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Watching Younger Players As The Pads Go On

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Watching Younger Players As The Pads Go On

I'll be at practice tonight for the first padded practice of the 2011 campaign. While I am anxious to see, well, everything, the players I am most looking forward to seeing are the first and second year players. Obviously there are the "name" guys like Derrek Sherrod, Randall Cobb, D.J. Williams (who from all accounts has been lights out catching the ball so far) and Alex Green - but I'm also very curious to see some of the undrafted free agents, such as kick returner Shaky Smithson and offensive lineman Ray Dominguez.

As for guys returning for their second year, obviously all eyes will be on Mike Neal as he comes back from the torn rotator cuff that cost him most of 2010. He is being counted on to bolster a defensive line that saw Cullen Jenkins, the teams best interior pass rusher, bolt for Philadelphia in free agency.

Another second year player that I'll be interested in tracking throughout training camp is cornerback Sam Shields. Joe Whitt Jr. created a bit of a stir last year when, a few weeks into camp, he said Shields would prove to be the best cornerback in the 2010 draft class. Pretty heady stuff for a guy that wasn't even drafted. Obviously, Shields' play helped make Whitt look prophetic, but how has an offseason away from the Packers and their staff effected Shields? Will he come back as hungry as he was last offseason when nearly every day in camp he made a play that made you stop and say "Wow. That kid has got something"? Shields, and the Packers, can't afford for the young cornerback to plateau. He needs to keep refining his technique and keep getting better. Being around Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams, two consumate pros, should help in this regard.

Getting back to the rookies for a moment, Matt Bowen of the National Football Post has a great run down of things to look for during this most unique of camps, where rookies will not only be running and hitting at the NFL level for the first time - they'll be doing so while trying to absorb an NFL playbook. No easy task.

Bowen's entire post is worth reading, but I particularly liked this:

Life as a rookie would be great if you saw base personnel on the field at all times. Line up in Cover 3 vs. Regular personnel (2 WR, 1 TE, 1 RB) on defense and play football. But that isn’t reality in the NFL. Look for this: pre-snap movement. Why? Because that forces players on both sides of the ball to adjust. Can the rookies make the checks and get through the play? I tell young guys all the time to stay up all night studying for a simple reason: you would rather be tired and know how to line up. And if you can’t adjust, there is no way to show the coaching staff (and the veterans) that you belong on the roster.

This will be a particularly important point for guys like Cobb and Green, who will have to be on the same page as quarterback Aaron Rodgers when he starts going through his "check with me's" and the other various adjustments at the line of scrimmage. Not to mention Green will need to get up to speed on how the Packers' backs protect the quarterback. There's no quicker way to get a permanent seat on the bench than to miss a blitz pick up that would get your quarterback killed. As for Cobb, we already saw in practice last night a play where the rookie wide receiver missed an adjustment and Rodgers threw an interception. Cobb will need to demonstrate the ability to read defensive coverages when he is out on his routes before he becomes a regular in the rotation.

These are just some of the things to watch when the pads go on tonight. Helmets and shorts are nice. But now its time for some football.

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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.

Chad Toporski's picture

Nice post. For rookies, it's mostly mental work at this point. Studying, concentrating, and getting things to start becoming second nature is where they'll earn their reps. As you said, I'm excited to hear about the performance of the younger players tonight.

CSS's picture

Interesting quotes on the composure A.J. Hawk shows in the huddle compared to, what the qualified as a very 'emotional, Nick Barnett:

"With A.J. calling the plays, it was a little bit more relaxed," said Bishop, adding that Hawk's style was no more effective than Barnett's intense approach.

"But when you're a young player like myself and you have somebody like A.J. commanding the defense with composure, it keeps you composed," nose tackle B.J. Raji said. "If they're driving on us, A.J. is the same way as if we're shutting them down. That allows you to just continue to play."

I'm not here to rail on Barnett, just hoping Hawk's 'composure' in the huddle helps the young guys on this squad.

CSS's picture

I was very happy the Packers grabbed D.J. Williams. I thought the kid was a more athletic Dallas Clark and could be used the same way. He's going to be working with a reduced number of plays until mid-season, but he can be such a mismatch. He's the type of kid McCarthy will foam at the mouth when drawing up game plans. There are sub-packages where, after accounting for Jennings, Finley, Driver/Jones/Nelson you're going to draw either a tiny dime corner or a 2nd linebacker....neither capable of running with Williams.

I would pay to see McCarthy and the offensive staff at the drawing board by week 8.

alexwoodsIAM's picture

I dont know CSS... it sounds like Barnett has more intensity and fire..

CSS's picture

Never questioned his intensity and fire. Just interesting to hear the favorable contrast where composure is more effective than the opposite approach. I know if I were overwhelmed as a young guy in Capers defense I would start thinking too much with an overly emotional signal caller and start missing assignments, tackles. Just press too much.

Ruppert's picture

Ya just gotta be a fan of a longshot rookie named "Shaky." Ya just gotta...

FITZCORE1252's picture


fishandcrane's picture

Shaky and Packer punt returning just sound so right together.

PackersRS's picture


alexwoodsIAM's picture

Yeah I here you, but on the other side if a team is driving on you. I want someone that will snap me outta of it fire up the vets who maybe are gearing up for the "next" series. I guess it really depends on the player. Bishop said it has no effect while Raji feels different.

CSS's picture

Read between the lines with Bishop, he's being very diplomatic as to not insult his predecessor.

Tommyboy's picture

I'm looking forward to the TE battle and what Nick MacDonald and Marshall Newhouse bring to the table.

Mojo's picture

And while you're there Aaron peek at my dark horse candidate - Ricky Elmore.

Nerd's picture

Yeah, let us know how he looks!

PkrNboro's picture


NEWSFLASH: You guys ***are*** the Packers reporters, as far as I'm concerned.

Years ago, I thought the Journal Sentinel was peerless. Then the Green Bay Press Gazette. But within the last couple of years, I think you guys have established yourselves as the best Packer news source -- whether they say you're "credentialed", or not.

Many thanks...


packeraaron's picture

Really nice of you guys to say. Thanks very much.

MadMan's picture

AMEN, Pkrnboro. This is the first site I check in with when I log on to the internet. CheeseheadTV is the best fan site and now is the go to site for all things Packers.

TPackers's picture


Scott in China's picture

I agree with you two. Maybe we should start a petition to get these guys credentialed. I used to check jsonline and daily, but now between Aaron's tweets and the I just check them a few times a week for new articles. Keep up the awesome work guys.

Bo Gosmer's picture

So many exciting players! And you just know that TT will keep one or two of the least expected. I personaly really like D.J Smith as a prospect for the future, but we'll see how it goes. Go Pack Go!

OneTwoSixFive's picture

One of the key things to watch is who catches everything and who has dropsies. Finley has real good hands and Jennings are good too. Now we have TE D.J.Williams who some have said has the best hands in the draft. RB Alex Green is another who can really catch. If Cobb proves to have good hands, the competition ramps up to completely bonkers levels.

fishandcrane's picture

Rodgers threw an interception??????

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