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Takeaways from the Second Round of Packers OTAs

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Takeaways from the Second Round of Packers OTAs

Last week's opening session of organized team activities (OTAs) provided us with our first official look—while only brief—at the 2014 Green Bay Packers.

Tuesday's second round of OTAs might not have provided much more information (remember, it's only June 3rd, and these guys are in shorts and helmets), but there's still plenty to chew on from the day's happenings. 

Here's our takeaways from the Packers' second round of open OTAs:

 

Future of DuJuan Harris

Roughly 10 months ago, and despite spending two draft picks at the position, Packers head coach Mike McCarthy was quick to call DuJuan Harris his starting running back. The tides have turned after Harris missed the entire 2013 season. Now healthy, the former car salesman remains in Green Bay's plans. But he has an uphill battle to win playing time; Eddie Lacy is the clear starter, and James Starks had his best NFL season in 2013 as Lacy's premier backup. McCarthy said Harris is "competing to play." With Johnathan Franklin still on the sidelines, opportunities are available right now. And the Packers know injuries can hit at any time with the running back position. Having too many good players at one position—and especially running back—is never a bad thing. 

Hello No. 2

What a difference one year can make. Last summer, the Packers were still attempting to develop B.J. Coleman and Graham Harrell as Aaron Rodgers' backup. Both are now out of the league. This year, the Packers are feeling a tad bit more comfortable behind Rodgers. Matt Flynn has proven his worth as an emergency starter, and Scott Tolzien is an emerging No. 3. McCarthy praised Tolzien's development Tuesday, commenting specifically about his increased understanding of the Packers offense and improved footwork. Tolzien may not have any practice squad eligibility left, but at this juncture, he's a strong bet to make the team as the third quarterback. What was once the shakiest backup situation in football is now one of the strongest. 

Barclay's Versatility

From left to right, the Packers offensive line is mostly set—save for center, where JC Tretter and Corey Linsley will battle to anchor the line. Right tackle will almost certainly belong to Bryan Bulaga, who is back from reconstructive knee surgery. That leaves former starting right tackle Don Barclay on the outside looking in, but he's making his case to be the team's go-to backup. On Tuesday, he started with the No. 1 offense at left guard. Being a backup lineman in Green Bay means having the ability to play multiple positions. McCarthy called Barclay a "starting football player," who could "play all five positions." A backup couldn't ask for higher praise from McCarthy. His versatility and former starting experience will ensure Barclay remains a valuable member of the offensive line, which is almost certain to suffer at least one injury at some point in 2014. 

Returning and Missing

Second-round receiver Davante Adams and third-round defensive lineman Khyri Thornton returned from the NFLPA rookie premier, a required event that took away the two's ability to participate in the first open OTAs. McCarthy was glad to have both back. He spoke highly of Adams, who he called an "excellent route runner." He has some catching up to do, but the Packers appear to like what they see early on in the rookie receiver. Missing from Tuesday's action was rookie tight end Colt Lyerla. According to McCarthy, the absence didn't come as a surprise, and the Packers expect him back Wednesday. McCarthy said nothing more. Remember, these are voluntary activities for players. Missing a day in early June won't kill Lyerla's chances of making the team (although, it won't help him, either), and McCarthy did not seem worried about his absence. B.J. Raji and Jerel Worthy also missed Tuesday.

Receiver Depth

Like running back, the Packers are going to have some tough decisions at receiver come the end of August. The depth is striking. Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb lead the bunch, with Jarrett Boykin and Adams both penciled in right behind. The rest of the receiver group includes Jared Abbrederis, Jeff Janis, Chris Harper, Myles White, Kevin Dorsey and Alex Gillett. Abbrederis is a fifth-round pick, Janis is a freak athlete who has made plays in two OTA sessions, Harper was praised by McCarthy Tuesday as an improved player, White cracked the 53-man roster last season and Dorsey was a seventh-round pick a year ago. Only Gillett looks like a true long shot to make the team. There's a long ways to go before late August, but six receivers looks like a real possibility for the Packers roster. There will be a lot of talent to sift through over the next few months. 

 

Zach Kruse contributes to Cheesehead TV and is the Lead Writer for the NFC North at Bleacher Report. You can reach him on Twitter @zachkruse2 or by email at zachkruse2@gmail.com.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (28) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

MarkinMadison's picture

Bleacher report provides about 50 minutes of Jeff Janis tape. Both a highlight reel and a better sample. Kudos to Bleacher Report for posting so much tape.

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1995830-jeff-janis-nfl-draft-2014-hig...

You can see why he went in Round 7. The routes don't look real sophisticated, the movement in and out of breaks doesn't look real smooth. There are some easy dropped balls. I didn't see any spectacular one-handed catches on the highlight reel, and saw some missed on the longer reel.

