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Point of Veau: Bracing for Fisticuffs at Green Bay Packers Training Camp

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Point of Veau: Bracing for Fisticuffs at Green Bay Packers Training Camp

Fights breaking out under the middday sun training camp are nothing new. In a way, they're a rite of passage, a summer ritual.

And based on the way the Green Bay Packers offseason has played out, fans can expect to see a few more skirmishes than usual at Ray Nitschke Field this July and August.

It's not because the Packers brought in a bunch of a bad eggs in free agency and rotten apples through the draft––although the addition of defensive lineman Tony Hargrove, suspended because of the New Orleans' Saints' "Bountygate," may put that image to the test.

There's going to be some pushing and shoving because the Packers focused so much of their attention on the defensive side of the football in the offseason, and perception is reality.

Where words and motivation speeches failed the defensive coaching staff last year, the Packers front office led by general manager Ted Thompson sent an unspoken message the past few months that's going to resonate with the veterans on the team.

By signing three free agents on the defensive line and spending the first six picks of the draft all on defense, very few players from last year's team can feel safe about their job security.

One eye-popping stat is well known by now. The Packers gave up the most passing yards in NFL history in last season, and the reasons were numerous.

The defensive linemen couldn't collapse the pocket. The pass rushers were too late getting to the quarterback. The linebackers were exposed by speedy running backs in coverage. The cornerbacks couldn't tackle opposing ball carriers. The safeties were burned by receivers following continuity and miscommunication issues.

There's no reason to name names. Nearly every player on the defense was culpable for some shortcoming at one time or another. That's what happens when you're the worst in NFL history.

But because of that dishonorable distinction, the Packers personnel department couldn't stand pat. The coaching staff gets the benefit of the doubt for winning a Super Bowl the year before. The players, like always, will have to win their jobs.

Take the defensive line, for example. Holdovers with mediocre production like Mike Neal, C.J. Wilson and Jarius Wynn have been put on notice.

In come three newly inked free agents: Hargrove, Daniel Muir and Phillip Merling. And in addition to that trio, the Packers selected two more defensive linemen in the NFL Draft: Jerel Worthy and Mike Daniels.

Because the Packers spend so much time in their subpackage defense, many times with only two defensive linemen or less on the field, playing time is going to be at a premium. And so are roster spots.

In competitive drills at training camp, whether against offensive linemen or themselves, the stakes will be high for the defensive linemen to perform. And if they don't play up to par, they might not be around for very long.

The same can be said at nearly every position on defense.

The outside linebacker spot opposite Clay Matthews was a trouble spot for the Packers for the past several seasons. A revolving door of players including Erik Walden, Brad Jones, Vic So'oto and Frank Zombo failed nail down the job with any authority.

With Nick Perry added to the mix, there's going to be at least one odd man out. It will be like a game of musical chairs being played by grown men scrapping for the last metaphorical chair in the form of a roster spot.

In the back seven, the ante was upped when the Packers traded up for cornerback Casey Hayward and linebacker Terrell Manning.

Fair or not, there's a certain stigma attached to players who a team trades up to get. And don't think their teammates haven't noticed. They'll be perceived as a threat.

Words will be exchanged, ineffective punches into a face mask will be thrown and egos will be bruised. It will be like a fight for territorial dominance akin to the animal kingdom.

But really, it will be good for the team. The defense needed a wake-up call, and this could do the trick.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (15) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

FITZCORE1252's EVO's picture

GOOD! I will be disappointed if I don't hear of at least a couple of fights. As long as they don't go all Titus Young on each other, I think it's a good thing... Shows they want it... Shows they're fighting to get it.

GBP 4 LIFE

cow42's picture

love it.

Oppy's picture

Hargrove, Muir, and Merling will all bring extra juice to the practices because they all could very well be fighting not just for a roster spot, but for their very careers.

All three run the risk of either making it or potentially never playing again. This may be Muir's last shot of proving he's a NFL caliber player. Hargrove could be labeled too far past his prime if he fails to show up at camp. And Merling could be considered damaged goods.

Whether or not it would truly be a end to any of their careers or not, you can bet they'll be thinking about it, and the coaches will be reminding them. Those three guys should be approaching camp like it's all or nothing, and that's going to elevate the competition level for everyone.

Evan's picture

Past his prime? He's 28.

Oppy's picture

...And has under performed for the last few years.

Shawn's picture

Yes his prime. Not his football career, but past his prime, which means a decline from when he was at his best(prime). Which is one reason why we could pick him up at a minimum salary.

mattsamp's picture

Great article. Worst thing about it is that it makes me wish Training Camp was here already.

aussiepacker's picture

This should be a very interesting training camp. And there is nothing wrong with a bit of fisty cuffs. If it's with the oline i could see TJ lang and Josh Sitton trying to take on some dlineman.

jbeebe1571's picture

I'm not sure I if I agree with the concept of a "championship window", but I must admit that it has become time for harsh measures and I place the blame squarely on last years' defensive roster. The missed-arm tackles, shoelace-grabbing, and assignment-poor playing left little for the imagination. It would be easy to blame the coaching staff but they do not play the game. We repeatedly watched as Dom stacked the box with bigger, more elaborate blitz packages to no avail. Opposing QB's phoned their agents in the pocket while the secondary gassed with repeated 7 second coverages. The NFL's most prolific offense was resigned to playing shootout ball against the most mediocre teams, never allowed the opportunity to slip for even a single game. This was evidenced by the defenseless losses against Kansas City and New York. Gandalf the Green (TT) stepped up to the plate big time this offseason and I believe Packers fans everywhere will owe him a debt of gratitude sometime next winter.

Evan's picture

I'd argue the New York loss can be more fairly pinned on the offense.

But I totally agree with your larger point.

Pack Morris's picture

"Gandalf the Green" -- that's awesome.

Mojo's picture

And hoping the projected energy we might see in training camp continues into the season after the survivors secure their roster spots.

OneTwoSixFive's picture

These are the guys I think do not make it (though some may make the practice squad).

D.LINE keeping 7 (possibly 6): Guy, Hargrove, Jones, Muir, Wynn are gone.
LINEBACKERS keeping 8 (possibly 9): Francois, Jones, Lattimore, Moses, Walden are gone.
DBs keeping 10: Levine, Otis, Richardson, Turner are gone.

To make the D.line one of the players listed above would have to beat out Neal, Merling, Wilson (or possibly Daniels).
To make the Linebackers, one of the above would have to beat out So'oto, Zombo, (or maybe Manning).
To make the DB's one of the above would have to beat out Peprah or Jennings.

marcopo's picture

Based on the offseason, I have no doubt, whatsoever, that the defense will be GREATLY improved. Of course, there's the rookies, but normally rookies take some matriculation. But, both DLmen and LB'er are positions where rookies traditional could step right up. The newbies don't have to perform at an all pro level to make a difference. I can't wait for it to play out.

Doug In Sandpoint's picture

Agree on the points about poor tackling, failure to get to the QB, and poor coverage in the secondary, but I still think part of the huge passing numbers against our D was a product of our offensive game. When we score fast the other team has the ball a lot more. Playing from behind, they pass a lot more. Is it possible that we just flat out saw more passing plays against us than other teams did?

Are there stats for average plays per game and percentage of those plays that were pass plays? Not saying we were good in that domain, but this could be an explanation. If we fix it though, we will set margin of victory records that may never be equalled.

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