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Quick Takes from the Second Round of Packers OTAs

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Quick Takes from the Second Round of Packers OTAs

The Green Bay Packers completed their second session of media-available OTAs Tuesday.

Here are some of the biggest storylines from the latest round of workouts ahead of the 2013 season:

 

Mike Neal continues to receive reps at OLB

A week ago, we wondered aloud if Neal's work at outside linebacker was anything more than a early offseason experiment. With a second session of OTAs and another chance to see Neal receive reps standing up as a linebacker, it's clear the Packers are doing more than just toying with the former second-round pick on the edge.

Defensive coordinator Dom Capers said Tuesday that he "likes the way" Neal is moving as a linebacker. While it is still unclear if Neal—who was formerly listed at 294 pounds in 2012—has lost any weight to play outside linebacker, the Packers are obviously giving Neal every chance to prove in May that he can be used in a variety of ways this September.

But even if the Packers are encouraged with Neal's early returns on the perimeter, the true barometer of how he'll handle the new position should come once the pads come on and Neal is asked to make plays in space. While certainly more athletic than most defensive linemen, Neal may still struggle to handle the breadth of responsibilities expected of an 3-4 outside linebacker.

That said, the continued reps on the outside show the Packers are committed to giving Neal an opportunity to impact the defense in more ways next season. Such versatility may allow Neal to be an important hybrid piece for Capers in 2013. His next step will be impressing beyond helmets and shorts later this summer.

Andrew Quarless and the road to recovery

Nearly 18 months have come and gone since Andrew Quarless underwent reconstructive knee surgery, but the long road to a return appears to have a visible end. Quarless was one of the standouts at Tuesday's OTAs, where he displayed the kind of explosion and lower body power not seen in the 2010 draft pick since before his catastrophic injury in December of 2011.

Mike McCarthy said after the OTA session that Quarless was completely past his injury. Moving as well or better as before the reconstruction, Quarless may now have a real shot at recapturing an important role in the Packers offense.

A three-game starter during the Super Bowl season of 2010, Quarless was asked to be the offense's go-to blocking tight end for most of the next season. He flourished in the role before a freak injury threatened to cut his NFL career drastically short.

A year and a half later, Quarless might be gaining the inside track to his former spot on the depth chart.

The Packers lost veteran tight end Tom Crabtree to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this offseason, which has opened up a role as the primary backup behind Jermichael Finley. Versatility always on his mind, McCarthy said that Quarless can play all four tight end positions in the Packers offense.

Now, if Quarless can remain healthy—and the burst shown Tuesday continues once the pads come on—McCarthy may have a leading candidate to re-strengthen his tight end position in 2013.

Still no Johnny Jolly

Despite graduating from his court-ordered drug rehab program last week, defensive lineman Johnny Jolly was not present during Tuesday's OTAs. Jolly said via Twitter that he'll "be back soon," but every minute of offseason work he misses will cut into his already slim chances of making Green Bay's 53-man roster.

McCarthy preached about second chances when asked about Jolly following practice, but refused further comment on the matter until Jolly was in Green Bay.

To their credit, the Packers have been more patient with Jolly than anyone could have expected during a three-year ordeal that has included multiple arrests and jail time. Once Jolly finally makes his return, he'll still need to blow away coaches with the kind of skill set that made him such a valuable member of the 2009 Packers defense. Back then, no defensive linemen on the roster was better at stopping the run or batting passes at the line of scrimmage.

However, three years away from the game can bankrupt a football player of his physical skills.

At 30 years old, and with his last NFL snap coming in January of 2010, Jolly remains a long shot to make the roster—regardless of when he finally reports.

Versatility with Don Barclay

Few offenses in the NFL value versatility on the offensive line like the Packers, and their practice of teaching every offensive line position to their group continued Tuesday. The prize pupil this time around was second-year offensive lineman Don Barclay.

The Packers played Barclay all over the offensive line during drills and team work Tuesday. A starter at right tackle to finish the 2012 season, Barclay was given reps at tackle, guard and center during the OTA session. His apprenticeship along the offensive line has officially begun.

Despite the shuffling, Barclay remains in the running to be the offense's starting right tackle next season.

But if he loses out on that competition, the Packers clearly want Barclay to be able to contribute on gamedays at more than one position. The team usually carries just seven offensive lineman on the 45-man gameday roster. He proved last season that he's more than a capable backup as the right tackle.

