Training Camp Battlegrounds

Starting in Green Bay, we examine this week's training camp battles and examine the rookies' impact through one preseason game. Leading off is the Packers' battle at left guard, where T.J. Lang is battling first-round pick Derek Sherrod.

Green Bay Packers

BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Derek Sherrod vs. T.J. Lang at left guard. Both players were on full display for the first three quarters of the Packers' preseason-opening loss at Cleveland on Saturday. They played together for six consecutive possessions — flip-flopping between left guard and left tackle — but not before Sherrod opened the game at guard beside veteran tackle Chad Clifton and then gave way to Lang for a series alongside Clifton. After Monday's practice, coach Mike McCarthy said Lang graded out better than Sherrod in the game. Still, the battle is too close to call and should intensify heading into the next exhibition game Friday, when McCarthy surely wants to have someone emerge as a worthy successor to Daryn Colledge, who incidentally will be back at Lambeau Field that night with the Arizona Cardinals.

OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: Frank Zombo vs. Erik Walden vs. Brad Jones at right outside linebacker. Walden was listed as the starter on the team's first depth chart of camp, but Zombo made the start Saturday. Zombo's time on the right side didn't last long, however, because he slid over to the left side when Clay Matthews left the field after a cameo of only four plays, and that allowed Walden to run with the 1s on the right side. Later, Walden moved to the left, and Jones came in for a couple series on the right. Walden didn't help his cause by allowing Browns tight end Benjamin Watson to blow by him off the snap a good 5 yards and haul in a 37-yard reception on a seam route. ... Ryan Grant vs. James Starks at halfback. Grant made the start in his first action since sustaining an ankle injury in the 2010 season opener. Starks subsequently was the lead back in the second and final series the Aaron Rodgers-led No. 1 unit played. Neither player posted big numbers — Grant had three carries for 13 yards; Starks had two rushes for 14 yards. While McCarthy favors a time share between the two, he may be forced to go with Grant in the featured role indefinitely after Starks dropped out of Saturday's game with an ankle injury.

ROOKIE REPORT: WR Randall Cobb (second) validated his strong start in camp by leading the Packers with three catches for 60 yards Saturday. Cobb also was the team's No. 1 punt returner and kickoff returner, averaging 29 yards in two runbacks for the latter. ... RB Alex Green (third), who had been working as the team's top kickoff returner in practice, didn't play Saturday because of an ankle injury he sustained late in the week. ... CB Davon House (fourth) has been sidelined since suffering a hamstring injury Aug. 5. ... TE D.J. Williams (fifth) had one catch for 18 yards Saturday. A good start in camp has him pushing Andrew Quarless to be Jermichael Finley's top understudy. ... OG Caleb Schlauderaff (sixth) played extensively Saturday as the No. 2 right guard and also worked at left guard late in the game. ... TE Ryan Taylor (seventh) led Green Bay's deep tight end group with two receptions for 30 yards Saturday. Taylor also was featured prominently on Green Bay's first-string units on special teams.

Chicago Bears

BATTLE OF THE WEEK: The fight is "only" for the backup job behind Matt Forte, but, since it involves a couple of high-profile veterans — Marion Barber and Chester Taylor — it is being closely scrutinized. Barber is the clear leader, as he rushed for 45 yards on seven carries in the preseason opener, while Taylor managed just 3 yards on three carries. Barber also appears to be quicker and shiftier while running with the power than Taylor failed to exhibit last season, while he was averaging just 2.4 yards per carry.

OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: While they're not battling for the same position, newly acquired center Chris Spencer and right guard Lance Louis are competing for the fifth starting spot on the offensive line. Louis is at right guard only because incumbent right guard Roberto Garza was moved to center after negotiations with Olin Kreutz broke down. That handed Louis the right guard job. But he was burned for two sacks Saturday night, which could necessitate Garza's move back to right guard with Spencer stepping into the pivot.


Gabe Carimi
Dennis Wierzbicki/US Presswire
ROOKIE REPORT: First-round offensive tackle Gabe Carimi moved into the starting lineup in the first week of training camp, as almost everyone who watched the Bears' offensive line play last season, expected. But Carimi is far from satisfied. "I have high expectations for myself," he said, "and I always want to do better than what other people think I should. Offensive line coach Mike Tice has referred to Carimi as an "elite" run blocke, but his pass blocking must improve. ... This year's second-round pick Stephen Paea has struggled to get much playing time at nose or 3-technique, both of which are deep positions for the Bears. ... Fourth-round pick Chris Conte had three tackles while playing safety most of the second half with the second team. ... QB Nathan Enderle, the fifth-round pick from Idaho, completed 7-of-10 passes for 110 yards in his first professional game but was intercepted once and sacked five times, failing to show much escape ability. ... J.T. Thomas, the sixth-round pick from West Virginia, has positioned himself for a roster spot with his early performance in camp, even though a nagging hip injury kept him out of the preseason opener.

