NFL Nation: James Nixon

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Let's get this out of the way from the top: We know Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson does not draft for need -- or so he says.

But in the months leading up to this week's draft, Thompson and his scouts have spent hundreds of hours not only discussing the prospects who will be available to them but also their current roster and its strengths and weaknesses.

With that in mind, let's break the 12 position groups that make up the roster into four parts based on the following categories of draft needs.

We will define them this way:

Part 1: Negligible -- positions where there is little or no need.

Part 2: Non-essential -- positions where there is a need but it is not paramount to fill.

Part 3: Secondary -- positions where there is a need but not at the critical level.

Part 4: Pressing -- positions where it is imperative that help be found.

On Monday, we looked at the negligible needs, Nos. 10-12.

Next up are the nonessential needs.

7. Quarterback: It's too early to start thinking about a replacement for Aaron Rodgers, who turned 30 last December and is under contract through 2019, but they need to find the next Matt Flynn -- a long-term backup who can be counted on to win games just in case. Flynn is back under a one-year deal, but coach Mike McCarthy has said he would like to develop a young quarterback. Is that Scott Tolzien? Perhaps, but don't be surprised if they bring in a mid-to-late-round quarterback.

Possible players of interest: AJ McCarron, Alabama; Tom Savage, Pittsburgh; David Fales, San Jose State; Keith Wenning, Ball State; Brock Jensen, North Dakota State.

8. Cornerback: The Packers committed to Sam Shields this offseason with a four-year, $39 million contract just as free agency opened, but veteran Tramon Williams is in the final year of his contract. Casey Hayward is expected to be back from the hamstring injury that ruined his 2013 season, and there's depth with Micah Hyde, Davon House and James Nixon, although Hyde may move to safety. If the right corner fell to the Packers, Thompson might jump at the chance.

Possible players of interest: Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State; Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech; Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State; Keith McGill, Utah; Stan Jean-Baptiste, Nebraska.

9. Outside linebacker: Like defensive end, this is another position where there's plenty of talent depending on who lines up where. Beyond Pro Bowler Clay Matthews, there's Julius Peppers (who will play a combination DL-OLB), former first-round pick Nick Perry, former second-round pick Mike Neal and second-year players Andy Mulumba and Nate Palmer.

Possible players of interest: Anthony Barr, UCLA; Kyle Van Noy, BYU; Jeremiah Attaochu, Georgia Tech; Demarcus Lawrence, Boise State.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- With the bulk of the free-agent work done, it's a good time to recheck the Green Bay Packers' depth chart leading up to the May 8-10 NFL draft.

On Thursday, we broke down the way things look on offense.

Next up is the defense:

Defensive end: Datone Jones, Josh Boyd, Jerel Worthy.

[+] EnlargeDatone Jones
AP Photo/Morry GashThe Packers are counting on defensive end Datone Jones to rebound in his second season.
Analysis: The Packers have high hopes for Jones despite a disappointing rookie season in which the former first-round pick was slowed by an ankle injury and recorded just 3.5 sacks (two of which came in one game). "I feel he's one of those second-year players who [can] take a huge jump," coach Mike McCarthy said of Jones earlier this offseason. "That will be my expectations for him." Boyd, a fifth-round pick, actually saw more playing time late last season than Jones. Worthy played in only two games a year after he blew out his knee.

Defensive tackle: B.J. Raji, Mike Daniels, Letroy Guion.

Analysis: Moving Raji back to nose tackle on a full-time basis should help his production, which declined sharply over the last three years following a move to defensive end. Daniels was perhaps the team's most improved player last season, which should lead to an even bigger role this season. Guion, who was cut the Minnesota Vikings, will have to battle for a roster spot.

Elephant: Julius Peppers, Nick Perry, Mike Neal.

Analysis: Elephant is a catch-all term for the multiple positions this trio will play. They will be part outside linebacker, part defensive end and part defensive tackle. The addition of Peppers, who was signed last month after being released by the Chicago Bears, should boost the pass rush. Expect Perry to play more on the right side this season, where he was far more impactful last season. These players will actually be tutored by linebackers coach Winston Moss.

Inside linebacker: A.J. Hawk, Brad Jones, Jamari Lattimore, Sam Barrington, Victor Aiyewa.

Analysis: Hawk had perhaps his best season last year, but Jones was a disappointment after signing a three-year, $11.75 million contract and could be on shaky ground for a starting job. Lattimore, a restricted free agent who has yet to sign his tender, got some playing time last year while Jones was hurt and could push for the starting job. So could Barrington, a promising rookie who missed the second half of the season because of a hamstring injury.

