In addition to the fake punt and the Darren Sproles non-fumble (recapped here), Sunday’s game against the Saints featured a lot of unusual activity on special teams.
Three holding penalties were called on place-kicks, two on extra points and a huge one on the Saints’ final field goal try. Special Teams Coordinator Shawn Slocum said he had never seen that before. The Packers had one of those holds, plus two other penalties on an earlier field goal – too many men on the field and a personal foul on B.J. Raji.
Slocum said the 12-men penalty was due to a lack of communication when the Saints first appeared they might go for it and then sent out their kicker late. The personal foul on Raji, who threw a punch at a Saints blocker he thought was going for his knees, gave the Saints a fresh set of downs but could have been worse.
“He’s fortunate he didn’t get thrown out of the game,” Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. “It’s competitive, they’re in there fighting, and sometimes it gets to you, and it’s your responsibility, and it’s also the responsibility of your teammates. But you have to watch that stuff, because to lose B.J. Raji at that point in the game would have compromised our defense.”
Tags: b.j. raji, fake punt, Shawn Slocum, special teams
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Forgotten amidst his breakout season as a receiver in 2011 was the fact that Jordy Nelson remained a regular on special teams, particularly on the kickoff-return unit as a blocker. He has resumed that role in camp, though Mike McCarthy said how much Nelson plays on special teams this year will depend on how the rest of the roster takes shape. Despite 1,263 receiving yards and 15 TDs last year, Nelson isn’t being removed from special teams, but McCarthy doesn’t plan to overwork him, either.
“Philosophically, I believe in starters should or could play special teams,” said McCarthy, who used starting cornerback Tramon Williams as his primary punt returner throughout the Super Bowl season of 2010. “I don’t think there’s an absolute as far as starters play or don’t play. I don’t believe in that theory.”
In addition, WR James Jones could be seen on Friday on the punt-return unit, not with the ball in his hands but either rushing the punter or blocking the gunners on the outside.
“He’s doing some really good things,” McCarthy said. “He definitely has the ability to be a dominant-type special teams player because he is so physical and gifted, and he also can run and play the top-notch gunners.”
There already has been much speculation about how many receivers the Packers will keep on the roster. Practice-squad holdovers Tori Gurley and Diondre Borel are sixth and seventh options at the position at the moment, and McCarthy indicated special teams contributions will play into those final decisions.
Other news & notes from Friday’s practice:
–On the sideline in the Don Hutson Center was a new clock, which was set at 2.5 seconds and would start at the snap of the ball on a passing play. If the clock hit zero before the QB released the ball, the clock’s twirling green and red lights would flash. The clock serves as a reminder of the “internal clock” needed on any passing play, for the QB, receivers and defenders. QBs must release the ball or get out of the pocket, while receivers and defenders have to know when the play transitions to a scramble drill, when their responsibilities and adjustments can change. McCarthy said 2.4 to 2.5 seconds is the range on most pass plays.
–With Derek Sherrod (leg) out, Herb Taylor and rookie Andrew Datko have been the offensive tackles with the No. 2 offensive line. On Thursday, Datko was at LT and Taylor was at RT with the second unit. On Friday, they switched spots.
–Dom Capers often likes to work his outside linebackers in pairs. Clay Matthews and Nick Perry form the top pair, of course. The other pairings are undrafted rookie Dezman Moses with Erik Walden and Brad Jones with Vic So’oto.
–The biggest collision of the first two days of non-padded practices occurred when QB Graham Harrell scrambled to his right and fired along the sideline to TE Ryan Taylor. Several players were converging on the area, and as Taylor made the catch, WR Shaky Smithson and CB Casey Hayward collided heads and went down. Both got up and appeared OK.
–Hayward made his first “splash” play of camp, picking off a Harrell pass intended for Borel during a no-huddle period.
–The play of the day was turned in by Cobb, who went deep against Williams as QB Aaron Rodgers ran his patented play-action fake with a deep dropback. Cobb ran underneath the Rodgers rainbow and made an over-the-shoulder, sliding catch with Williams right on him all the way.
–WR Greg Jennings was looking in midseason form, too. Twice in practice Rodgers lobbed one up for Jennings on a go route and the smooth, seasoned pro came down with it both times. On the first, he beat CB Davon House with a diving catch. On the second, the throw came right over CB Charles Woodson’s shoulder and into Jennings’ arms.
Tags: aaron rodgers, greg jennings, james jones, jordy nelson, randall cobb, special teams
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