For the rundown on QB Aaron Rodgers’ chat with reporters at his locker, in which he talked about his lighter workload and the “vibe” of the team, check out today’s feature story. Here are some more news & notes from Wednesday:
–Neal flashes in new role: He missed time early in camp due to an abdominal injury and sat out the first preseason game, but DE Mike Neal is starting to look more comfortable in his new hybrid lineman-outside linebacker role.
On Wednesday, Neal was showing up in a number of drills, including the OLB-RB blitz pick-up and the one-on-one pass rush, where he worked from both inside and outside. He also stuffed one running play in team (11-on-11) work and was a factor at the line of scrimmage on a number of other snaps.
“Today was probably the first time we felt what we hope he’s about — his ability to be a difference-maker, the ability to put him in one-on-one situations and for him to win and to win consistently,” Mike McCarthy said. “I think Mike had his best practice today of training camp.”
Neal is taking a liking to the hybrid role now that he’s had more time to absorb the responsibilities of the OLB position, a process that began in OTAs. The next step will be to carry the kind of impact he had on the practice field on Wednesday into the preseason game in St. Louis on Saturday, which he said he’s definitely looking forward to.
“I think it best suits me. Just using my athleticism is probably the biggest thing,” Neal said. “The learning part of it is what they wanted me to (accomplish) so I can put myself in those positions.”
–Young to get more plays: McCarthy said he’s seen a lot of progress in QB Vince Young now that he’s been in camp for a week, and he plans to get Young more snaps with a larger play selection in Saturday’s game.
Young took a number of snaps in the team drills on Wednesday and appeared to be getting the ball out of his hand faster on pass plays, an indication he’s understanding the scheme more and more.
“It’s important for Vince to be able to call it, see it in his mind and be able to execute,” Rodgers said. “Seven days after he’s been here he’s definitely improved with the verbiage and he’s making some plays.”
–Injury update: WR Randall Cobb (bicep) and RB James Starks (illness) sat out practice, while G T.J. Lang (back) returned and TE Ryan Taylor (knee) was back on the field for the first time since the Family Night scrimmage. DE Ryan Pickett also returned after missing a day for personal reasons.
RBs Eddie Lacy and DuJuan Harris were cleared for more contact, with Lacy doing more in the team drills than Harris did. Lacy didn’t appear to have any issues with his hamstring, but he stopped short of saying he would for sure have clearance to play on Saturday in St. Louis. Both Lacy and Harris missed the first preseason game last week.
“Most likely they’re going to make the decision, but you have to look at the bigger picture,” Lacy said. “Preseason is a time for you to go out there and showcase what you can do and get a taste of how it is, how it’s going to be when the season gets here. But if you’re not 100 percent or don’t feel you can go, then don’t risk it.”
–Plays of the day: Two of the rookie stars thus far in camp have been undrafted WR Tyrone Walker and fifth-round CB Micah Hyde, and the pair made two of the highlight plays in practice again on Wednesday.
Walker made a nifty tip-toe catch right at the front pylon of the end zone on a throw from QB Graham Harrell after Harrell scrambled to his left to buy extra time.
Then, moments later, Hyde was in coverage on a fade to the corner of the end zone to WR Myles White. With his back to the ball, Hyde turned his head at just the right time to see it and deflect it. As he fell to the turf, the ball then hung on Hyde’s hip and he was able to tip it back to himself, make the interception and get up to run.
The grab looked similar to Antonio Freeman’s “Monday Night Miracle” against the Vikings in 2000, only it was a great defensive play rather than an offensive one.
“I knew it didn’t hit the ground,” Hyde said. “Luckily I was able to tip it back into my hands.”
Tags: aaron rodgers, dujuan harris, eddie lacy, graham harrell, micah hyde, mike mccarthy, mike neal, tyrone walker, vince young
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–Bostick showing up: With injuries at tight end to Andrew Quarless (quad) and now Ryan Taylor (knee), practice-squad holdover Brandon Bostick is starting to show up more on the practice field.
In the scrimmage on Saturday night, Bostick made a tough catch in traffic over the middle. Then on Tuesday, he caught two TD passes during red-zone work. The first was on a quick flip from QB Aaron Rodgers over the middle that appeared to be an audible at the line. The second was on a crossing route thrown by QB Graham Harrell. Bostick caught it right in front of CB Jarrett Bush and absorbed a hit from S Chris Banjo at the goal line.
