Gut Reactions: The Pads Come On

Aaron shares his initial impressions from the first padded practice of the new season.

Lots to cover so I'm just going to give you my gut reactions to the proceedings tonight and I'll have some more measured analysis tomorrow and through out the week.

  1. The rookies at the offensive skill positions really impressed me with how well they seem to have absorbed the initial offensive install. It was obvious that McCarthy and Philbin were only working a very small portion of the playbook but guys like Randall Cobb, Alex Green and D.J. Williams all seemed to be able to step right in, Cobb and Williams with the first string, and make all the necessary adjustments. That is an encouraging sign right out of the gate.
  2. Speaking of rookies - D.J. Williams and Randall Cobb are crazy impressive.
  3. T.J. Lang looks like a new man - a man on a mission. He split times with Derek Sherrod, but he was light years more impressive than the rookie. Great punch in pass pro. Latching onto guys in the run game. Just real solid all around. The tentative guy we saw last summer after the wrist injury is gone. I'm pretty sure this is your left guard opening day.
  4. Speaking of camp battles, Erik Walden is your leader at OLB opposite Clay Matthews. He has gotten bigger during the offseason and was absolutely destroying guys in one-on-ones. At one point, he ripped through Scott Wells and Kevin Greene exploded with joy. It was awesome.
  5. Brad Jones looked really strong as well - much better than Zombo actually.
  6. Quiet night for guys like Jennings and Driver - ton of work going to the younger guys.
  7. Speaking of younger guys, remember this name: Ryan Taylor. He's one of a billion tight ends on the roster. I'm not sure if he sticks here in Green Bay, but he's bound for an NFL roster somewhere.
  8. James Starks is just so much more explosive than any other running back on this roster. Ryan Grant looked good - ran hard, hit the hole with authority like he always does. But James Starks is the best back on this team.
  9. B.J. Raji looked in mid-season form. Ripping through guys in one-on-ones, tearing through double teams in team sessions - the man is a monster.
  10. Overall, this team is crazy deep. Yes, the inside linebacker position is a concern, but second year veteran Robert Francois was making some noise tonight with an A Gap blitz or two when he got a chance to run with the ones. It's pretty obvious that the Packers will have some really hard decisions to make come cut down time for many positions. The depth on display tonight was incredible.
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Comments (51)

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lebowski's picture

August 01, 2011 at 11:12 pm

Thank you Aaron for great info coming out of practice.... the best out there, from what I can tell. I just love hearing about the explosiveness of Raji, Walden, Starks, etc. Gettin' stoked to go to the opener!!

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Chris K's picture

August 01, 2011 at 11:13 pm

This is awesome news!!

Got a queston for ya: do you think Quarless isin trouble with these other four TE's in Filey, Williams, Crabtree, & Ryan Taylr?

and two: whats the deal with that backup FS spot? I hear Brandon Underwood is running on both the specialteams coverage and return teams which is a good sign but I'm pulling for Anthony Levine who I think is better?

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AndrewInAtlanta's picture

August 01, 2011 at 11:16 pm

Nice work Aaron. Thanks for the updates. We really appreciate the insight

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PkrNboro's picture

August 01, 2011 at 11:17 pm

I read this article, and then afterwards...

...I had to have a smoke.

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Bill's picture

August 01, 2011 at 11:17 pm

Even with this talent, how can the Pack even hope to compete with the "Dream Team"?

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BrianD's picture

August 01, 2011 at 11:47 pm

I'm not sure. They look about even on paper at this point. They've got Cullen Jenkins, but Mike Neal is just as hungry to earn a ring of his own. I think their rookies (Sam Shields, James Starks, Bryan Bulaga) are at a disadvantage against our second year players (Sam Shields, James Starks, Bryan Bulaga). Luckily the 2011 Packers don't have to face the 2010 Packers so I think we're in the clear.

