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What We Learned from the Packers' First Round of OTAs

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What We Learned from the Packers' First Round of OTAs

The Green Bay Packers opened their first round of organized team activities (OTAs) on Tuesday, but Thursday marked the first public practice, open to both the fans and media alike. 

Only so much can be gleaned from the period, considering the start of the training camp is still two months away and teams always look different in May than they eventually do to start September. Thursday was just one step in the offseason process. 

But the start of OTAs does provide a brief glimpse into what the Packers staff is thinking ahead of the 2014 season. 

Here's some of what we learned Thursday:

 

Safety Experiment Begins

No, first-round rookie Ha Ha Clinton-Dix did not start at safety with the No. 1 defense. Considering he's had roughly three weeks to digest an entire new playbook, it was not surprising to see him on the sidelines to start 11-on-11. Instead, Micah Hyde got a run with the ones at safety. There's been talk all offseason of Hyde seeing snaps at safety, and Thursday appears to mark the beginning of the experiment. The Packers won't find out during OTAs in late May if he can make it as a safety, but now is a good time to start the process. The hunt to get Hyde more snaps—head coach Mike McCarthy called him a four-down player—has officially begun. 

 

Colt Lyerla Will Get a Chance

Credit McCarthy and the Packers for giving Lyerla a real, honest chance. You can just hear in McCarthy's voice that his team is fully behind giving Lyerla, who comes from a troubled background, all the support and help he needs. And while making him into a football player is clearly important to the venture, it appears McCarthy's staff is equally interested in helping Lyerla the person. There's belief the organization can help the young man. The Packers have a player laced with talent and potential on their hands. At Oregon, Lyerla looked like a combination of Aaron Hernandez and Julius Thomas. Now, Green Bay's emphasis on creating a stable, supporting environment around him could give Lyerla a chance to fully realize his potential on the field. 

 

Defensive Philosophy Changes

Expect to hear a lot of "less is more" talk from McCarthy and Dom Capers when discussing the defense. McCarthy has said multiple times this offseason that the Packers got stuck in recent years when the scheme hampered player versatility, especially when injuries struck. Not this year. The Packers are cutting down the defensive playbook, and the result should be better competition at all positions. At the very least, the Packers should be better prepared to plug-and-play different pieces when injuries inevitably hit. This change would seem to matter more to the front seven, but hopefully it rings true in the secondary, too. The Packers have looked confused in the backend far too often, possibly because of information overload. Simplifying things could mean improvement across the board. 

 

Finley Cleared

Not exactly OTA-related, but still an important piece of info. According to Jermichael Finley's agent, the tight end has finally been cleared by Steelers doctor Joseph Maroon, the same physician who operated on Finley's neck. It's a step forward for the free agent. However, it still doesn't guarantee he'll play again. An NFL team will first have to clear him. And you wonder if Finley's visit to Green Bay is at all related to Dr. Maroon's clearing. Maybe the Packers wanted to reiterate to Finley that even with outside clearance, the team doesn't yet feel comfortable with his neck's recovery. They've been cautious with this injury. It's a scenario worth chewing on. 

 

Random Notes

As expected, rookie linebacker Carl Bradford is playing on the edge. It doesn't appear as if any move inside is coming. He'll be a pass-rusher, which a good defense can never have enough of…J.C. Tretter started at center with the first-team offense. Afterwards, McCarthy praised the fact that Tretter stuck around Green Bay and showed up to work every day of the offseason. He should enter camp with a clear edge on rookie Corey Linsley…Rookies Davante Adams and Khyri Thornton were not at practice Thursday. Instead, the pair attended the NFLPA Rookie Premiere in Los Angeles. Predictably, McCarthy wasn't exactly pleased with their absences…Julius Peppers and Adrian Hubbard are large individuals. It's a good asset to have at outside linebacker...Clinton-Dix agreed to terms on his rookie deal. 

 

Zach Kruse is a 25-year-old sports writer who 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 (22) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

MarkinMadison's picture

How did Hyde look?