OTOH, he probably didn't have the best coaching, or even the motivation to accept much coaching, playing at a D2 level while setting records. He will be motivated and he will receive it from Edgar Bennett.

One of the knocks on him was that he could get rattled in traffic and dropped some easy balls. I don't know how many times in the 10 minutes of tape I have watched so far where it just looked like the defenses were keying on him. It was like "we can't let THIS guy beat us." Weaving between three defenders or more was not uncommon. I think that would get in your head a bit, especially since you know if you stay healthy you at least will get a shot at the big show.

Another knock is that he is "track fast" but it doesn't show up on film. This, and other issues, may be a case of him playing down to the competition. It will take him time to adjust to the competition level, and I think the Senior Bowl was a wake up call for him. But he has the tools to make the adjustment, and he will get the coaching and have the teammates to show him how, if he is willing to be a sponge.

Some sites will tell you he also played running back in high school. One I found also explained why: he broke his arm and played running back for a year with a cast up to his elbow. Guy wants to be ON the field.

I think he's going to make big strides over the next few months. The Packers will not be able to hide him on the practice squad in this receiver-greedy league. Does someone get traded? Does the IR solve the logjam at WR? Do they keep six? Or do they risk exposing a guy with elite measurables (except hand size) and a lot of upside?

Evan's picture

I think they keep 6.

Just like 2012 - 6 WR, 5 RB, 4 TE.

A potential Finley return would complicate matters a bit.

RC Packer Fan's picture

Yeah, i agree with you.

I think that is exactly what they will do. 6 WR, 5 RB, 4 TE.
Although an option that might happen is they could put Franklin on PUP if he is not ready to play right away.
That would mean 4 RB's, and that might allow them to keep 3 QB's or maybe go 5 TE's. That would be a way to bring Finley back as well. Although I think he would be put on PUP list also if he came back.

Evan's picture

Yeah, a Franklin PUP stay would certainly open things up a lot.

I really don't understand what's going on with him. So much secrecy. Can't be good.

RC Packer Fan's picture

That is exactly what i was thinking as well. way to much secrecy. And if they aren't talking about it IMO, it can't be good.

that's why i think he might be put on PUP list. It might not be that bad, but it definitely might be an option for them.

Guisado's picture

I think Janis can be stashed on the PS without concern another team will grab him. Given the ability for Green Bay to crank out WR's, he'd be crazy to choose another teams' PS. And once on GB's PS, he'd have to be signed to the the new teams' 53. He's just way too raw to make a 53 right now. And remember, every GM has their own guys they want to develop. They're gonna give their guys a chance to develop. Ego gets involved. The Packers do have a surplus of WR's in camp, and they'll have to lose a couple. It's a numbers game. But I don't think Janis has to be one of them.

Evan's picture

Similar things were probably said about Charles Johnson last year.

Not to say that Johnson is any big loss -- or that Janis would be, at this point who knows -- but there are many teams very, very thin at WR (Carolina and Cleveland, to name the biggest two) who could easily find room for a guy with Janis' measurables, especially after an off-season learning from some of the best WRs in the league.

RC Packer Fan's picture

Johnson might not be a big loss, but I really would have liked to have seen what he could have done with a full offseason under his belt. Although his torn acl would have prevented that from happening.

I still would have liked to have seen what he could have done with the team.

JimTaylor31's picture

Hard to say how the WRs will shake out but I would guess there may be an injury or two before the final 53 is decided. Just the way it seems to work. As for Janis we'll just have to see what his ceiling actually is or may be. We do seem to have some pretty good depth but given that most of the depth is pretty raw, keeping Nelson and Cobb healthy for the near term is highly important.

DrealynWilliams's picture

I hate those "negatives" and I'm not saying they're accurate.

"More track fast than game fast "

-REALLY?!

"Tested well at the combine in terms of speed and acceleration, but it doesn't show up on the field"

-(against the team he put 300 receving yards on) He damn sure showed speed and quickness on that 1 bubble screen that he almost took to the house if he had not stepped out of bounds

"Nine-inch hands are on the small side, especially for a receiver with his height"

-*blank face*

"Wasn't forced to make a ton of contested catches in college."

-Soooooo,that's a strike against him!?

"Didn't faced [face] many defensive backs capable of challenging him on 50/50 balls, and he'll need to learn how to position himself and use his size against cornerbacks and safeties who can match his physical play and leaping ability"

-Again,how is this a strike against him?

"Suffered an ankle injury during the Senior Bowl."

-*blank face*

Every other negative he wrote about Janis I could understand.

I'm not labeling him a starter or future pro-bowler just yet. I'm just saying those "negatives" are all over the place. Laughable.