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Jay's picture

August 01, 2011 at 11:51 pm

+100

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CSS's picture

August 01, 2011 at 11:17 pm

Aaron, what were your observations about the defensive line outside of Raji? How did Neal, Wilson, Wynn, Howard and Pickett look physically? I've read they've added good weight/bulk and carry it well (specifically Neal and Wilson). What are your thougts based on what you observed.

Again, thank you. I've tossed $75 at you all over the last two years, more than any subscription (or multiple subs would request), but it's well worth it.

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Scott's picture

August 02, 2011 at 05:58 am

I know that Neal has not been participating in drills yet due to his shoulder. Wilson had a calf issue a couple of days ago and has been limited as well.

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Chris K's picture

August 01, 2011 at 11:18 pm

Hey Aaron, I know its way early but assuming Lang takes that LG spot... Who looks to have the early lead on the 9th O-Line spot besides Newhouse, Sherrod, & McDonald???? Campbell?

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CSS's picture

August 01, 2011 at 11:19 pm

Also, do you suspect they will stack-n'-rack TE's this year like they've done with FB's the last two years? Crabtree and Taylor offer so much on ST's.

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ShopeIV's picture

August 01, 2011 at 11:26 pm

I love Tom Crabtree but i fear that he does not have the same ceiling as the other TEs and is therefore the most likely to be gone...

I hope to hell he stays because he is awesome any way to calm my fears?

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Satori's picture

August 01, 2011 at 11:54 pm

Crabtree is by far the best blocker of the bunch, so he has a role for GB in 2011

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Nerdmann's picture

August 02, 2011 at 01:21 am

He'll replace Quinn Johnson.

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Chris's picture

August 02, 2011 at 06:29 am

And GB will go from 3 fullbacks to just one, who might also get used on short yardage situations and possibly 3rd downs because of his pass protection skills? I don't think so.

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Edward's picture

August 02, 2011 at 08:55 am

I think the Pack would be fine without Quinn, but MM does like his power run formations. So I agree, I think he makes the roster.

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zcalvelli's picture

August 01, 2011 at 11:56 pm

Great stuff Aaron. I don't know why we can't get this - a simple observer's opinion in summary - from jsonline or gbpg. But we can't, and you've done a great job here.

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Ruppert's picture

August 02, 2011 at 08:13 am

Totally agree.

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Jake's picture

August 02, 2011 at 12:27 am

Starks is the best back on the team huh? That is a bold statement. And I have no problem hearing it.

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Nerdmann's picture

August 02, 2011 at 01:21 am

The Secret Weapon!

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Nononsense's picture

August 02, 2011 at 12:28 am

Is this the season where GB makes out like a bandit with their abundance of talent instead of letting them walk away for free during the cutdown period.

I totally believe we have quite a bit more than 53 players on this team that can make an impact on some NFL roster. TT must identify the poor souls who we will not keep, early enough to establish trade interest in them before its apparent they will be cut.

I don't care if its a bunch of 7th rounders I think TT needs to get something for a good chunk of our roster casualties this year.

Or at the very least trade a player at a position of strength, for a spot with questionable depth like ILB or DL.

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Nerdmann's picture

August 02, 2011 at 01:23 am

What's he gonna do with late round picks? Find someone who can make this roster? LOL. TT is so awesome.
He's gonna be trading up for fewer picks in the higher rounds, just to find someone who can compete to crack the roster.

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BrianD's picture

August 02, 2011 at 02:29 am

2012 Free Agents:
Matt Flynn
Ryan Grant
Jermichael Finley
Josh Sitton
Scott Wells
Howard Green
Erik Walden
Jarrett Bush
Pat Lee
Derrick Martin

Not too many starters in the group, but we'll need to add depth at several positions while looking for improvements over our current starters. There's little to no reason Ted Thompson should move up in next years draft unless there's a player he really, really likes and moves up to get.

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aussiepacker's picture

August 02, 2011 at 05:57 am

derrick martin got cut before the lock out.