He nearly turned a good day into a great day, but he couldn’t haul in another potential TD pass from Rodgers on a difficult catch at the goal line with Bush in tight coverage.
“That would have topped off the day,” Bostick said. “It was a tough catch. I should have made that play. It was good coverage and Aaron threw a great ball. I should have made that play.”
Bostick said the key for him is being able to play faster and not think as much, now that he’s had a full year to make the transition from Division II college receiver and learn Green Bay’s offense. He says his position coach, Jerry Fontenot, is always reminding him to “play fast.”
Bostick also continues to work on his blocking, and on one play he handled Nick Perry’s outside rush OK, though he wasn’t totally satisfied.
“I held my own, but you always want to get that push,” he said. “You always want to be on the other side of the line of scrimmage.”
That’s a tough task for anyone against Perry, but Bostick is quietly improving this camp. Now he has to keep showing growth when the preseason games start on Friday.
–Injury update: Head Coach Mike McCarthy said Taylor would be “week to week” but he didn’t think he’d be out long. WR Jordy Nelson had a procedure done on his knee and is out for the remainder of the preseason, at least.
RB Alex Green (knee) and DE Datone Jones (illness) also missed practice, while WR Randall Cobb (bicep) and DL Johnny Jolly (cramps) left the workout early.
LB Dezman Moses and S David Fulton both returned to practice after missing Saturday’s scrimmage.
–Harrell follows up: After a solid showing in the scrimmage, backup QB Graham Harrell was productive again on Tuesday. In the red-zone work, in addition to the TD to Bostick, he also hit WR Myles White on both a slant and a quick out for TDs with pinpoint throws. Later, he connected with WR Alex Gillett in the back of the end zone for another score.
QB B.J. Coleman hasn’t been able to close the gap on Harrell, and Coleman didn’t help himself by overthrowing a wide open TE Jake Stoneburner at the goal line off a play-action bootleg. Young’s arrival as a fourth QB is only going to put more pressure on Coleman, but McCarthy said he’s “not giving up on B.J. Coleman.”
–Boykin steady: At the start of camp, WR Jarrett Boykin was considered the front-runner for the No. 4 receiver spot, and he’s done nothing to lose his hold on it. On Tuesday, he made an impressive sliding catch on a deep ball in a one-on-one drill against CB Brandon Smith, and then in the no-huddle period to close practice, he made two nice catches on throws from Rodgers, the first a back-shoulder ball along the sideline, and the second a slant on which Boykin took a big hit from S Jerron McMillian but secured the catch.
Tags: aaron rodgers, b.j. coleman, brandon bostick, datone jones, graham harrell, jarrett boykin, johnny jolly, jordy nelson, mike mccarthy, randall cobb
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For the first time in a practice open to the media on Tuesday, kickers Mason Crosby and Giorgio Tavecchio competed head-to-head with dueling field goals.
Both kickers went 3-for-3, hitting from 38, 43 and 50 yards, all with plenty to spare. Leg strength has never been an issue with Crosby, and it doesn’t appear to be with Tavecchio either.
Later in practice, the offense went against the defense in a 7-on-7, two-minute drill. With the first units on the field, QB Aaron Rodgers hit WR James Jones down the seam inside the 5-yard line and then capped it off with a TD pass to WR Randall Cobb on a quick in route.
Then with the twos, QB Graham Harrell twice hit undrafted rookie WR Myles White to convert fourth downs and keep the drive alive. The second came moments after CB Loyce Means nearly got an interception to win the drill for the defense. Harrell then finished the drive with a TD pass to TE Brandon Bostick, who made a nice diving catch at the pylon.
Tags: aaron rodgers, graham harrell, james jones, minicamp, randall cobb
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Graham Harrell locked up the backup QB job with a stellar outing on Thursday against Kansas City (13 of 15, 223 yards, 2 TDs, 158.3 rating), and GM Ted Thompson said on Saturday what stood out about his performance was the plays he made with his feet.