Outside linebacker: Clay Matthews, Andy Mulumba, Nate Palmer, Chase Thomas.

Analysis: Neal and Perry played almost exclusively at outside linebacker last season, so there's a good chance they'll be a big part of this group again. But behind Matthews are a couple of second-year players, Mulumba and Palmer, who played more than anyone expected last year as a rookies. Mulumba, an undrafted free agent, played better than Palmer, a sixth-round pick. Thomas was signed early in the offseason off the street after spending most of last season on the Atlanta Falcons' practice squad.

Safeties: Morgan Burnett, Sean Richardson, Chris Banjo.

Analysis: Easily the thinnest position on the roster, there's still likely to be several additions here, probably via the draft. However, McCarthy said cornerback Micah Hyde will get some work at safety. Whether he's a candidate to start next to Burnett (a strong safety), however, remains to be seen. Burnett needs to bounce back from a disappointing season, but there's little reason to think his job is in jeopardy. Richardson returned late last season from a serious neck injury and showed promise. Banjo played more early in the season than he did late last year.

Cornerbacks: Sam Shields, Tramon Williams, Casey Hayward, Micah Hyde, Jarrett Bush, Davon House, James Nixon, Jumel Rolle, Antonio Dennard.

Analysis: This is among the Packers' deepest positions thanks to the return of Shields, who signed a four-year, $39 million contract, and Hayward, who is expected to be healthy after a hamstring injury limited him to just three games last season. Williams closed the season playing perhaps as well as he did during the Super Bowl season of 2010, which is why they kept him despite a $7.5 million salary. Bush had his best season in coverage last year, while House was a disappointment. Nixon's speed makes him an intriguing prospect. Rolle was promoted from the practice squad late last season, while Dennard joined the practice squad late last season.

Injury report: Short-handed on defense

November, 22, 2013
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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- It's probably not the best week for the Green Bay Packers to be without one of their top run stoppers.

But if they're going to be short on cornerbacks, this isn't a bad time for that.

Shields
Jolly
Jolly
They will likely be without defensive tackle Johnny Jolly, whose groin injury has him listed as doubtful for Sunday's game against the Minnesota Vikings. Jolly has been one of the key components to the Packers' run defense, which for most of the season was ranked in the top 10 but slipped outside the last two weeks.

It could be a key loss considering the Packers expect to face running back Adrian Peterson even though he was listed as questionable with a groin injury of his own.

"I think we have a good depth situation on our defensive line," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. "With Johnny being doubtful, those other guys are going to have to step up. This is a week when Adrian Peterson is carrying the football that you have to step up and play well up front. Be solid in your gap control, be disciplined. He has a different style of running to where he's going to hit into the line. You think you have him stopped at the point of the attack, but he stutters his feet and he's looking for a horizontal seam to come out on."

They also appear likely to be without starting cornerback Sam Shields, who was listed as questionable with a hamstring injury. Shields was a last-minute scratch last Sunday against the New York Giants and did not practice all week.

"It's been up and down; we'll see how it goes," Packers coach McCarthy said of Shields. "We've got 48 hours. We'll give Sam a chance to get ready."

He was one of four cornerbacks to miss practice Friday. Two others -- Casey Hayward (hamstring) and James Nixon (knee) -- have been ruled out, while Micah Hyde (groin) was listed as probable.

"I feel pretty confident he's going to go," McCarthy said of Hyde. "It's just something that's been bothering him throughout the week. We're just being smart."

If all four injured cornerbacks can't play, then the Packers will have to do some shuffling in their sub packages. Jarrett Bush, who played in the dime (six defensive backs) package last week, likely would play for Hyde in the nickel (five defensive backs). Meanwhile, Jerron McMillian, who has played only five snaps on defense since Week 6, likely would move back into the dime spot.

McMillian has been relegated to special teams duties after struggling during extensive playing time the first five games of the season.

However, given that the Vikings' passing game isn't proficient -- they rank 25th in passing yards per game -- the Packers might not have to use their dime package much, if at all.

Here's the full injury report:

Out -- T Don Barclay (knee), CB Casey Hayward (hamstring), CB James Nixon (knee), LB Nick Perry (foot/ankle), QB Aaron Rodgers (collarbone).

Doubtful -- DT Johnny Jolly (groin, did not practice).

Questionable – CB Sam Shields (hamstring, did not practice).

