Game notes: Johnny Jolly almost gets sack

Posted by Mike Spofford on August 10, 2013 – 1:06 am

The Packers came close multiple times to getting sacks in Friday night’s 17-0 preseason loss to Arizona, but the most notable near-miss may have come from DE Johnny Jolly.

DE Johnny Jolly

DE Johnny Jolly

Attempting a comeback after three years away from the game, Jolly found a lane through the middle and into the pocket, but he lost his footing as Cardinals QB Drew Stanton avoided him and completed a 17-yard pass on third-and-12.

“I should’ve had that play,” Jolly said. “I don’t know, man. It was just one of those plays, I should have had it. I missed out on it.”

Jolly, who has been on a rep count in practice, said he was prepared for 20-25 snaps and believes he got at least that many, though he didn’t know exactly. He admitted he’s not back to where he was when he last played in 2009, but he still believes he can get there.

“I can’t explain the feeling that it was, but it was an awesome feeling,” he said of being back on an NFL field. “It’s been three long years, and now I’m back here. I’m just going to continue to push.”

–New dimension?: Backup QB Vince Young moved the chains twice during his three series of work. First, he hit rookie WR Alex Gillett on a slant to convert a third down. Then he ran 7 yards on a bootleg right to set up third-and-2, and then converted that with a bootleg and scramble to his left for 5 more yards.

“It’s football,” Young said. “Whatever it takes to get a first down, I’m going to get it, whether it’s throwing or running. I feel like my guys did a good job getting me the edge.”

At age 30, Young doesn’t quite run like he used to, but the power and agility in his legs was certainly evident.

“I think ‘VY’ brings a lot to this offense. You don’t know what he’ll do,” said TE Jermichael Finley, who played one season in college with Young at Texas. “You don’t know if he’s going to pass it, you don’t know if he’s going to run it.”

–More production needed: The Packers weren’t shy about trying to run the ball on Friday, but the production wasn’t there. RBs James Starks, Johnathan Franklin, Alex Green and Angelo Pease combined for 26 carries but just 70 yards, a measly 2.7 yards per rush. Rookie second-round draft pick Eddie Lacy didn’t play due to a hamstring injury.

“We have to run the ball a little more effectively I think moving forward,” QB Aaron Rodgers said. “We had a lot of attempts tonight and not a lot to show for it. We need that balance moving into the season and we have to find it the next three weeks.”

Starks led the way with 12 carries for 38 yards, the only back to average at least 3 yards per attempt. In his pro debut, Franklin didn’t find much running room, finishing with 14 yards on six carries, though he did add 12 yards on two pass receptions.

“It was moving fast,” Franklin said of the speed of the game. “It was definitely different from college. But it’s just going to take more reps adjusting to it, and I think it will slow down a lot more. It definitely can be a lot going on.”

–Close but not quite: WR Jeremy Ross got two cracks at a kickoff return, and he was maybe one step away from breaking it on his second try.

Taking a kickoff 4 yards deep in the end zone, Ross got out near the 20 and made a cut to his left but was upended at the 21, a 25-yard runback. He appeared to have a lot of room to his left if he had been able to break that one tackle.

“I was close. I was really close,” Ross said. “If I wouldn’t have gotten tripped up on those blocks right there, I would have been up the sideline.”


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News & notes: TE Brandon Bostick coming on strong

Posted by Mike Spofford on August 6, 2013 – 2:54 pm

The latest on Bryan Bulaga’s knee injury can be found here, and more on rookie tackle David Bakhtiari and the introduction of QB Vince Young to Green Bay is right here. Regarding other news & notes …

–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.

TE Brandon Bostick

TE Brandon Bostick

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.


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News & notes: Morgan Burnett’s bigger presence

Posted by Mike Spofford on August 1, 2013 – 2:50 pm

For an update on the kicking competition and some sloppy moments during Thursday’s practice, check out today’s feature story. As for other news & notes:

–Bigger presence: Head Coach Mike McCarthy couldn’t be happier with the start to camp of veteran S Morgan Burnett. It’s a big year for Burnett, who signed a contract extension just before camp began as he became the elder statesmen at the safety position with the departure of Charles Woodson.

S Morgan Burnett

S Morgan Burnett

Burnett had an interception in Wednesday’s practice, and then on Thursday, he chased down a deep ball intended for Jarrett Boykin and knocked it out of Boykin’s hands just as it appeared the receiver was going to have a TD catch.