Quick notes: McCarthy praised 2012 fifth-round pick Terrell Manning  Tuesday, claiming he came on at the end of 2012, especially as a special teams player. The Packers are expecting him to compete to play at inside linebacker next season. He's an intriguing player to watch the rest of the offseason...Rookie Johnathan Franklin was third in line to return punts Tuesday. If Randall Cobb is removed from returning duties, Franklin might be the front-runner to replace him, especially on punts...McCarthy is emphasizing forced fumbles this offseason after statistics revealed his defenses have lacked in the area. The Packers forced just eight in 2012, the second least in the NFL. In context, the New England Patriots finished first with 32...Second-year receiver Jarrett Boykin left practice with an undisclosed leg injury...Green Bay signed safety David Fulton, an undrafted free agent from Division II Chowan University. The Packers roster is currently at 89 players.

Zach Kruse is a 24-year-old sports writer who contributes to Cheesehead TV, Bleacher Report and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He also covers prep sports for the Dunn Co. News. You can reach him on Twitter @zachkruse2 or by email at zachkruse2@gmail.com.

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Fan friendly comments only: on Comments (51) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

redlights's picture

A healthy Quarless puts DJ Williams and Ryan Taylor on the hot seats. The rookies obviously have a lot to prove, but GB may look more at upside to (possibly) replacing Finley in 2014.

Lou's picture

Agreed, Williams is in show or go mode and has only shined in practice plus being a healthy scratch from the active list 5 times last season is not a good sign. Mulligan has to make the roster, Crabtree looked the part as a blocker but Mulligan has produced two seasons in a row and ranked high both seasons by PFF (top 10). Don't forget Bostick and the talented kid from OSU as well. If Quarless is healthy and plays well they can tag and move Finley in the off season.

Bearmeat's picture

Am I the only person who thinks GB is FINE at both ILB and OLB this year?

Perry will at least be serviceable. CM3 will be CM3. And between Jones/Manning/Bishop/Lattimore and even Hawk, they'll find 2 quality players.

PackerPete's picture

Assuming there is no major injury at OLB, I agree. If you'd have Moses or anything else starting for a longer time at OLB, we'd be in trouble. But at ILB, there could actually be a couple of injuries, and there would still be enough quality players there.

Lou's picture

Agreed, I believe that is the reason they gave Jones starter money, if they need someone outside he is the guy they will move to cover it. If Bishop is healthy, Jones stays inside, and Manning comes on the position could become a big plus in one year just like CB last year.

THEMichaelRose's picture

I think the injury threat at OLB is why they're giving Neal a look there. If Perry were go to down, Neal would be an alternative to the other backups if you wanted to go with a bigger guy who can hold the point. Majority of our OLB depth, when you don't include ILB convert Lattimore, is more in the finesse pass rusher build.

Bearmeat's picture

+1

Maybe for an exotic look from Capers too. Psycho package again?

rymetyme's picture

I'm guessing Neal's practice at OLB is mainly for defense of the read option (SF, WAS). Basically the objective is to slow down the QB by standing Neal up. This creates hesitation or confusion because the QB may not know who has the QB assignment (traditionally the DE) and who has the RB assignment (traditionally the OLB). This could be especially useful in week 1, as there is no tape for the 49ers to study.
Throw the kitchen sink at Kaepernick. What we got to lose?

Stroh's picture

I was thinking the same. Standing Neal up as a LB to combat the read option. Go w a 25 front but w an athletic DL standing could be a good defense for Kaepernick and SF. Say Raji jones as DL and the starting LB plus Neal could present problems and still be strong at POA.

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

"Quarless was one of the standouts at Tuesday’s OTAs"

This pleases me.

Bearmeat's picture

Yes. If it holds up through the season, then TT can let Finley go with no question marks.

Plus, it's another outlet for ARod in 13.

Cobb, Jones, Nelson, Finley, Lacy, Franklin, Quarless AND Harris.

This is not fair for opposing D's.

This offense will NOT struggle with Cover 2 this year. They will be able to win any way they choose.

Just sick.

redlights's picture

Just have Quarless play RT :)

cow42's picture

Cobb, Jones, Nelson, Finley, Lacy, Franklin, Quarless AND Harris... can't do jack if 12's on his back 51 times again.

Skill guys are a dime a dozen.

This team has ?'s across the entire OL.

RC Packer Fan's picture

I guess throwing for 4295 yards, 39 TD's is nothing... That's what Rodgers threw for last year while being sacked for 51 times.