Probable – C Evan Dietrich-Smith (knee, limited participant in practice), CB Micah Hyde (groin, did not practice), LB Clay Matthews (thumb, full participant), LB Andy Mulumba (ankle, full participant), LB Mike Neal (abdomen, limited participant), DT Ryan Pickett (knee, limited participant).
GREEN BAY, Wis. – A whopping 12 players were listed on the Green Bay Packers’ Wednesday injury report, among them five starters who may be in danger of not playing on Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers (collarbone), right tackle Don Barclay (knee), defensive tackle Johnny Jolly (groin), linebacker Nick Perry (foot/ankle) and cornerback Sam Shields (hamstring) all missed practice.

“We actually had a good practice, but the list is too long,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “That’s kind of where we are. Your report usually gets a little longer this time of year.”

McCarthy said both Barclay and Shields were part of the rehabilitation group on Wednesday. Of the five missing starters, they appear to have the best chances of playing against the Vikings.

Here’s the full injury report:
  • T Don Barclay (knee, did not practice)
  • C Evan Dietrich-Smith (knee, limited participation)
  • CB Casey Hayward (hamstring, did not practice)
  • DT Johnny Jolly (groin, did not practice)
  • LB Clay Matthews (thumb, full participation)
  • LB Andy Mulumba (ankle, limited participation)
  • LB Mike Neal (abdomen, limited participation)
  • CB James Nixon (knee, did not practice)
  • LB Nick Perry (foot/ankle, did not practice)
  • DT Ryan Pickett (knee, limited participation)
  • QB Aaron Rodgers (collarbone, did not practice)
  • CB Sam Shields (hamstring, did not practice)

Packers inactives: Both Joneses return

November, 4, 2013
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – At least Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will have one more of his injured offensive playmakers back on the field.

For the first time since he sprained his left knee against the Baltimore Ravens on Oct. 13, receiver James Jones will suit up.

Jones was a limited participant in practice all last week and was listed as questionable on the injury report.

It gives Rodgers two of his top three receivers with Jones and Jordy Nelson. Randall Cobb, who also was injured against the Ravens, will be out until at least Dec. 15 because he is on the injured reserve-designated to return list with a fractured fibula.

Linebacker Brad Jones also will play for the first time since he pulled a hamstring on Oct. 6 against the Detroit Lions.

Here’s the Packers' full list of inactive players:
MINNEAPOLIS -- As expected, Green Bay Packers receiver James Jones will miss his second straight game.

Jones said earlier in the week that he might be able to play if it were the Super Bowl.

Jones was listed as doubtful for Sunday night’s game against the Minnesota Vikings. He has not practiced since he sustained a sprained left knee on Oct. 13 against the Baltimore Ravens -- the same game in which receiver Randall Cobb sustained a fractured fibula that landed him on the injured reserve/designated to return.

Jarrett Boykin, who had eight catches for 103 yards and a touchdown last Sunday against the Cleveland Browns, will make his second career start.

The Packers will have four receivers available -- Boykin, Jordy Nelson, Myles White and Chris Harper.

Linebacker Nick Perry, who returned to practice on Friday, and was listed as questionable also will not play. Perry’s return to practice was a surprise.

Tight end Andrew Quarless will start in place of Jermichael Finley (neck).

Here’s the full inactive list:

Taking the blame for Vince Young

September, 1, 2013
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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).

Green Bay Packers cut-down analysis

August, 31, 2013
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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
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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, ESPNMilwaukee.com 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.
Although he was not one of the pregame scratches, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will not play in Thursday’s preseason finale at Kansas City, the team announced shortly before kickoff.

The team also announced shortly before kickoff that linebacker Clay Matthews and tight end Jermichael Finley wouldn't play.

None of those three moves was believed to be injury-related.

That means Rodgers’ preseason action will have consisted of just five series and 45 snaps.

The Packers will get a long look at backup quarterback Vince Young, who was elevated to the No. 2 spot after Graham Harrell was released last Saturday.

The following players were ruled out before the game:
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers needed some good news in their secondary, and it came on Monday in the form of cornerback Tramon Williams’ return to practice after missing nearly a month because of a knee injury.

For the first time since July 30, the fourth practice of training camp, Williams was back in action, clearing the way for him to be ready for the Sept. 8 regular-season opener at San Francisco.

It was not a full-pads practice, so Williams couldn’t put his knee through a complete test. But he took part in most of the practice drills and even took a few reps as a punt returner. Williams described his injury as a bone bruise, and he wore a protective wrap on his knee.

“Coaches limited my reps, obviously, but it felt good for the most part, moving around against different guys,” Williams said. “I wondered how that would feel. It held up.”

With only one more practice remaining before Thursday’s preseason finale at Kansas City, it looks like Williams won’t get any exhibition snaps before the opener.