Detroit Lions

BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Veteran Erik Coleman was signed before the lockout to be the starting strong safety alongside FS Louis Delmas. The thought was Amari Spievey, a converted corner who won the starting SS spot as a rookie last season, needed another year of seasoning. Spievey apparently has other plans. He is not giving up the spot easily. He's had an outstanding camp, and made several strong plays Friday. "I was looking at the depth chart from last year and he was the fourth safety on the right side," defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham said. "He's come a long ways. He's looked really good, really fast. He came in in great shape."

OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: Rookie punter Ryan Donahue has booted the ball a mile in practice, but his first game action was less than stellar. He had three punts that netted an average of 32.0 yards. He did whack a 50-yarder, but he kicked it out of the end zone. His one pooch kick he left well short — just 22 yards and fair-caught at the 20. ... WR Derrick Williams, one of the standouts in camp, dropped two straight passes from Drew Stanton on Friday. He redeemed himself, though. Stanton threw to him a third straight time, and Williams made the 32-yard reception. Meanwhile both Rashied Davis and Maurice Stovall have impressed in the offense but especially on special teams. ... RB Aaron Brown, perhaps facing the longest odds to make the roster, had the most productive day of any other running back. He caught five passes for 49 yards and ran four times for 21 yards. He needs to string three more productive performances together if he's to beat out Maurice Morris, Jerome Harrison or Mike Bell.

ROOKIE REPORT: WR Titus Young, a second-round pick who was expected to be a field-stretching third receiver, has been sidelined for most of camp with an injured hamstring. ... LB Doug Hogue, a fifth-round pick, is considered a project. He's a converted fullback and played defense for only two years at Syracuse. He's showing himself to be a quick learner. He made an excellent read on a play-action pass, dropped into coverage and batted the ball away from a tight end. Still, his contribution is expected to come on special teams this season. ... OT Johnny Culbreath, seventh-round pick, had a rough debut. He was beat several times off the edge, completely missed a block on a running play which resulted in a loss and then forgot he was supposed to be on the field-goal unit and ran out late.

Minnesota Vikings

BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Tyrell Johnson and Jamarca Sanford continue to compete for the starting job start at strong safety. Johnson missed practice time last week because of a minor hamstring injury, giving Sanford additional reps with the first team. Johnson has returned but the fact Sanford was able to get more reps for a few days could help his cause. Sanford did get the start and worked with the first team in the Vikings' preseason opener at Tennessee.

OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: Chris DeGeare is playing left guard with the first team with Anthony Herrera on the PUP list. Coach Leslie Frazier said that Herrera will have to compete with DeGeare for the job when he returns. Ryan Cook also could enter into the mix. ... The wide receiver competition exists at the No. 4 and 5 spots, with Bernard Berrian, Michael Jenkins and Percy Harvin pretty much set at the top three spots. Among those competing are Devin Aromashodu, Jaymar Johnson, Emmanuel Arceneaux, Juaquin Iglesias and Greg Camarillo

ROOKIE REPORT: QB Christian Ponder, the 12th overall pick in the draft, continues to have his ups and downs. Ponder's arm strength appears fine, although his passes are not always on target. He has been splitting second- and third-team reps with Joe Webb. He was the third quarterback into the preseason game but will work with the second team on Saturday against Seattle. ... TE Kyle Rudolph (second round) displayed good hands early in camp but then struggled at times. Like Ponder, he is trying to learn an NFL offense without the benefit of having been able to work with the Vikings in the offseason. Rudolph has one reception against the Titans in the Vikings' first preseason game. ... DL Christian Ballard (fourth round) is working with the third team, as is CB Brandon Burton (fifth round). Ballard has flashed at times and could compete for a backup job playing inside. He had the Vikings only sack against Tennessee... DeMarcus Love, the first of the Vikings' four sixth-round picks, is working as the third-team left tackle ... Mistral Raymond (sixth round) has performed well in camp but a hamstring injury forced him to miss the first preseason game. ... C Brandon Fusco is getting third-team work behind John Sullivan and Jon Cooper. ... LB Ross Homan is working at outside linebacker with the second unit. ...Seventh-round DE D'Aundre Reed appears as if he has the talent to make a bid for a roster spot. Reed is 6-4, 260 pounds so he certainly has the build to be successful. ... Seventh-round wide receiver Stephen Burton has struggled with dropped passes in camp and was scratched from the first preseason game because of a hamstring issue.


Agree or disagree?: Discuss hot Packers topics in our, free forums. Leave publisher Bill Huber a question in the subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum.



Packer Report Top Stories