**Let's find some 2013 tape of Janis

Handsback's picture

Also reading that Harper is looking pretty good. Some receivers from programs that don't stress precision route running, or a heavy running game seem to take more time to develop. Of course Calvin Johnson is an exception to that rule.

So maybe the light is coming on for Harper. Time will tell.

RC Packer Fan's picture

From what I had heard it sounded like the 49ers and Seahawks were trying to make him play positions he wasn't comfortable with.

He is intriguing with his size. He brings some bulk to the WR's that isn't there right now.
I am looking forward to seeing him in training camp/preseason.

ZeroTolerance's picture

I agree with McCarthy's statement that Barclay is starting-caliber. But, am I the only one who remembers McCarthy saying the same thing about Newhouse his last year in GB?

DrealynWilliams's picture

I like Barclay as well. I love the fact that he's challenging Bulaga for a starting position. Let's not act like Bulaga has been tearing things up until now. I'm hoping Barlcay can continue to improve with his pass blocking. If so,he'd be one of the most complete OL on the roster.

I don't think Newhouse was necessarily "bad". He either never progressed or hardly showed any progression.

4thand1's picture

Newhouse was bad. He seemed to improve at the very beginning and that was it. Very little.

Evan's picture

I don't know how much he's "challenging" Bulaga for a starting spot.

I think it's very telling that coming off an injury lost season, Bulaga was lining up with the 1s at RT from the first day of OTAs. I think he has RT locked down, barring something drastic and unforeseen.

DrealynWilliams's picture

Just as telling as Barclay taking snaps with the #1 offense at LG?

Nuh uh.

Evan's picture

Not the same thing - Sitton was sitting out that practice (for reasons I'm not aware of) so Barclay was just filling in. Like a back-up does.

Has Barclay taken any snaps at RT with the 1s?

DrealynWilliams's picture

not YET.

How many practices have there been?

I bet you this though ; Barclay will have his turn with the 1s at RT.

Evan's picture

Possibly - I wouldn't be surprised at all. I bet he'll have his time at RG and C as well. That's what his role will likely be. But that's irrelevant to my point.

My only point was that it's very telling that Bulaga has been running with the 1s at RT exclusively so far, while the "incumbent" Barclay hasn't.

I like Barclay and think he'll prove valuable, but Bulaga is the RT.

Stroh's picture

I'm sure Barclay will occasional 1st team reps at most of the OL positions. Make no mistake tho, he isn't going to be a starting OL for the Packers any time soon, if ever. His best chance is if/when Sitton/Lang contracts come up in 2 years. He might be able to step in and start then. Until that happens he's a backup OL just like he's been the past 2 yrs. Even tho he's been forced to start its been due to injury. IMO he's at best an NFL backup. Its not like he has played RT very well the past 2 seasons.

DrealynWilliams's picture

I think you 2 are missing the bigger picture. Even if Barlcay isn't the starter come week 1 of the regular season - if he pushes Bulaga to get better isn't that a win? That's what competing does. Correct me if I'm wrong,but didn't MM say that there are 2-3 players battling for the #1 RT position?

Like I said,I'm all for the battle. I love the fact that MM is no longer GIVING starting positions away.

Evan's picture

Yeah, competition is great. I guess I just don't think there really is much of one going on.

And I never heard/saw MM say anything about the 2-3 player battle for RT.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Absent a jump in his play, IMHO Barclay is not a starting caliber RT. He is a serviceable back up. I do think Barclay is a lock to make the team as the back up at guard and tackle. Seems to me that he could potentially be a starter at OG in the future. MM said there was a fierce competition between Barclay and Newhouse last year. That is either all you need to know to assess Barclay as a tackle or you take what MM says with a grain of salt. If Bulaga is healthy, I doubt that Barclay is pushing Bulaga at all.

Pack88's picture

I think the statement regarding Bulaga not tearing it up lately is incorrect. He hasn't been on he field in 16 months due to injuries, but when playing he was one of the best RT in the game. I do not think he would have been a great LT (feet too slow) but when playing in 10-11&12 he was a very very good RT.

DrealynWilliams's picture

One of the best in the game or one of the best on the Packers' roster? Big difference.

He's been good,but inconsistent all the way up until the knee injruy.

Guisado's picture

It did seem like Bulaga had a string of rough games just before the injury in 12. Then obviously 13 was a wash. Taking the volume of work he put down before that, I'd grade and project Bulaga well ahead of Barclay. But, yeah, that was two injuries ago....and when he exited, there was decline in his play. So this is a big camp for both guys. I also think Sherrod should be in the conversation, probably on equal terms.

aManOfTheNorth's picture

with all this supposed talent at WR, RB and TE... John Kuhn is one decent pass blocker and ST player away from not making the team.

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