I get that the o-line has questions. But how many sacks were actually the o-lines fault? How many were on Rodgers for holding the ball to long when he could have checked it down? How many were on the WR's not getting open? How man of the 51 sacks were completely based on the o-line? Everyone wants to look at the 51 number but no one actually looks into the numbers to determine how many were on the o-line.

Also another way to help the o-line from sacks is to run the ball. Having reliable running threats will make the defense think about stopping the run, and not just pass rushing every down.

Bearmeat's picture

^THIS^

cow42's picture

so the WRs who were just listed above as being "sick" have trouble getting open... so which is it? is the group "sick" or does it have trouble getting open?

and one of the reasons that it's not the OLs fault that 12 got sacked so many times is the lack of a running game... but wait... who was responsible for opening holes for the RBs? oh yeah - TH OL!

face it...

you can spin it and wish it wasn't true and cross your fingers before each play but the fact of the matter is the OL is bad.

RC Packer Fan's picture

I'm just saying. In each one of those 51 sacks, how many were truly based on the OL? I think GB has one of the top group of receivers in the league. But the truth is last year they were hurt and didn't play to their ability. Nelson, Jennings, Driver...
None of them played to their capability. There was a lot of times that they could not get open. Some due to the coverage's but a lot was due to them being hurt.
But also running the ball will take more pressure off the passing game. How many times did teams try to make the packers run the ball? The cover 2 is a perfect example. The best way to take a team out of the cover 2 was to run the ball. Packers couldn't. There for the defensive line just rushed the passer, didn't pay much attention to the RB's.

My whole point is that the '51' sacks should not all be blamed on the OL. Probably the majority (they were far from perfect), but there was a lot of times they did their job where others didn't do theirs.

zeke's picture

They haven't even started camp yet, so I don't know. And neither do you.

cow42's picture

do the Packers have a good OL?
just answer the question.

zeke's picture

Camp hasn't even started yet, so I don't know. And neither do you.

Derek in CO's picture

I think I like the possibility of Mike Neal rushing from the outside opposite CM3, along with Datone Jones, Raji, etc. That sounds like it might be a pretty lethal pass rush. Have to see that in preseason action.

Bearmeat's picture

You're going to be sorely disappointed then.

Capers will save the special stuff for the 49ers.

Nerd's picture

Neal's still better in coverage than Hawk or Bishop.

Brooklyn81's picture

Yeah I can't wait until the preseason game against the seahawks I know it will be vanilla but it will be a great test to both offense and defense.

Fish/Crane's picture

I do not care for the Seahawks and their whole thing they think they got going on out there

Mojo's picture

While it might be fun to envision OLB Neal holding the point on run plays or blasting over an RB to create a sack, it probably would get ugly real fast when he had to cover a TE, RB or receiver in space. I think they'll look at him as emergency back-up, maybe to keep another roster spot open.

Lars's picture

Barclay getting snaps at center. Guess McCarthy didn't get the memos about how badly TT screwed up for not drafting Barrett Jones and EDS being the only player who could possibly man the position.

MarkinMadison's picture

Oh geez, you're right Lars. Barclay took a couple of snaps at center in May! No need to worry about the center position then. Whew. Glad you cleared that up for me.

cow42's picture

this whole Neal @ OLB thing is just a stupid waste of time.

maybe their thinking is that he's less likely to get hurt if he has to deal with people 1/2 his size. all those big guys on the OL are just too much for his China-doll body to handle.

problem is he'll probably still get hurt trying to change directions.

i predict an ankle, hip, knee, or back injury keeps him out of the first 3 games of the season.

Chad Toporski's picture

Because you've coached Mike Neal and know what he's capable of... You obviously have a much better sense of what kind of players the Packers have and how they should be implemented on the field.

Maybe the team can hire you as a consultant.

ted, of bill and ted's picture

i think neal's been around long enough to probably know the in's and out's of de in our defense...so dom is teaching him olb to use him in special situations like the psycho package, etc.

wouldn't say it's a waste of time...but it's probably not worth the attention it's getting

Fish/Crane's picture

Nobody can throw cold water on a hot fire like Cow. But a nice way to get it buring again is to remember since 2009 Green Bay is 52-20 .722..not bad for a bunch of undersized bums who can't help us now.

MarkinMadison's picture

Take a look at Vic Ketcheam's comments on this topic. He names two times in the past where Capers has engaged in the same experiment, and it produced results.

The TKstinator's picture

I predict Mike Neal, as with the strength of ten men, will start opposite CM at OLB and manhandle everything that comes his way. Right after the primates exit my posterior.

tarrega's picture

Rogers has never had a running game, yet has amassed incredible stats. Healthy receivers and blockers will help big time.

