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.
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.
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.
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