“I still don’t want to go out and say that I will be there Week 1,” Williams said. “But for me to be out there now, I think it’s definitely a possibility.”

Even with Williams back, the Packers were still missing two key players in the secondary -- safety Morgan Burnett and cornerback Casey Hayward. Both sustained hamstring injuries on Friday against Seattle and have been ruled out against the Chiefs.

In other developments on Monday:
  • Tight end Brandon Bostick saw his role increase on special teams. He was on the No. 1 punt return, the No. 1 kickoff return and No. 1 punt coverage units. If a player is on several of the top special teams units, it can be a sign he’s in good shape to make the roster. However, on the final play of practice, Bostick dropped a touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers. It came on the same day in which ESPN’s Ed Werder reported the Packers are fielding trade calls about their tight ends, including Bostick.
  • Rookie linebacker Nate Palmer made one of his best plays of training camp, when he broke up a deep pass to tight end Jermichael Finley. Palmer, a sixth-round pick from Illinois State who is on the bubble to make the roster, had good coverage on Finley’s seam route and knocked the ball away.
  • Vince Young threw a pair of interceptions, one by safety M.D. Jennings and one by cornerback Micah Hyde.
  • Receiver Tyrone Walker had perhaps the catch of the day on a back-shoulder fade from Rodgers.
  • Heavy rain forced the Packers indoors for the first time during training camp.
Medical report: Rookie receiver Kevin Dorsey was back on the sidelines because of a toe injury. Dorsey missed 10 practices and two preseason games earlier this summer because of a leg injury.

Linebacker Dezman Moses dropped out of practice halfway through because of a toe injury.

The Packers were still waiting for the results of more tests on running back DuJuan Harris’ knee injury.

Linebacker Brad Jones (hamstring) was added to the list of players who would not play against the Chiefs.

A total of 12 players did not suit up for practice. They were CB Jarrett Bush (ankle), CB James Nixon (ankle, knee), S Sean Richardson (neck), LB Jarvis Reed (ankle), OL J.C. Tretter (ankle), T Bryan Bulaga (knee), T Derek Sherrod (leg), DE Jerel Worthy (knee) Hayward, Harris, Burnett and Jones.

What’s next: The final practice of training camp is Tuesday at 11 a.m. local time.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Rookie first-round draft pick Datone Jones, who has played one snap so far this preseason, is suited up for the Green Bay Packers for tonight’s preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks. But it remains to be seen whether or not he will play.

Jones, who sprained his left ankle on his first snap of the preseason opener against the Arizona Cardinals on Aug. 9, returned to practice Monday but then dropped out on Wednesday after he aggravated the ankle injury. It’s possible the defensive end was only suited up to go through warm-ups and won’t play. But the fact that he wasn’t an automatic scratch may be an indication that the injury isn’t severe.

The same goes for outside linebacker Andy Mulumba, who missed Wednesday’s practice because of a knee injury. The rookie was not on the list of scratches.

Here’s the list of players who won’t suit up for the Packers:
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- As impactful as cornerback Casey Hayward was last season, it’s easy to forget he was only a rookie.

Therefore, the Green Bay Packers still consider him a developing player who needs all the practice time he can get. That’s why his return to practice on Monday, after missing the first three-plus weeks of training camp because of a hamstring injury, should be viewed as a better-late-than-never scenario.

It will give Hayward six practices plus two preseason games (if he plays on Friday against the Seattle Seahawks) to try to get back to his 2012 form, when he led all NFL rookies with six interceptions and finished third in the voting for defensive rookie of the year.

[+] EnlargeCasey Hayward
AP Photo/Kevin TerrellCasey Hayward had six interceptions as a rookie with the Packers last season.
In limited action on Monday, Hayward went through the individual drills and took some team snaps, although none of it was with the defensive starters.

“It’s definitely important,” Hayward said of getting some practice time in before the regular season. “I’m glad I could get back out there this week. It’s been a whole month.”

Hayward pulled a hamstring while working out in Atlanta shortly before he returned for training camp. Had it not been for the injury, Hayward might have been in a position to expand his role from last season, when he played primarily as the third (slot) cornerback in the nickel package. Hayward likely would have received snaps at one of the outside cornerback positions, especially considering starter Tramon Williams has missed most of camp because of a knee injury.

Instead, it might be unrealistic to expect Hayward’s role to expand, at least not early in the season. On Monday, rookie Micah Hyde continued to work at Williams’ spot in the base. Sam Shields appears to be entrenched at the other starting cornerback spot. Hayward teamed with Davon House as the cornerbacks with the second-string defense, while House joined Hyde and Shields with the No. 1 nickel unit.