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BrianD's picture

August 02, 2011 at 07:55 am

Good catch. I was using outdated info from before the lockout so I was iffy about throwing his name in with the rest.

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Franklin Hillside's picture

August 02, 2011 at 10:26 am

Can we play this season first?

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PackersThad's picture

August 02, 2011 at 10:46 am

NO!!

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BubbaOne's picture

August 02, 2011 at 12:52 am

Last year the roster makeup was 5WR, 4TE, 3FB, and 2RB for a total of 14. Barring injuries it likely could be 5-5-1-3; so I wouldn't get worried about cuts at TE.

Judging by the positive showing of the rookies Williams and Taylor I wonder if Quarless is a candidate for the PUP list? If the CBA rules are the same as in the last agreement wouldn't Q have to go on it by Thursday to avoid going on IR if his hip doesn't heal before final cutdown?

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Ken's picture

August 02, 2011 at 11:07 am

I think Quarless is gone and we keep the two rookies at TE behind Crabtree and Finley.

I'm not high on Quinn Johnson, but he does have end-of-game, drain-the-clock value.

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Jake's picture

August 02, 2011 at 03:46 pm

Do people think Crabtree's blocking ability will put him ahead of Quarless' potential talent? Sure he had a rough first year, but so did Finley...

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Oppy's picture

August 02, 2011 at 06:09 pm

My humble opinion is that a boat-load of Packers fans are horribly under-estimating the talent and potential of Andrew Quarless.

The guy is, physically speaking in terms of his measurables, almost a clone of Jermichael Finley, but with a bigger frame.

Yes, he had problems catching the ball last season. However, he was known for sure hands in his collegiate career... Rookie thrown in to a new offense, getting used to the speed of the game, learning how to read nfl defenses, head swimming.

Once Quarless learns how to run his deep routes (He wasn't used deep much if at all in college) and understands what pro defenses are doing.. He will loosen up and we should see his talent shine through.

Might not be Finley, but his upside is staggering compared to what most teams have at TE.

I will be absolutely shocked to see Quarless cut from this team, short of cataclysmic injury or a felony charge.

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alexwoodsIAM's picture

August 02, 2011 at 12:55 am

Did you see if Starks changed his running stlye at all the way he holds the ball scares me... Also how many TEs do we have?

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Tim's picture

August 02, 2011 at 01:22 am

Given that (A) MM has referred to FBs and TEs as a collective group regarding roster spots, (B) MM's creativity in devising schemes to fit the personnel, and (C) TT's proclivity for keeping the best players with less regard for position:
Might we see the rookies Williams and Taylor in some sort of TE/FB/H-back hybrid role? And if so, might this spell the end for Quinn Johnson?

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Nerdmann's picture

August 02, 2011 at 01:24 am

Yes and yes. Although I do think Quinn Johnson has developed as a decent reciever out of the backfield.

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BubbaOne's picture

August 02, 2011 at 06:13 am

"a decent reciever"...QJ?...only when he's taking a call on his cell phone.

Since he's not a great blocker, runner, decent receiver, and not good at ST's, I would be extremely surprised if he made the final 53.

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PackerAaron's picture

August 02, 2011 at 07:11 am

Actually, he is a fantastic blocker - in the passing game. His pass protection was spotless last year and it continued last evening. He picked up a weakside blitz from way across the formation. Kid gets it in that regard.

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BubbaOne's picture

August 02, 2011 at 07:40 am

Thanks for the insight, i didn't know he was that good in pass pro.

I was referring to run blocking where he doesn't always find someone to block and when he does hit someone he doesn't always take them out.
In essence, as a one dimensional FB, I don't think he's lived up to his role. And I still think he's sub par on ST.

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Ken's picture

August 02, 2011 at 11:08 am

"Starks is the best back on the team"

High praise.

Thanks for the info Aaron! I'm on board with Walden.

16 tackles, 3 sacks with the season on the line is stuff of legend.