L's picture

"Rookies Davante Adams and Khyri Thornton were not at practice Thursday. Instead, the pair attended the NFLPA Rookie Premiere in Los Angeles. Predictably, McCarthy wasn't exactly pleased with their absences"

Why isn't the Rookie Premiere scheduled for a time after all teams have their OTAs and before they begin Training Camps?

Zach Kruse's picture

That's a good question. These rookies are already fighting time with the draft in May.

Brian Carriveau's picture

I would assume part of it has to do with the sporting card companies not wanting to wait to get their photography. However, if the Draft was in April, we wouldn't have this problem, would we?

Clay Zombo's picture

Great to see they are moving forward with the Hyde to safety experiment. Hopefully MM made the decision to move Hyde right after the season and told him so he could have the entre offseason to learn his new position.

On offense im probably most excited about the addition of Colt Lyerla(a RB in a TEs body). A backfield consisting of Colt, Kuhn and Lacy behind Rodgers will give teams fits. They won't be able to load up the box to stop the run and if they do who do they focus on stopping.

All 3 guys can legitimately run with the ball, all 3 can block and they are all receiving threats. SoI really hope the kid can get his life right because he could be very good and versatile addition to an already potent offense.

Otto's picture

I'm pretty sure they're using Lyerla as a TE.

I'm pulling for Lyerla, too. I love a good comeback story.

Clay Zombo's picture

Yes they will use him at TE but they will also use him as an H-back much like they do with Quarless Finley and Taylor lining them up in the backfield. Only difference is he can run with the ball just like a big RB. If you watched how Oregon used him, I would expect the same thing here.

Stroh's picture

Finley certainly doesn't play any H-back, I don't recall Quarless doing it much, if at all either. Taylor might to some degree, but they don't really use TE in the backfield. That's what Kuhn does. They might use Lyerla in an H-back role a little but its would be a small role.

For the Packers, I see him in a Finley role more than anything. Mostly lined up away from the OT and some as a traditional inline TE. The H-back isn't really something the Packers employ to much of from what I remember.

Stroh's picture

Hyde to safety... The worst kept secret in Packerland.

One thing not mentioned in the article is that the less is more means more from the rookies and young developing players. Not having such a huge playbook will allow the young guys to play fast and think slow. That should help the entire D out and allow the young defensive talent to show up. As they mature and learn the D better they can start to add more if they so choose. Looking forward to better production from Perry (elephant end), Worthy, Hayward, Datone Jones. Even guys like House and Neal should benefit.

Players playing faster and thinking slower will benefit everyone on D. I think McCarthy is taking a bit out of the Seattle D in that regard, they have a relatively simple scheme which allows them to play faster.

RC Packer Fan's picture

Yeah, I pretty much agree with everything that you have said here.

I like the simplifying the defense. One play I specifically remember last year Shields lets the WR go thinking he had coverage over the top, he turns and sees no safety is close to him, he then threw his hands up in the air in disgust. There have been a lot of these types of plays that have happened in the past.

Simplifying the defense will allow players to play faster and be sure of what they are doing.

Perry was on verge of having a breakout season last year until he broke his ankle. We at least got to start to see the potential in him, and if he can stay healthy, I expect him to have a breakout year this year.

Jones flashed to me last year. He didn't have eye popping stats but he showed me that he can get to the QB. I really expect him to have a big 2nd year. His injury early prevented him from having a bigger impact.

Simplifying the defense along with improved players, should make for a good defense.
I like the idea in some nickel packages anyways, is Peppers, Daniels, Jones, Perry with Mathews rushing from the ILB.

Idiot Fan's picture

Yeah, I'm all for taking out whatever defensive play that is that ends with the DBs pointing fingers at each other.

I had really high hopes for Jones last year, but I didn't quite see the flash that you did. He didn't play that many snaps, which suggests to me that he wasnt' playing well enough to encourage the coaches to give him more snaps. But I am hopeful that he can be healthy now and make a nice jump in year two.

I feel fairly sure that our pass rush will be improved. I'm actually more concerned about stopping the run. We lost a lot of bulk in the offseason on the Dline.

RC Packer Fan's picture

Much like Raji his rookie year, Jones was hurt by an injury in training camp. It really hurt his season.
Jones was in on a number of sack plays although he wasn't always the first to get there.
I saw him flashing that talent. I expect him to take a major leap in year 2.