With Hyde’s impressive play -- he had another interception on Monday on a pass that went off the hands of receiver Justin Wilson -- the Packers have a crowded secondary.

In other developments from Monday’s practice:

  • Mason Crosby was the outright winner in a kicking period for the first time all camp. He went 9-for-10, while challenger Giorgio Tavecchio went 8-for-10. Both missed wide right from 50 yards, but Tavecchio also missed wide right from 41 yards. Tavecchio still holds the practice/scrimmage edge by hitting 45-of-51 field goals to Crosby’s 41-of-51, but Crosby made all three of his kicks in preseason game action while Tavecchio is 1-for-2. The Packers plan to continue the kicking competition for at least another week.
  • Defensive tackle Johnny Jolly, who on Saturday against the Rams tipped a pass that resulted in an interception and then intercepted a pass that was tipped by a teammate, got his hands on two more balls in practice. He batted down two passes at the line of scrimmage.
  • After his fumble against the Rams, James Starks went last in the rotation of running backs behind DuJuan Harris, Eddie Lacy, Johnathan Franklin and Alex Green.
  • Hyde, who had a 13-yard punt return against the Rams, got increased work as a returner.
  • M.D. Jennings and Jerron McMillian continued their rotation at strong safety. Jennings worked with the starters, but McMillian started against the Rams.
Medical report: First-round draft pick Datone Jones returned to practice after missing all of last week because of the left ankle sprain he sustained on his first (and only) snap in the preseason opener against Arizona.

The defensive end has a history of foot problems. He missed all of the 2010 season at UCLA because of broken right foot, but he knew right away that his most recent injury wasn’t anywhere near as serious.

“The biggest thing is just getting healthy, making sure I’m OK to play,” Jones said. “We still have a long season.”

Tight end Andrew Quarless returned from the quadriceps injury that had kept him out since Aug. 2.

The only new injuries were to cornerback James Nixon (knee/ankle) and tight end Matthew Mulligan (elbow). Both were hurt against the Rams.

Others who did not practice were WR Charles Johnson (knee), WR Randall Cobb (biceps), S Sean Richardson (neck), CB Tramon Williams (knee), OL J.C. Tretter (ankle), T Bryan Bulaga (knee), T Derek Sherrod (leg), WR Jordy Nelson (knee) and DE Jerel Worthy (knee).
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- When you have a kicker who converted an NFL-worst 63.6 percent of his field goals and had a slump during which he missed 12 of 14 attempts -- and for the first time in six years you have two kickers in camp -- every training camp kick will be scrutinized.

Through three days of practice, we’ve seen exactly one live kicking session. But it was enough to add to the intrigue of the Packers’ competition between incumbent Mason Crosby and young challenger Giorgio Tavecchio.

Here’s what we’ve learned about the Packers’ special teams so far:

Crosby vs. Tavecchio: If the first live field goal period was any indication, this could be a hotly contested race. Crosby appeared to pull himself out of his slump late last season by making his final six field goals (including playoffs). During the six-kick session over the weekend, he missed a pair of kicks (from 50 and 53 yards). Tavecchio missed just once, from 53 yards. Both also made 53-yarders. In reality, Crosby is competing against himself. If his percentage doesn’t improve, the Packers may decide to move on, whether Tavecchio or someone else is the answer. Whatever fundamental tweaks special-teams coach Shawn Slocum made to Crosby’s technique at this point have taken a backseat to Crosby’s mental approach. “As you come into camp, you want to find that [mental] picture, that thing where you get into that rhythm when you’re just swinging free and hitting the ball to the line you want,” Crosby said.

Returner rotation: Considering how much receiver Randall Cobb will be involved in the offense following the departure of Greg Jennings in free agency, the Packers would like to find someone else to return kicks. But they’re not willing to do so at the expense of special-teams production. That’s why Cobb, who has three career special-teams touchdowns in two NFL seasons, continues to take reps in the return game. But he’s not always getting the first rep, which can typically be used to figure out who tops the depth chart. During Sunday’s kickoff return period, backup receiver Jeremy Ross got the first rep. Cobb went second. Slocum also used starting cornerback Sam Shields, backup cornerbacks James Nixon and Loyce Means and rookie running back Johnathan Franklin. Ross is the most likely challenger, but he has to prove his costly muffed punt in the playoff loss at San Francisco was a fluke. Franklin is an intriguing candidate. He didn’t return kicks in games at UCLA but said he often did so in practice.

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