Offseason Vital For Young Players

Players like Randall Cobb and D.J. Williams had their rookie offseasons canceled by the lockout.

D.J. Williams has made his first offseason as a pro count for something.

The Green Bay Packers tight end noted during the final week of organized team activities how he's been applying lessons given indirectly by veteran receiver Donald Driver.

"I worked on my agility watching Driver (on the TV show) 'Dancing with the Stars' - getting my hips right, learning how to get in and out of breaks from watching him salsa," Williams said June 5.

Driver and professional dance partner Peta Murgatroyd won the title in the latest season of "Dancing with the Stars." Driver's teammates met Murgatroyd when she made a special appearance at his charity softball game near Green Bay on June 3.

"She just gave me an influence to work hard," Williams said of Murgatroyd. "Maybe I can find a girl who looks like her."

Williams is one of several young Packers who are reaping the benefits of having an offseason filled with football, one year after a glaring absence of springtime activities and workouts because of the NFL lockout.

Randall Cobb, who was part of the Packers' 2011 draft class with Williams, remembers the drawn-out experience of no football all too well.

"It was a waiting game," the receiver said.

Cobb compensated for being barred from stepping foot inside the team facilities for the first time until the lockout ended in late July just before training camp opened by "working out every day, doing the little things that I could."

A year later, and with nearly two months of a structured offseason this spring under his belt — unlike injured first-round pick Derek Sherrod (broken leg) and running back Alex Green (ACL) — Cobb is on the ascent in his development as a pro player.

Head coach Mike McCarthy would like to get the football in the versatile and electric Cobb's hands more, particularly on offense.

While the second-round draft pick dazzled as a kick returner last season with two runbacks for touchdowns, Cobb had limited opportunities as a situational pass catcher lined up in the slot. He finished the season with 28 receptions and only one touchdown in 16 games (including the playoffs).

"Randall had an excellent rookie season. He contributed," McCarthy said. "I thought he made an impact on our special teams with his return ability. I look for him to take a step in the right direction there. And, now, he's more involved with what we're asking him to do offensively.

"I look for him to grow from Year 1 to Year 2," McCarthy added. "We have a long history of players growing from year 1 to 2, and I look for him to take that step."

The hope is Graham Harrell falls in line on that chart of progression as well, although the quarterback is on Year 3 with the team.

This, too, is his first offseason of work with the Packers. He missed the quarterback school McCarthy holds each year early in the offseason in 2010 because Harrell didn't sign with Green Bay as a free agent until late May. Last year, of course, was wiped out by the lockout.

Harrell hasn't squandered his opportunities to run the offense this offseason and appears to have eased concerns about what the Packers would do about replacing departed free agent Matt Flynn (Seattle Seahawks) as Aaron Rodgers' top understudy.

"I think that in this offense, the most important thing is learning the terminology, learning the offense, getting comfortable calling plays and knowing where you're going to be," Harrell said. "When you get to break it down from the beginning more like we do with QB school, it really gets you more familiar with the terms and the offense, and that's huge for a quarterback. That alone has been very important. On the field, they break down every step, to the crazy smallest things that you do in your throwing motion and your drop. Being a spread offense quarterback my whole life, any time you have an opportunity to do that from under center type of stuff, then you really get it broken down, it's helpful. It's been a big offseason."

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