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Nerdmann's picture

August 02, 2011 at 11:53 am

I've been going back and watching the games from last year. Dude isn't Roger Craig but he can catch the ball. Very underrated in that regard.
Still, I think he gets replaced by TE/Hbacks.

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Ruppert's picture

August 02, 2011 at 08:17 am

Great stuff, Aaron. As noted above, I can't believe the traditional media outlets can't put something like this together.

With the lockout, I have been pretty tepid on NFL football and the Packers all summer. But right now I am just overcome with delight at the thought of Randall Cobb bringing a significant upgrade to the return game. How many more points will this team score on a short field all year?! Love it, love it, love it.

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Derek's picture

August 02, 2011 at 08:49 am

I'm excited about Erik Walden at OLB. I really like what I saw from him last year. He's way more athletic then Jones or Zombo.

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fishandcrane's picture

August 02, 2011 at 09:39 am

Neal -shoulder
Wilson-calf
Storm clouds forming up front?

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Franklin Hillside's picture

August 02, 2011 at 10:38 am

Step. Back. From. The. Ledge.

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Oppy's picture

August 02, 2011 at 06:22 pm

lol Franklin

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DaveK's picture

August 02, 2011 at 11:00 am

The most watched list in NFL by GM's will be the Packer waiver wire on final cuts. Just like last year....

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Mojo's picture

August 02, 2011 at 12:22 pm

Like I said, Ted is now the GM to the entire NFL.

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asshalo's picture

August 02, 2011 at 12:26 pm

I'm loving the beat writers, bloggers and fans immediate reactions from practice. It seems to have taken a step-up this year.

Aaron, glad you elaborated on your tweets from practice in this post. Keep it up-- please.

Also, is no one going to comment on Aaron using crazy as an adjective twice in one post? Just saying.

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Wgbeethree's picture

August 02, 2011 at 01:16 pm

D.J. Williams and Randall Cobb are crazy impressive.

This qoute has earned these two young men new nicknames that they will carry thoughout their careers for me. D.J. "Mr. Pibb" Williams and Randall "Red Vines" Cobb.

Mr. Pibb + Red Vines = crazy impressive!

If you get the reference you'll probably find that funny. If not, I still will and I pretty much just aim to entertain myself anyways. ;-)

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CounterPoint's picture

August 03, 2011 at 01:35 pm

You do know the actual reference is "crazy delicious" though, right?

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Oppy's picture

August 02, 2011 at 06:20 pm

OLB position..

I have already thrown in my prediction that Brad Jones is the Starting ROLB opening day. He is simply a complete player at OLB.

I'm very excited about Walden honing his skills further. We already know he's a monster pass rush specialist, but I have to ask: How did he look in run support? Could he set the edge on monday night? Walden was repeatedly abused in the run game last season.. THat's why I don't see him as the starting OLB, unless that's changed. That's where Jones stands out- Brad Jones is well rounded.

For all the talk about moving an OLB to the inside, I can't understand why everyone is talking about Brad Jones... To me, Frank Zombo is the clear choice to move inside if that's the route the PAckers go. Zombo is very stout vs. the run, and it is IMPERATIVE to maintain run integrity up the middle in a 3-4 defense.. That's why the NT is the most important piece of the 3-4 puzzle (No, it's not the OLBs though they get all the numbers). You need to seal off the inside vs. the run. Zombo would be the best choice to move inside out of the 3.

Oh, and I'm really, really intrigued by Vic So'oto.. Can't wait to get to camp and see him for myself. Measurables look great, and a few tweets sound promising.

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PackersRS's picture

August 02, 2011 at 06:42 pm

Re: Zombo's good run defense.

That's a very fair assessment, but it's one thing to be effective setting the edge, it' another thing to be able to recognize the play from behind the DL, manage in space and make a play shedding blockers.

I'm not sure Zombo has the agility necessary to play in space as an ILB.

But then again, a guy that is widely regarded as a great run stopping ILB in Takeo Spikes couldn't be more stiff.

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