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5 Quick Takes From the First Day of Packers Training Camp

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5 Quick Takes From the First Day of Packers Training Camp

The Green Bay Packers officially opened up their 2012 training camp Thursday morning. While I wasn't in attendance at Ray Nitschke Field, several others I respect—including my own colleague Brian Carriveau—were live from Green Bay.

From what the information gathered Thursday, here are five quick takes from Day 1:

Creative Cobb

Matt Flynn wasn't Mason Crosby's primary holder—punter Tim Masthay has been—but Flynn's departure in free agency opened up the backup job. And wouldn't you know it, the Packers filled that hole—at least for one day in training camp—with receiver Randall Cobb. A former quarterback at Kentucky, Cobb has experience holding at the collegiate level, but I'm more interested in the big picture meaning of this move.

The Packers need to find creative ways of getting Cobb the football this season. He's too explosive a player with the ball in his hands to limit him any longer, and hopefully this move as the secondary holder is a sign the Packers are willing to do just that.

Spin that record, D.J.

With starter Desmond Bishop (calf, NFI list) out to start camp, second-year linebacker D.J. Smith got a chance to go with the No. 1 defense Thursday. Like we've come to expect, all Smith did was make plays. He intercepted a pass during seven-on-seven drills and later deflected an Aaron Rodgers pass that Charles Woodson gathered in. Rodgers later commented after practice about how smart Smith is on the football field.

His performance today begs the question, again: How much longer can the Packers coaching staff keep a playmaker like Smith on the sidelines?

Most at 1265 Lombardi will talk about how consistent A.J. Hawk is, and his contract (five years, $33.75 million) ensures he's going to get every chance at being the starter in 2012. But at some point—and we also have to keep in mind, this was just one practice—Smith is going to make it very difficult to continue plugging Hawk in alongside Bishop every Sunday. Every time Smith has been given a chance, he stands out.

Just one play

Maybe James Jones' catch along the sidelines Thursday was just one play. But his grab on a back shoulder throw from Rodgers—which many called the catch of the day—is one of the reasons why I opined that trading Jones away would be a mistake. For every scream-at-the-TV drop he has, Jones makes one play that reminds you exactly why he's still on the roster.

Keep in mind, this is a guy who has 155 catches for for 2,238 yards and 21 scores over the last four years—not half bad numbers for a receiver who might see the fourth most snaps this next season. And when push comes to shove, there simply isn't going to much in terms of compensation (if any), even if the Packers did try to deal him. He's much more valuable as a member of the Packers in 2012. Plus, Rodgers loves him.

Shedding the weight

According to Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Packers first-round pick Nick Perry has dropped nine pounds since the team's June minicamp. He's down from 275 pounds to a slim 264, but he's still thickly-built. Much of what he dropped was the weight he gained pre-draft, when Perry figured he'd be drafted to a club running a 4-3 defense.

The weight loss certainly doesn't mean Perry will make the transition to a 3-4 backer effortlessly, but it does show he's going to do everything asked of him to make it work. In the process of making such a difficult change, that's all you can ask for. Hopefully with the lost weight comes a more explosive player rushing the passer and a better athlete playing in space, two essentials for playing the position.

Secondary starters

I'd be remiss not to talk about the happenings in the secondary, even though they've surely been bit into the ground by now. Charles Woodson played his snaps in the base defense at safety, while Jarrett Bush took over as the No. 3 cornerback over Sam Shields. More telling about the Woodson-at-safety news is the fact that he joined in on the safety meetings Wednesday for the first time, which is more of a signal to me that he's going to be playing there much, much more this season.

Still, when the Packers are playing anything other than base—mostly the nickel and dime–Woodson slides back into his normal slot cornerback role. Second-year safety M.D. Jennings again took snaps as the No. 1 safety, and he has to be considered the heavy favorite to be one of the team's starting safety in nickel and dime packages.

But let's jump back to Bush, who jumped Shields on the depth chart to end last season and was given a new three-year deal this offseason. Can he hold the job? Bush has steadily improved, but keep in mind he's still a 28-year-old who has six years in the NFL under his belt. When does he hit his ceiling? And when do the other guys—like Shields, who the coaches obviously aren't handing anything to to start this season—eventually overtake him? In my mind, that reality is only a matter of time. If not Shields, Davon House could be plenty capable. While Bush starting now is telling, I'm not writing his name in as the No. 3 cornerback with permanent marker.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (18) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Tarynfor12's picture

"For every scream-at-the-TV drop he has, Jones makes one play that reminds you exactly why he’s still on the roster".