Al Dante's picture

I'm still down on last year's 1 and 2 picks. Neither, especially Worthy showed me much. Not for picks that high. I know they got hurt but I'm talking pre season through the time they got hurt, I saw very little.
Let's say I'm correct. That means the coaches obviously feel the same. If they do, they get a DE in this years draft and try and shore up the outside linebacker spot with a pick or whomever. Food for though..........

Morgan Mundane's picture

I thought Jolly would be in camp this week. Too bad. He will need every minute he can get to get back on the team. The longer he is out, the worse his chances get. Wish him well.

Lucky953's picture

Very good news about Quarless. If he's healthy, I can see more two tight end sets using combinations of Q, Finley and Mulligan. Putting more guys on the line with a true power back can force defenses to play tighter to the LOS. I like what I saw of Barclay last year; he can move people. Could this open up the slant and the skinny post again?

The TKstinator's picture

Consider the slant and the skinny post to be open for business.

hayward4president's picture

If u think of all these linebackers that will be in the mix this year and then slap in BJ and Datone on the line ..this defense is going to be damn good.

cow42's picture

what will slapping in a fat guy and a question mark do, exactly?

cow42's picture

"all these linebackers"...

only one of them is any good.

hayward4president's picture

And the crazy thing for me is.....we really don't know how good Perry is. We had a small sample before he got hurt. What if he's really good?

cow42's picture

the small sample didn't show much.

face it - the dude couldn't get in front of Walden on the depth chart... ouch.

VApackerfan's picture

This site used to be fun to read and follow, but has anyone else noticed everyones comments are chastised by Cow? I mean seriously bro, take a chill pill. Let people be excited about football in 2013. That's what fans do. I really question your loyalty. I mean I'm a pessimist much of the time, but damn dude. Let the conversation flow. Some people are making good points and adding food for thought. If you disagree with it, so be it. I'm just tired of reading negative post after negative post. In fact, why should we be excited about football in 2013? From your standpoint coaches and players can't make changes and the packers are doomed. Bottom line, this is a game of inches and anything can happen.

cow42's picture

" In fact, why should we be excited about football in 2013?"

we shouldn't...unless you're not worried about watching a championship run.

if you're content with watching the Packers play, regardless of outcome, then by all means... have fun.

i wanted/expected more.

it's inexcusable to have a team with so many holes and weaknesses when you have the best qb in the game on the roster.

more effort should have been made to shore up...

s
ilb
olb
c
ot
te

...but it wasn't. so nothing will change... they'll lose to good teams (which there are more of on next year's schedule) and they'll beat bad teams (which there are fewer of on next year's schedule).

zeke's picture

Then there's no reason for you to follow the team or (more importantly) troll this web site.

hayward4president's picture

Cow datone jones is a playmaker. He will be top 5 dlineman taken in this year's draft book it. Perry is a question mark.....but question marks are still exciting. We have a crazy playmaker at olb in clay and we have what could be a couple other solid lbs. With the addition of jones this year there is no reason not to get excited. Not to mention offense. The big thing for me is Franklin. With him being a returner that means nothing but good things for Randall in the offense. Quit being such a fn negative Nancy and order ur new jerseys already.

VApackerfan's picture

Cow, the point is every team has holes in their roster. Add in season injuries and you will never know how this season will play out. Do you know how much progress someone like Jerron McMillian has made this offseason, or Don Barclay? Who is this years Casey Hayward? How much of a difference will Bulaga and Sitton have on the left side? Is the new running back tandem going to take this team to a new level? What impact will Datone Jones have on this defense? We already know your answers to all of these questions, but the reality is no one knows for sure. By the end of the 2010 season Packer fans were not thinking super bowl. Hell, we were praying for a win against the bears just to get in the playoffs. Again, that's the nature of this game. NOTHING is set in stone and handed to you on a silver platter. If you want to speculate based upon what's on paper going into spring OTA's, then that's cool. Just don't bash everyone's opinions for having optimism in 2013.

The TKstinator's picture

Odd thing is, I work with Cow at the Suicide Prevention Hotline and he is really, really good at his job!! I just don't understand all the pessimism he spews on this site. The only explanation I can offer is that he is trying to regain balance, a "yin" for his "yang", of you will.

Now please put away any sharp objects.

Oops, sorrry, force of habit!

PackersRS's picture

If this was true the irony in it would be too much for me to handle.

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