“It’s not just the upgrade in his play, it’s the upgrade in his exertion of leadership and command in the back end, which is critical in our defense,” McCarthy said. “This is the Morgan Burnett that we know, and I think it’s now just being expressed a little more openly to everybody else. He’s doing exactly what he needs to do.”

Woodson’s departure in some senses forced Burnett into a bigger leadership role, and he also said he feels more comfortable being vocal and forceful with his calls now that he’s in his fourth season.

“As a safety, I have to be loud and decisive with my checks and calls, be the quarterback of the back end, and make sure we get lined up and ready to play,” he said.

“There’s no pressure (with the new contract). It’s really an honor and a blessing to know your organization is standing behind you. It motivates you not to let them down.”

–Officials on campus: A crew of NFL officials was working Thursday’s practice, and they will be at practice both Friday night and for Saturday night’s scrimmage inside Lambeau Field.

The officials will also take part in some of the players’ meetings to go over rules, rule changes and answer questions. The players will also be given a full presentation of rule changes and points of emphasis on Friday (a presentation also will be made to the media on Friday, and packers.com will put the highlights of that here in the blog).

McCarthy welcomes the interaction the players and coaches have with the officials at this time of year, because it only adds to a regular daily meeting the players have during camp that focuses on a specific rule or rule change.

“At the end of the day, everybody wants the same thing,” McCarthy said. “They want to make the right calls, and we want to make sure we’re coaching our guys the right way, because you don’t want to be talking about this on Sundays.”

–Spirited play: CB Loyce Means, formerly of the CFL, got a chance on Thursday to work with the No. 1 nickel defense and appeared pretty fired up about it. Early in practice, he took WR Myles White to the ground in a mini-scuffle on a screen pass and then hopped up and got in on the tackle. Later, in a one-on-one drill, he knocked away a pass on a post route to White.

Means was then beaten for a TD on an inside-out move in the end zone by WR James Jones, but Means looked agitated after the play, suggesting he thought Jones got separation with an illegal shove.

–Tough customer: Evan Dietrich-Smith is a starter in training camp for the first time in his career, and he’s showing no interest in letting anyone challenge him. After one play on Thursday, Dietrich-Smith was moving very slowly and trying to stretch out his arm and/or shoulder as he walked back to the huddle, but as Don Barclay jogged in to replace him and give him a breather, Dietrich-Smith waved him off and took the next snap anyway.

–Great matchup: Two of the early stars of camp, DL Mike Daniels and OT David Bakhtiari — both fourth-round draft picks the last two years — squared off in the one-on-one pass rush/pass blocking drill, and by subjective measure it was probably a draw.

Daniels used his brute strength to push Bakhtiari well into the backfield, but Bakhtiari managed to keep himself between Daniels and the QB the whole time. Daniels then showed off his strength again in blasting undrafted rookie lineman Lane Taylor off the line before Daniels finally met his strength match in veteran G Josh Sitton, who successfully held his own.

The best block of the day may have been turned in by LT Bryan Bulaga. In the set-the-edge drill against the outside linebackers, Bulaga locked up rookie Andy Mulumba, who has made a good early impression, and then lifted and planted the undrafted free agent on his backside, almost like a wrestler.

–Not his best day: WR Randall Cobb was not at the top of his game with two glaring drops during the workout. On the first, in a one-on-one drill against CB Micah Hyde, Cobb cleanly beat Hyde with an inside-out move but then had the pass bounce right off his hands. Later, in team work, he was open on a go route but had the ball glance off his hands as S Jerron McMillian was closing fast.

“We need to catch the football better,” McCarthy said. “I’ve never been part of a perimeter group that accepts anything less than 100 percent. That’s what we’re striving for.”

–Injury update: S David Fulton (foot) returned to practice after sitting out on Wednesday, and DL Johnny Jolly (ankle) also returned after dropping out early the previous day.

“Johnny has always been a tough guy, always practiced hurt,” McCarthy said. “That was no surprise to anybody. That’s a part of what makes him a unique football player, and obviously with the opportunity he has, I’m sure he’s going to take full advantage of it.”

S Sean Richardson, who had neck surgery last year, still doesn’t have a determination on his future, but it could be coming soon. Richardson has remained as optimistic as possible, all things considered, but there is a chance he won’t get medical clearance to return to the field.

“All the opinions from the doctors now have to weigh in and a final decision needs to be made,” McCarthy said.


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Posted in Packers.com Blog, Training Camp