Johnathan Franklin of UCLA. They have shared reps with two returners from last season, Alex Green and James Starks. It’s a safe bet Lacy will end up as the starter, but nothing has been decided yet.

“We have great competition," running backs coach Alex Van Pelt said. "The preseason will all work itself out."

3. Jones’ impact: In April of 2012, general manager Ted Thompson used his first six draft picks on defensive players -- a clear reaction to finishing last in the NFL in yards allowed the previous season. He didn’t go as heavy on defense in this year’s draft but did use his top overall pick on UCLA defensive end Datone Jones.

The hope is that Jones can become a three-down player capable of playing end in Capers’ 3-4 defense and as one of two inside rushers in the nickel and dime packages.

Early returns suggest Jones will provide some immediate help, at least in the sub packages. Through the first week of practice, he has shown well in the one-on-one pass-rushing drill. By subjective count, he has won 10 of his 19 reps in that drill.

“You can see his quickness out there and some of the things that he’s been able to do," defensive line coach Mike Trgovac said. "But some of the mistakes that he makes you don’t see."

Reason for optimism

The Packers have arguably the best quarterback in the league and a trio of receivers capable of getting open and running after the catch. Rodgers’ accuracy (67.7 percent over the past two seasons combined) and ability to take care of the ball (14 interceptions over the past two seasons combined) means the Packers will put up points. If receivers Randall Cobb, James Jones and Jordy Nelson, plus tight end Jermichael Finley, stay healthy, Rodgers has plenty of weapons.

Reason for pessimism

Mike McCarthy
Jeff Hanisch/US PresswirePackers coach Mike McCarthy had 16 players sidelined with injuries during the team's scrimmage.
Injuries have hit the Packers hard in two of the past three seasons, and they have already begun to pile up this year. Bulaga's injury could ruin the plans for the offensive line. Two of their top three cornerbacks (Tramon Williams and Casey Hayward) remain sidelined. McCarthy was so concerned about his team’s inability to stay healthy that he examined every aspect of his operation this offseason -- from weight training to nutrition to practice routine. Still, they had 16 players sidelined for their scrimmage on Saturday.

Observation deck

  • The Packers stuck with Mason Crosby through a kicking slump last season, when in one stretch he missed 12 out of 24 field goals on the way to a league-low 63.6 percent conversion rate, but they might be running out of patience. Crosby had an abysmal performance in their scrimmage on Saturday night -- missing five of eight kicks -- including two from inside 40 yards. During live-kicking periods so far this summer, Crosby has made just 12 of 19 field goals (63.2 percent). For the first time since 2007, Crosby has competition in camp. Going head-to-head with Crosby, first-year kicker Giorgio Tavecchio has made 16 of 19 (84.2 percent), including six of seven in Saturday’s scrimmage. However, the issue with Tavecchio is leg strength. His longest make so far has been from 53 yards, but he hit the crossbar before it went through.
  • Few title contenders probably could remain as such if they lost their starting quarterback for any length of time, but the Packers appear especially vulnerable if anything serious happens to Rodgers. The competition between last season’s backup, Graham Harrell, and practice-squader B.J. Coleman hasn’t been decided. Regardless of who wins the job, neither has done anything to make anyone believe the Packers wouldn’t go in the tank if they lost Rodgers. Perhaps that is why the Packers decided to bring in veteran Vince Young for a workout on Monday.
  • M.D. Jennings and Jerron McMillian have been taking turns playing the safety spot next to Morgan Burnett, but no starter has been named yet. Regardless of who wins the job, both Jennings and McMillian will play. Jennings appears better suited to playing deep zone coverage, while McMillian looks better closer to the line of scrimmage.
  • Don’t be surprised if rookie fourth-round pick David Bakhtiari ends up as the starting right tackle if Marshall Newhouse falters. Bakhtiari has begun to get more work reps with the starters.
  • Second-year defensive tackle Mike Daniels might be the most improved player on the roster. He has been a major force in the pass-rushing drills.
  • Backup receiver Jeremy Ross might make it possible for the Packers to take Cobb off kick-return duties and concentrate solely on receiver. Ross had a 49-yard kickoff return in Saturday’s scrimmage and has had no issues catching kickoffs or punts.
  • The Packers have a history of keeping an undrafted free agent or two on their 53-man roster, and the best candidate this season looks like outside linebacker Andy Mulumba of Eastern Michigan.

Packers' rookie WRs still a mystery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s next: The annual Family Night scrimmage at Lambeau Field is Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- From day to day, sometimes even from practice drill to practice drill, a different running back has lined up with the Green Bay Packers’ starters.

