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.
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.
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 email@example.com.
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