“You could see his ability to ad-lib a little bit, which is a huge thing playing quarterback in the NFL,” Thompson said. “Obviously some guys made some plays for him down the field, and I thought we protected pretty decent. It was a good showing.
“He never lost his confidence during this whole time. I know he’s been sort of the focal point, but Graham has a sometimes quiet, sometimes not-so-quiet confidence in himself to play the position, and our coaches have been behind him the whole way.”
One of the close calls in the roster cutdown that Thompson mentioned was the sixth and final spot on the defensive line. It went to Phillip Merling, a 6-5, 315-pound end who was a former second-round draft pick of the Dolphins, over Daniel Muir, a 6-2, 322-pound nose tackle who had made the Packers’ roster as an undrafted rookie back in 2007 before playing four seasons in Indianapolis.
“In the case of Daniel Muir, very difficult. Very passionate young man,” Thompson said. “But the NFL is like a wheel, it goes round and round, you never know when someone might be back.
“In the case of Phillip, we thought he played very well. We thought especially he gave us a little inside push in that last game, (plus the) body type, a little bit longer and taller.”
That decision was one of many difficult ones, Thompson said. Without naming the player, he told the story of one player who was released on Friday who told Thompson what a thrill it was to simply play a preseason game in front of the Lambeau Field crowd.
“I patted him on the back and said, ‘How did it go last night?’, talking about the game, and he said it was the greatest time, it was the most fun he’s ever had in his entire life to be able to play at Lambeau Field. I think sometimes we’re so conscious about trying to win and compete on such a major level as the NFL, we forget it’s guys playing the game, and I thought that was pretty cool.”
There’s been nothing fun about these last couple of days for Thompson, though, who has often said that roster cutdown days are the worst days of his job.
“We had a fairly strong 90-man roster I felt,” he said. “These guys competed and played hard, and eventually you have to cut down. It’s just awful, the experience of going through that.
“You say a little prayer and hope you have the wisdom to make the right decision. Tough times.”
For the main story from Thompson’s Saturday press conference, click here.
Tags: graham harrell, roster, ted thompson
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The Packers concluded their preseason with a 24-3 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs that left the Packers at 2-2 and their fans feeling a whole lot better about backup quarterback Graham Harrell.
Harrell rebounded from a slow start to the preseason by completing 13 of 15 passes for 223 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He relieved Aaron Rodgers with the Chiefs leading, 3-0.
Rodgers and the Packers No. 1 offense played briefly, as Rodgers threw only two passes, completing one for five yards. Cedric Benson was the Packers starting running back and he rushed four times for 11 yards.
It was the Packers No. 2 offense that turned the game into the home team’s favor. Harrell teamed with second-year wide receiver Tori Gurley on a deep pass to the one-yard line, and Alex Green scored on a two-yard run.
Later in the second quarter, Green scored on a perfectly executed screen play that covered 17 yards and gave the Packers a 14-3 lead at halftime.
A 12-yard Harrell to Jarrett Boykin touchdown pass in the third quarter gave the Packers a comfortable 21-3 lead and capped Harrell’s night. He celebrated his performance with a fist pump following the touchdown pass to Boykin. It was a gesture that released a lot of frustration that had built up through the first three preseason games.
Several players considered to be on the roster bubble played well for the Packers, which will further complicate General Manager Ted Thompson’s decisions on Friday, when Thompson must reduce the roster from 75 to 53.
The rookie Boykin led the Packers with five receptions, but Gurley and Diondre Borel, holdovers from last year’s practice squad, each caught two passes and made moves on earning a roster spot.
Defensively, the Packers allowed more than 200 yards rushing, but they made two goal-line stands, one resulting in a Sam Shields interception, and pressured Chiefs quarterbacks. Erik Walden capped a great preseason with a sack.
Tags: graham harrell, kansas city chiefs, preseason
Posted in Packers.com Blog | 14 Comments »
In his weekly training camp briefing with reporters on Tuesday, Packers GM Ted Thompson was asked what he’d like to see from Graham Harrell in the third preseason game, and Thompson acknowledged that a backup QB doesn’t have it easy in the preseason.
“Just continued improvement,” Thompson said. “There’s been a lot of criticism. I think Mike mentioned he graded out much better than you might expect. It’s not always easy during the second half of a preseason game and the chaos is coming at you pretty good.