I am more concerned about our rush defense, but honestly, our rush defense wasn't great last year. It started out good, but faded as the season wore on. Jolly wore down, and Pickett looked done for the most part.
Pickett played well in the game against the 49ers, but if you watched him, you saw him getting blown off the LOS by the center in a lot of games.

What will help the run defense is moving Raji to NT. Boyd will be a good run stuffer. Guion is a good run stopper as well...
Moving Raji back to NT, I think will really be the biggest improvement. It strengthens the NT and DE positions. Raji was/is not built for DE.

Also I think having quicker/lighter guys might help penetrate gaps better then the beefy/slow guys.

Idiot Fan's picture

Ok, you talked me into it. SU! PER! BOWL! SU! PER! BOWL! SU! PER! BOWL!

The TKstinator's picture

And it is not a secret that DL usually take a little time to develop.

Nick Perry's picture

That play you're talking about, or one of them was the 67 yard pass to Jeffrey. Shields was expecting help from Burnett but Burnett wasn't there.

I also read that Datone Jones showed up to OTA's at about 286 where last year he was fighting to stay at 270 - 275. He's still got time to add more where he'd be closer to 290.

I'm with you RC on Perry and Jones, those two healthy and in Jones case bigger, will go a long ways in making this defense better. Not to mention having Hayward back and Hyde continuing to improve. Cant wait!

Stroh's picture

A lot of young players show up in the offseason and training camp at a higher weight, they've been training hard all offseason. Its in training camp and as the season progresses that they tend to lose weight due to the increased activity on the field. Where did you read he was down less that 275 last year? Would like to read that...

Lots of young players on the Defense that should be ready to step up. Jones and Jones, Perry, Worthy, Hayward, Hyde, House, Boyd, Clinton-Dix and even Burnett to some degree playing w/ a decent Safety for a change.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Jason Hirschhorn at Acme wrote an article on May 30, 2014, revealing the weight of some of the packers at OTAs. He mentioned that Datone Jones, according to his source, mind you, weighed in at 286 lbs. and then wrote that Jones was down to 270-275 at the end of last season, and asserted that the weight loss was one reason for his reduced playing time.

Other tidbits:

Tretter weighed 303; Boyd weighed 328 ("got a lot bigger, grown significantly"); Bakhtiari weighed 308, T. J. Lang 317.

I would have been very interested to learn Peppers' weight, along with Neal's, Richard Rodgers, Raji, Guion, maybe one or two others.

Stroh's picture

I'm not too interested in what a blogger wrote he THINKS might be their weights. I want his sources, that would actually verify it by some means. I could write a comment that says Raji weighed 450 lbs and it would have about as much credibility. So how did it say he got his weights?

That's the problem w/ bloggers, they don't usually have sources to back up their opinions. Packers Official team site lists him at 285 for what its worth. So apparently he didn't use the team source, otherwise he would have said 285. IIRC that's the same wt, Jones had last year as Camp opened, so its not really UP to anything more than it is regaining the weight he lost. However, Its not at all unusual for young players to have difficulty maintaining weight during the season.

Looks to me IF Boyd is actually up into the 320's (still listed at 310 on Packers.com) the Packers are bulking him up to play NT, which I said would be his best position last year (to the outrage of almost everyone who read it) while everyone was saying he was a DE.

BTW got a link to the article? Couldn't find mention of weights on APC anywhere.

4thand1's picture

Isn't Acme the company Wiley E. Coyote bought all his supplies from?

Stroh's picture

LOL, yes it was... It also stands for Acme Packing Co. (APC) a Packers blog.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

I had hoped that GB would move Bradford inside. I do recall when he was asked on a Podcast that Jersey Al was very hesitant to agree that Bradford could play inside. Well, it is early, and I have to trust the packer coaching staff to find Bradford's best NFL position.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Link didn't work for some reason. It is an article written by Jason Hirschhorn at Acme Packing Company called OTA weigh ins reveal progress for second year players. I assumed this is where the other commenter got the notion that D. Jones lost weight last year. Don't know who might be Hirschhorn's source.

I used "weigh" in the search function and it came up at APC.

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