A week into training camp, it’s nearly impossible to tell who falls where on the depth chart.

[+] EnlargeGreen Bay's Eddie Lacy
Benny Sieu/USA TODAY SportsSecond-round pick Eddie Lacy is one of four running backs jockeying on the Packers' depth chart.
It’s no knock against the two backs general manager Ted Thompson drafted in April, when he took Alabama’s Eddie Lacy in the second round and UCLA’s Johnathan Franklin in the fourth. Anyone who watched Lacy power through defenders during Thursday’s goal-line period or has seen Franklin's quickness slice through the secondary can tell they’re off to a strong start.

But it also would be wrong to discount returning veterans Alex Green and James Starks, who combined to start six games last season but struggled with productivity and injuries.

Green, who is 21 months removed from tearing up his knee while blocking on a kickoff return against the Minnesota Vikings in 2011, has shown some of the burst he displayed during his college days in Hawaii’s fast-paced offense.

Meanwhile, Starks -- who has battled shoulder, hamstring, ankle, toe and knee injuries in his three NFL seasons -- is starting to look like the power back who rushed for 123 yards in the 2010 wildcard playoff win at Philadelphia that began the run to Super Bowl XLV.

The strong early showings by Green and Starks make it worth wondering if there’s room on the Packers’ 53-man roster for all four halfbacks?

“Hopefully in the four games of the preseason, we’ll have those questions answered,” Packers running backs coach Alex Van Pelt said Thursday. “It is definitely a competitive room.”

And that doesn’t even include DuJuan Harris, the late-season sensation who started both playoff games last season. The former practice-squad back has yet to pass his physical because of an offseason knee injury.

“It’s training camp; it’s going to be competitive,” Starks said. “They brought the new guys in there to get some spark. It’s fun.”

Starks was limited to just six games last season, while Green appeared in 12 but experienced soreness in his surgically repaired knee as the season went on.

Van Pelt called Starks’ camp so far “outstanding” and said the 6-foot-2, 218-pound fourth-year pro is running “extremely hard, violent.” He noted that Starks is making better reads and has been more patient on the outside zone runs, where the back needs to stretch the defense before making a cut. It’s a play coach Mike McCarthy often calls.

Regarding Green, Van Pelt said he looks “night and day” compared to last year and is cutting better and running faster.
NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

One key positional battle for each NFC North team as training camps get underway.

Chicago Bears: The wide receiver position isn't as settled as you might think in Chicago. We know that Brandon Marshall will be one starter, and the assumption is that Alshon Jeffery will work on the other side, with Earl Bennett in the slot. But Jeffery is hardly a proven player, having missed six games as a rookie last season and catching 24 passes in the 10 games he played. Don't forget, too, that Bennett has a long history with quarterback Jay Cutler. The Bears also might be motivated to find roster room for rookie Marquess Wilson, who was troubled but talented at Washington State and might be difficult to get on to the practice squad.

Detroit Lions: Reggie Bush figures to get more snaps this season than any other Lions running back, presuming he stays healthy. But he isn't expected to be a workhorse, so the identity of the team's No. 2 running back will have added importance. Training camp should feature a spirited battle between Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell for that spot. Leshoure was the Lions' primary back last season and carries the pedigree of a second-round draft choice, but he wasn't explosive and continued to deal with hamstring injuries during the offseason. Bell proved a nifty runner last season and a good receiver as well.

Green Bay Packers: The running back position is wide open after the decision to draft Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin, who will join DuJuan Harris, James Starks, Alex Green and John Kuhn. Harris has opened training camp on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list but eventually should join the mix. Lacy's size (5-foot-11, 230 pounds) makes him a candidate to handle goal-line and short-yardage situations, but he also could emerge as a first-down back depending on Harris' condition. Starks has as much talent as anyone in the group but has never been able to stay healthy.

Minnesota Vikings: We all know that Greg Jennings will be one of the Vikings' starting receivers. But who will man the second and third spots? The assumption has been that Jerome Simpson will start on the outside, with Jarius Wright in the slot and rookie Cordarrelle Patterson working his way into the rotation. But the competition is open, and I wouldn't assume those spots are locked up in that way. The Vikings have big plans for Patterson, and eventually he should displace Simpson alongside Jennings. It's probably just a matter of when.
NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

What are the three key camp issues facing each NFC North team?


Offense: Kyle Long's readiness
The Bears drafted Long in the first round to help an offensive line that has struggled for years to protect quarterback Jay Cutler. Long, however, had a short Division I career and missed almost all of the Bears' offseason work because of the timing of Oregon's final academic quarter. The Bears will find out in camp, and during the preseason, whether Long is ready to be an immediate starter as you would expect based on his draft position.