“He’s a very hard worker. He really likes playing the game of football. He knows the nuances of playing that position. We have faith in a lot of our guys.”
Thompson and the Packers must make the first mandated roster reduction of the preseason by Monday, trimming the roster from 90 to 75 players. The final roster cut, to 53 players, is after the fourth preseason game.
Thompson has spoken often in the past about how much he dislikes releasing players, particularly because he entered the league as an undrafted free agent and was always on edge at cutdown time. Thompson managed to survive and put together a 10-year career in the league, but he knows that’s the exception, particularly for undrafted players.
“Any sort of mandated cuts are always difficult, because you have people that are trying hard to make an impression, and sometimes it just doesn’t work out,” he said. “It’s a hard time.”
That said, Thompson added that he liked the offseason roster expansion from 80 to 90 players this year, even if it means more hard decisions down the road.
“I think it’s good to be able to put your hands on 10 more players in terms of developing,” he said. “You don’t get to have them a whole lot, but you can have them from draft time going forward. I think it’s helpful.”
Tags: graham harrell, roster cuts, ted thompson
Posted in Packers.com Blog, Training Camp | 55 Comments »
A day earlier, backup QB Graham Harrell didn’t get an opportunity with the second unit. On Tuesday, he did, and he succeeded as well.
Needing a touchdown with 1:54 on the clock and two timeouts, Harrell drove the offense 60 yards to paydirt. The big play was a 24-yard completion to TE D.J. Williams on a middle seam route that put the ball in the red zone. Three plays later, Harrell fired a back-shoulder throw to WR Tori Gurley, who was covered tightly by CB Sam Shields. Gurley made the adjustment on the ball, juggled it, and hauled it in as he was falling to the ground for a 10-yard TD with 34 seconds left.
Harrell first showed his cool in those pressure situations last summer in the third preseason game in Indianapolis. As the No. 3 QB, Harrell drove the Packers 73 yards for a TD and 2-point conversion that tied the game with 35 seconds left. He completed seven of nine throws on the drive and threw for the 2-pointer. Following a successful onside kick, he completed two more passes for 20 yards to set up the game-winning FG.
Other camp notes:
–The team practiced 2-point conversion plays for the first time in camp on Tuesday. Last season, the Packers attempted just one two-point play on offense, but had to defend six tries on defense. The Packers went 0-for-1 while their opponents went 4-for-6 in 2011.
–Wednesday will mark the final of six straight 8:15 a.m. practices. Beginning on Thursday, practices will be held either at 7 p.m. (with Friday’s Family Night scrimmage at 6:30 p.m.) or 3:30 p.m. for the next two weeks. Following the second preseason game, practices shift to late morning, beginning at either 11:15 a.m. or 11 a.m.
Tags: 2-minute drill, d.j. williams, graham harrell, tori gurley
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“Absolutely,” Saturday said after Monday’s practice. “That’s why I came here. When we sat down and I talked to Mike (McCarthy) … ‘What’s the goal?’ ‘To win a championship.’ It’s not to win a division, … it’s to win a championship. I’m not a spring chicken anymore. I’ve only got so many left.”
Entering his 14th season, Saturday went to two Super Bowls with the Colts, winning one. He’s now working with his second MVP quarterback in Aaron Rodgers after snapping to Peyton Manning in Indianapolis for roughly a decade.
“I tell them, those guys are awfully lucky to have me as a center,” Saturday said, tongue firmly planted in cheek. “No, I’m just kdding. It’s incredible. How blessed can you be, right? You go from MVP to MVP, and both guys are well-deserving.
“Aaron is an absolute stud. I’ve been impressed with his work ethic, I’ve been very impressed with his knowledge of the offense, and I’m excited to have a chance to win with him. Let’s go try to put another trophy on the shelf, man.”
The Packers brought Saturday to Green Bay to help them win, of course, but also to possibly help tutor a center of the future. The best candidate at the moment is Evan Dietrich-Smith, whom Saturday already has taken under his wing. Saturday said he’s been feeding Dietrich-Smith various “little tricks of the trade.”
