GREEN BAY – At this time, the Green Bay Packers are well into their second padded practice of training camp. It is difficult at times to know who can play and who cannot after four weeks, let alone four hours.
That said, here a few observations – from a distance, and only an hour’s worth at Saturday’s first padded practice:
** Packers coach Mike McCarthy is going to be demanding throughout training camp. He isn’t going to err in thinking the players’ sense of urgency is where it should be, only to find out it isn’t, which is most likely to occur, if at all, during the regular-season opener.
That isn’t going to be tolerated.
** The Packers may have had good reason not to add a running back. The new addition was already on the roster: Alex Green. At six feet, 220 pounds, Green looks explosive in the hole and elusive in the open field. He clocked a 4.52 40-yard dash at the 2011 combine (identical to Packers WR Randall Cobb’s time) but was derailed by injuries.
Now, Green appears healthy and ready to assume a significant role in McCarthy’s offensive backfield. Despite his recent history, Green’s statured and ability to make tacklers miss should equate to durability. That remains to be seen.
Green could be the Packers’ third-down back – working a lot out of the single-back sets – and seeing responsibility for picking up blitzes for and catching check-downs from Aaron Rodgers.
James Starks also looks strong – a bit leaner and quicker – and should be good to go as the starter in the base offense. Starks’ ability to hang onto the football, finish runs strong and catch it OK out of the backfield makes him an asset.
Starks could benefit from Green’s presence by being asked to do less, but to do it better. When Starks can relax and concentrate on the job at hand, he has been better than average (the 2010 Super Bowl run wasn’t a fluke, and it shouldn’t be the lone highlight of Starks’ career).
** The defensive backs certainly look the part. From a leaner, more seasoned Jarrett Bush to youngsters such as Casey Hayward, Davon House and Sam Shields, the Packers’ secondary appears to be more athletic and rangy than any group in recent memory.
This doesn’t mean it will equate to a stable of tight cover guys and willing tacklers, but it does mean they shouldn’t be routinely overmatched by the NFC North’s strong group of wide receivers. The Lions’ Calvin Johnson, the Bears’ Brandon Marshall and the Vikings’ Percy Harvin all have game-breaking ability. That is six games’ worth of potential grief if the Packers’ secondary isn’t up to the challenge.
If looks and first impressions matter in the least, and early judgments likely are either erroneous or lucky like winning a coin flip, consider this: The Packers AT LEAST APPEAR to have bona fide defenders.
It isn’t just Tramon Williams, Charles Woodson and a bunch of guys.
Or so it seems.
** Jerel Worthy and Nick Perry are saying and doing all the right things. Whether the defensive tackle and outside linebacker can contribute to any great degree as rookies remains to be seen. However, they at least meet the eye test, unlike the Jamal “Too Small” Reynolds’s of years past. Worthy and Perry will get plenty of chances to make noise in the one-on-one pass rush drills and 11-on-11 live action, but make no mistake, the preseason games are going to be critical.
Consider this: Where would the Packers’ Dom Capers and staff be in trying to develop Worthy, Perry, etc., during a two-game preseason? It would be awful difficult, if not impossible, to expect anything more than performances that reflect the lack of repetitions.
It would lead to more personnel mistakes, I believe, and sloppier season openers. The last week of the regular season already has the potential to present games featuring teams’ backups and reserves. At least the season openers, in part thanks to the four-game preseason schedules, tend to bring exciting, high-scoring games to kick off the NFL season.
That is why four preseason games is still a good idea, and why the Packers’ offense needs to be sharp, and Worthy and Perry need to develop quickly.
When the San Francisco 49ers show up Sept. 9 it will be for real. The team with the greatest preparation, and the greatest sense of urgency, typically prevails.
Chris Havel is a Packers News expert and national best-selling author. His latest book is Lombardi: An Illustrated Life. Havel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4-6 p.m. CDT on WDUZ FM 107.5 The Fan, or on AM-1400, as well as Fan Internet Radio (www.thefan1075.com). Havel also hosts Event USA’ Player Autograph Parties the evening before home games.