Defense: Configuring linebackers
After the retirement of Brian Urlacher and the departure of Nick Roach, the Bears gave themselves two tiers of options at linebacker to play alongside Lance Briggs. If all else fails, they can use veteran D.J. Williams in the middle and James Anderson on the strong side. But they also drafted two players who one day will get their chance: Jon Bostic in the second round and Khaseem Greene in the fourth. The process of determining the best combination will begin in training camp.

Wild card: Coaching transition
This will be the Bears' first training camp in 10 years without Lovie Smith as the coach. Marc Trestman began the transition process during offseason workouts, but training camp is the time for establishing the meat of his program. How does he expect players to practice? How quickly does he expect scheme assimilation? How do players know when he's happy? When he's angry? The first training camp will set the parameters.


Offense: Line changes
One way or the other, the Lions will enter the season with three new starters on the offensive line. Riley Reiff is at left tackle after the retirement of Jeff Backus, and there will be competition at right guard and right tackle. Pulling off an overhaul of the offensive line in a win-or-else season is an ambitious task. All discussion of improvement for quarterback Matthew Stafford, and the impact of newcomer Reggie Bush, is made on the presumption that the offensive line won't take a step back.

Defense: Ziggy Ansah's development
Usually, the No. 5 overall pick of a draft is ready to step in and play right away. But Ansah was a late arrival to football and was almost an unknown to NFL scouts a year ago at this time. There was a sense during pre-draft evaluations that Ansah would need more development time than the typical No. 5 pick, but the Lions have high hopes of putting him into the starting lineup right away. They gave themselves some flexibility by signing free agent Israel Idonije, but they'll find out in camp if Ansah is going to be ready to play a full-time role in Week 1.

Wild card: Ryan Broyles' status
Broyles was a value pick in the 2012 draft, but he is very much needed after the release of Titus Young. Nate Burleson has returned to play alongside All-Pro Calvin Johnson, but the Lions' depth would be thin if Broyles isn't ready to play soon after tearing his ACL in Week 13 last year. The Lions hope Broyles can be full-speed by the start of the season, a pace he must confirm with at least some significant work in training camp.


Offense: Running back rotation
The Packers added two rookies, Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin, to a group that includes holdovers DuJuan Harris, James Starks, Alex Green and John Kuhn. Unless the Packers suddenly convert to a run-based offense, an impossibility as long as Aaron Rodgers is at quarterback, the Packers will have to thin this herd in training camp. Not everyone from that group will make the team, and a few who do aren't likely to get much action in games. Harris, Lacy and Franklin seem the likeliest candidates -- in that order -- to be feature backs.

Defense: Replacing Woodson
The Packers have openings at safety and cornerback following the release of Charles Woodson. Training camp should provide significant insight, if not an outright answer, into who will start at safety -- M.D. Jennings? Jerron McMillian? -- alongside Morgan Burnett. We'll also get a sense for who is ready to step into the cornerback and nickel job opposite veteran Tramon Williams. Top candidates for that job include Sam Shields, Casey Hayward and Davon House. The Packers' cornerback group is by far the deepest in the NFC North.

Wild card: Crosby's state of mind
No one expects Giorgio Tavecchio to beat out place-kicker Mason Crosby, who went through a well-publicized extended slump last season. But how will Crosby react to the first competition of any sort he has faced since taking over as the Packers' kicker in 2007? That's what the Packers want to find out, frankly. If he isn't sharp in camp, the Packers might need to consider their options elsewhere.


Offense: Cordarrelle Patterson's development
The Vikings know they want Patterson to be their kickoff returner, replacing Percy Harvin, but is Patterson ready to take over any part of Harvin's role as a primary offensive playmaker? Patterson's short stay at Tennessee once suggested he will need some development time before contributing regularly on offense. His performance in offseason practices, however, suggested he might be further along than once believed. Training camp will tell us for sure.

Defense: Linebacker alignment
Will newcomer Desmond Bishop play middle linebacker or on the outside? What would that mean for Erin Henderson, who spent the offseason transitioning to the middle position? It seems pretty clear that Bishop, Henderson and Chad Greenway will be the Vikings' three linebackers. Training camp should give us a better idea of where they will line up and, importantly, who will come off the field in nickel situations.

Wild card: Chemistry in passing game
The Vikings are expecting a jump in the efficiency, if not raw numbers, of their passing game this season. Quarterback Christian Ponder will have to accomplish that by developing quick chemistry with his new receivers, including Patterson and veteran Greg Jennings. That task appeared to be a work in progress during offseason practices.


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