Former Bison running back John Crockett has never been short on personality. His attitude and his alter ego "Taz" have long made Crockett a media darling. It led to Crockett's inclusion in an ESPN pre-draft special and also made him a quick favorite on the Packers beat.
I was able to attend the first few days of Packers training camp, which opened earlier than most because of the then-scheduled (wasn't played) Hall of Fame Game. I was also able to sit down and talk to Crockett after practice on day two.
Crockett was seldom used a season ago, seeing playing time only as a spark plug in the comeback victory over Detroit (the Hail Mary game) and a blowout loss with a rag-tag version of Green Bay's offensive line against the Cardinals in Arizona.
There was concern going in to training camp that Crockett may not have been a clear favorite to keep his spot on the team. Green Bay signed running backs Brandon Ross and Brandon Burks after the 2016 draft.
After two practices it was clear what two preseason games have now confirmed. John Crockett is the Packers third string back. In fact, it's almost as if he's a second teamer. James Starks and Eddie Lacy only play with the first team and Aaron Rodgers. Any time highly-thought-of backup quarterback Brett Hundley comes in, Crockett follows.
The key for Crockett, beyond just making the team, will be transitioning to a player that the Packers keep active on game day, and start implementing in the game plan, not using him as an injury replacement.
"See that's my main focus right now. I need to put myself in a position to be a contributor to this offense. That's been my forte my whole life." said Crockett.
Crockett, as a third back is going to have to contribute on special teams to be consistently active on game day. Crockett was not really asked to be a part of teams during his time at NDSU. He was on scholarship to avoid tackles, not make them.
"There are only 46 that can play. You don't really know where you're going to fit in, you just have to fit in."
If Crockett is going to make the team, one way to it is to be more of a threat in the Packers passing game. Eddie Lacy is a bruising back that likes to play at around 230 pounds. James Starks is a tall and lean 6'2 218, but doesn't offer much in the way of receiving either. Both Lacy and Starks are viable check-down options, but if Crockett can become an actual threat, he can find his way into the game plan.
"That's one of my strengths right now, running routes and catching the ball. It's kind of something that's been a part of my game my whole life. It's something that we used more at NDSU my senior season. I have to find a way to stay on the field. No matter what niche that may be."
Crockett and the Packers have one goal in mind. 2015 was a down year by Green Bay standards, but it was also the best defensive performance by the club since their Super Bowl team of 2010. With the return of Jordy Nelson all the starters are back from the 2014 offense that led the league in points.
Will the 2014 offense in addition to the 2015 defense mean another Super run in Green Bay? Crockett knows what's expected.
"My number one goal is to help the Packers win a Super Bowl."
Crockett also has a message for Bison fans.
"That's my house. That's my home right there. They all know that I love them tremendously. I bleed Green and Gold, but there's nothing like NDSU. I can't say enough about Bison Football."
Carson Wentz was received warmly by the fans of Philadelphia during his debut. While his 12/24 0 touchdown 1 interception line may not be overly impressive, Wentz was under pressure all day. The Eagles showed a lack of depth on the offensive line and Wentz was subjected to hit after hit, eventually leading to a hairline fracture of his ribs that kept him out of last night's win over Pittsburgh.
CJ Smith has continued to impress. He had about as good of a game as one could ask for against Tampa, with three pass breakups (one that led to an INT) and a game ending interception. He followed that up by being part of a shutout effort against the Steelers on the road. How late in games the Eagles are playing Smith is concerning for Smith's prospects of making the team, but his performance says at least practice squad.
Joe Haeg has been rotating in on the right side of the Colts offensive line. Haeg played right tackle at NDSU while Billy Turner was still in town so it's not unfamiliar for him to play on the strong side of an offensive line. The Colts invested heavily in the trenches on draft day, a clear effort to keep superstar quarterback Andrew Luck upright.
Kyle Emanuel drew the start for the Chargers in a loss to Tennessee in San Diego's first game of the preseason. Emanuel made two tackles and set the edge in the Charger's 3-4 defense. Emanuel will look to make an impact as part of a pass rushing rotation this season. After a huge game in week one a season ago, Emanuel faded and became mostly a special teams contributor.
Ramon Humber is near the preseason lead for total tackles for the New England Patriots. The Patriots have a very good set of inside linebackers and will most likely look for Humber to bring his special teams expertise to Foxborough.
Andrew Bonnett is playing a fullback role for the Cincinatti Bengals. The Bengals are 1-1 with a win over the Lions and a loss to Minnesota.
Billy Turner and Marcus Williams both have established roles with their AFC East clubs, Miami and New York (Jets) respectively.