As the season progresses and for every catch that JJ makes...those same people that use to scream about wanting him traded,will be screaming in joy that TT didn't,wouldn't or couldn't let him go cheaply.

IowaPackFan's picture

Agreed. One of the most potent things about the Packers offense is that there seemingly is a never ending supply good receivers. A secondary can only keep up so long. Jones becomes dangerous in the 3rd and 4th quarters when the secondary starts losing their legs. We saw it last season vs. the Lions when Jones ran that crossing route and took it to the house. Not a complex route, but his legs were fresh and the Lions' secondary was barely holding on.

MarkinMadison's picture

That's the problem with JJ though - it was not like he was the only guy who could make that play. We've got lots of good receivers. I hope he loses his case of the dropsies, but I would REALLY like to see it on the field.

Jamie's picture

Didn't Jones already do that in 2011? Not that he was perfect, but much better than 2010 and one of the better drop rates of our WRs in 2011.

Rocky70's picture

Fans are always slow to catch on. Many are still blaming Popps for the poor OLB play of 2011.

PackersRS's picture

He did hit FA and there wasn't any better offer than what the Packers made. It wasn't like management did everything it could to keep him...

D B H's picture

Shields is the guy so many people want to see improve to "overtake" Bush, but I'm really hoping that House and/or Hayward pass by both Bush and Shields. I haven't heard much about #31 & #29 yet, but here's to hoping for something better than Bush '11 and Shields '11 in the secondary this year!

keeley2's picture

Where in the world is 1265 Lambeau?

Zach Kruse's picture

What are you talking about, Keeley? That always said 1265 Lombardi ;)

Thanks for the catch.

Cole's picture

DJ Smith was born to play. Put the man on the field!

FITZCORE1252's EVO's picture

Like.

nick perry's picture

Couldn't agree with you more. A line backing group of Perry, Smith, Bishop, and Matthews would be something to watch! Every team has a contract that they regret but have to deal with it. A.J. Hawk's contract is the Packers regret. Yes, I know he make's the calls and does a good job doing it. But he also makes the tackle after 7 yard gains. Oh, did I mention he's slow and can't cover? He is and he can't!

Nononsense's picture

Personally I don't want to trade James Jones because he isn't any good, I want to trade him so we don't have to cut good young players to keep him around.

If Gurley, Borel or even Moss for that matter prove they can play this preseason, than I believe Jones will get traded.

Tarynfor12's picture

If Gurley/Borel/Moss don't make this team it isn't because JJ wasn't traded..it's because they couldn't outplay a 38 year old named DD.

Rocky70's picture

JJ has caught 17 TD passes in the last 3 seasons.

Gurley, Borel & Moss won't catch that many combined in Madden 13. Time to get real.

BeddarCheddar's picture

I'm confused about all of the talk about Smith replacing Hawk. Didn't I read an article on this site this past Spring about how Hawk's position was fairly different from Bishop's? If that is the case, and Smith has only ever replaced Bishop in the line up, then we don't actually know how Smith would perform in Hawk's role. It could be that it is the role Smith has played that has allowed him to make all of those impact plays, and if he was playing Hawk's role, he'd play more like Hawk. The profootballfocus article comparing the two didn't take that into consideration either. I don't know much about it myself and am only basing this on the quotes from Moss and Smith himself...but they made it sound like it is like comparing apples and oranges.

FITZCORE1252's EVO's picture

Cobb:
The man is uber versatile. Him holding would open up all sorts of opportunities for fakes. I believe he could be CM3's counterpart, and record a record 30 sacks.

Smith:
He is just the epitome of a "football player". Instinctive, assignment sure... And awfully fun to watch. He's a little short. Who cares? The dude's a flat out baller and i doubt any fans feelings would be hurt if AJ were to take a backseat to him (yeah, yeah, they're different positions. Doesn't matter. Smith is a football player).

JJ:
I've been hard on him for his inexcusable drops in the past, but I've never rooted against him, I've always wanted to see him succeed. I was a James Jones fan since he caught that TD in the preseason against the Bengals (I think). The one where he bounced off two defenders, his helmet went flying, and he strutted into the endzone. Here's hoping he makes us all proud this year.

GBP 4 LIFE

woodson4president's picture

After the performances smith has put in during his few short times on the field i dunno how he doesnt start! Pure idiocy.

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