“I keep telling him, you have to try all these things, and once you get them, they help you go a long way,” Saturday said. “They look really good in a game. When you practice them against the same guy every day, it may not look as good. But you get accustomed to doing them in the game and they’re going to make you a better player.
“He’s a great kid. The kid’s got a great future ahead of him and I’ve got a lot of respect for him.”
Elsewhere on offense, WR Tori Gurley continues to get opportunities to use his 6-4, 232-pound frame on jump balls. The QBs gave him repeated tries at an end-zone/corner-fade, and he came down with the first two. The first one was in a one-on-one drill against CB Casey Hayward, and after the catch, Rodgers encouraged Gurley to celebrate with the crowd. Call it a “Nitschke Leap” for Ray Nitschke Field, but the crowd was eating it up.
“I’m just having fun,” Gurley said. “I see how (Donald) Driver gets the crowd going, so I was like, you know what, I can do the same myself. Every time I catch a ball, I just wink at somebody and enjoy myself.
“I look forward to “Lambeau leaping” pretty soon.”
Gurley’s other jump-ball TD came over CB Otis Merrill in an 11-on-11 red-zone period. In a later red-zone team period, QB Graham Harrell tried to go up top to Gurley, but CB Davon House played the ball well and kept it from Gurley’s grasp.
“He plays his technique well and he uses his size,” Gurley said of House, who’s 6-1, 195. “He was able to make some plays. I got him and he got me. We’re just going to keep competing, and hopefully Family Night, I have the better showing.”
Tags: aaron rodgers, graham harrell, jeff saturday, jump ball, mvp, tori gurley
Posted in Packers.com Blog, Training Camp | 20 Comments »
Packers second-round draft pick Jerel Worthy attracted attention and criticism for a comment he made at Michigan State about needing to take plays off once in a while. Worthy took no plays off in Friday morning’s practice. The defensive lineman was the high-energy player of practice, which was forced indoors by rain.
Worthy chased after receivers following completions. His voice could be heard celebrating defensive stops and his motor never stopped. Worthy was all over the field and finished a couple of plays on the turf in a tangle of players he created.
Most notably, it appears Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers might have had his two-down lineman nickel defense in mind when Worthy was selected with the 51st overall pick of the 2012 draft. Worthy and B.J. Raji are the two down linemen in the Packers’ nickel defense, and it’s a role Worthy appears to relish. He was a chase tackle at Michigan State and he appears to be reveling in the space he has to operate in Capers’ nickel, which is clearly in Capers’ plans for this season.
Also in Friday’s practice:
…It’s becoming obvious the Packers have a creative role in mind for second-year wide receiver Randall Cobb.
…Backup quarterback Graham Harrell threw arguably the most impressive completion of the morning, a deep out to Cobb, who caught the ball and turned up field to pull away from rookie safety Jerron McMillian, whose coverage on the play was tight.
…Safety M.D. Jennings made an interception off a deflection.
…Quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ signature pass might be the back-shoulder throw, and he tossed a beauty of one to Jordy Nelson along the right sideline. Unfortunately, Nelson dropped the pass.
…Undrafted free agent linebacker Dezman Moses appears to be competing for more than a roster spot. He appears to be competing for playing time.
…First-year safety Anthony Levine broke impressively on a pass along the sideline and nearly made an interception.
Tags: aaron rodgers, anthony levine, b.j. raji, dezman moses, dom capers, graham harrell, jerel worthy, Jerron McMillian, jordy nelson, m.d. jennings, randall cobb
Posted in Packers.com Blog | 7 Comments »
Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy made these comments during his welcome-to-training-camp press conference on Wednesday:
- “I think everybody would be happy with 15-1 in the regular season, but I think everybody knows the postseason is what counts.”
- “The (preseason) games are very important for Graham (Harrell). He has very good command of the offense. He needs to play. He needs the live reps. I want to see him play tough in the pocket, transition and make plays.”
- “It’s clearly a different defense and it’s going to be a different offense, too, frankly.”
- “These young guys have added a lot of energy. It’ll be exciting to see them in pads,” McCarthy said of the team’s draft picks, the first six of which are defensive players.
Tags: graham harrell, mike mccarthy, training camp
Posted in Packers.com Blog, Training Camp | 5 Comments »