A shove here, a scuffle there as Packers’
players look more physical, focused
By Chris Havel
Special to Event USA
GREEN BAY, Wis. – Josh Jones stole the pass, if not the show, on a muggy morning featuring Day II of the Packers in pads.
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Jones picked off Brett Hundley along the right sideline to a raucous ovation from the fans in the stands at Ray Nitschke Field.
The rookie linebacker/defensive back continued to show awareness, range and ball skills. It comes one day removed the first day in pads, in which Jones lit up fellow rookie Malaki Dupre during practice.
Publicly, the coaches admonished Jones.
Privately, how could they NOT love his progress to this point?
Not ones to root for defense alone, the fans also spent the morning reveling in their love affair with Aaron Rodgers. The great QB looked more like a 13-year-old than a 13-year veteran as he pirouetted, scrambled and scampered for a “wink, wink” 40-yard touchdown.
The fans went crazy as Rodgers reached the far end zone, cradled the football under his right forearm and reversed course back to the huddle.
One might have thought the Packers had just sealed a berth in the Super Bowl.
As an aside, and to that end, Rodgers’ arm looks terrific. He flashed incredible zip and accuracy while making it look easy.
To that end, tight end Martellus Bennett continued to shine.
Bennett made catches over the middle, up the sideline and along the deep seam. Bennett, who proudly wears No. 80, is at risk of becoming a Dr. Seuss-like rhyme: “He caught it here. He caught it there. He caught it everywhere.”
It’s easy to see why Bennett listed Jay Cutler among his favorite quarterbacks – Cutler WAS a pretty good passer back in the day – and why he’s thrived with Tom Brady last year, and quite likely Rodgers this year.
Bennett can get open and he can catch. Furthermore, he admitted in a recent interview that he still loves the game, and that includes delivering a well-placed, well-timed stiff arm.
He also said he plans to retire as in a Packers’ uniform.
To me that’s big news.
It sets up the possibility of a three-to-four-year run with Rodgers to Bennett. At the risk of overstating Bennett’s potential impact, the guy just might tip the scales come the postseason.
Getting back to Jones for a moment, the second-round rookie draft pick from North Carolina State is intriguing.
Both he and veteran Morgan Burnett have taken reps at a hybrid position at inside linebacker. The idea is to get to the ball carrier before his would-be blockers have time to adjust.
Expect Burnett or Jones to knife into gaps against the run, blitz from all angles against the pass, or suddenly drop into a passing lane – which is what Jones did on his interception today.
Early in practice, Bryan Bulaga and Dean Lowry got tangled up in the one-on-one passing drills. Mike Daniels, who was standing nearby, took exception to Bulaga’s hand technique.
Bulaga and Daniels then got into a very brief scuffle.
It appeared to be more about Daniels trying to infuse some toughness and a “take-no-guff” attitude among his unit.
Bulaga, for his part, merely shows up to work every day. If Lowry or the coaches didn’t like his technique they can tell him. He doesn’t need to hear it from Daniels.
All in all, it’s a good sign because it suggests ownership and commitment, two things all championship teams have in common.
Along with Bennett, another veteran off-season acquisition continues to stand out. That’s Ricky Jean Francois, No. 95, who is another “show up and get to work” kind of player.
Francois has blended in seamlessly with the defensive linemen.
He plays bigger than his listed 6-foot-3, 318 pounds. By that, I mean Francois understands leverage, footwork and hand-fighting. On top of that he’s got the strength of a hardened NFL veteran who’s done and seen pretty much everything.
He was an “under the radar” acquisition to many.
Keep your eyes glued on No. 95.
Unless I miss my guess, Ricky Jean Francois will be playing a key role in the Packers’ defensive renaissance.