Packers open camp with high hopes, fairly healthy roster

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The Packers look really good on paper. They look even better in person.
The Packers’ 2015 training camp kicked off Thursday and Friday with back-to-back non-padded practices. Then the pads came on and the gloves came off Saturday and Monday.
Here are several observations through four practices:

The roster is strong and deep.

The defensive secondary’s athleticism, speed and versatility is especially attention grabbing. First-round pick Damarious Randall flashed early and often with a mix of raw talent splashed with a hint of savvy. Quinten Rollins, the second-round pick, joined him on the field Monday after dealing with a hamstring issue. Rollins, like Randall, is smooth and rangy.
Whatever questions might be raised about the Packers’ standards for six-foot defensive backs being lowered is off target. Randall (5-11, 196) and Rollins (5-11, 195) are bookends.
Sam Shields continues to show why he was paid last season. He is expected to do some shadowing of the opponent’s top receiver, as opposed to staying put at left corner.

Aaron Rodgers offers the quarterback position brilliance.

Scott Tolzien offers it a chance to survive if disaster strikes. Tolzien’s self-assured approach and above-average right arm fit perfectly with what the Packers need in a backup quarterback. Tolzien is slowly developing into more than a caretaker. On Monday, for example, his throws were accurate. His reads were crisp and his technique was solid.
Tolzien wasn’t half bad when he took on the Giants and eventually lost in the Meadowlands a few years ago. Since then, he has grown into the position.

Clay Matthews needs to have a big season.

The Packers’ defense rose up in the season’s second half when Matthews moved inside on early downs. They also rely heavily upon him in passing downs.
It’s why his absence Monday due to “knee soreness” is bound to raise an eyebrow or two. It’s not because Matthews is viewed as soft. It’s because he’s viewed as integral.
To be its best, the defense needs Matthews in the worst way.

Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Davante Adams lead a receiver group

And it’s even stronger with the addition of Ty Montgomery. Montgomery, the third-round pick out of Stanford, made two sweet plays Monday. On the first, he lined up in the backfield, took a quick pitch and scampered 12 yards into the end zone. On the second, he ran a strong post pattern and snatched the ball out of the air as he sprinted into the end zone. Montgomery appears to be the real deal.

Josh Boyd and B.J. Raji intend to own the right end and nose tackle positions, respectively.

Boyd has been very strong early and might make it pesky for Datone Jones to recapture his starting spot when he returns from a one-game suspension.
Raji also has looked good and pronounced himself it. Letroy Guion is working hard and the competition can only mean good things for the defense.

Nick Perry is healthy and ready to roll.

Perry, who is coming off shoulder surgery, is critical to the Packers’ defensive plans. When Matthews moves inside it is incumbent upon Perry to set an edge against the run and/or rush the passer. So far, Perry has been doing both.

McCarthy seems more comfortable with his redefined role every day.

The Packers’ head coach has been more involved in the big picture by moving here and there during practice. If he did it as much in the past, I can’t remember. Perhaps everyone is just more aware of it since he relinquished the play-calling duties during the offseason.
At any rate, McCarthy’s post-practice news conferences reflect his eyes-everywhere approach. He talks with more specifics in certain areas. He also genuinely appears to be embracing it.
Why not? It’s good for the head coach to be re-energized and challenged, and McCarthy is among the best.

The fans remain simply amazing.

It’s only practice, but Packers fans don’t seem to mind.
Whether it’s 67,000 showing up simply to cheer for and pay their respects to Brett Favre, or thousands of fans encircling Ray Nitschke Field to watch training camp practice, they do so with class, energy and enthusiasm.
So far, so good four practices into the 2015 training camp.
Chris Havel is a national best-selling author and 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 ( Havel also hosts Event USA’ MVP Parties the evening before home games.