One: The Big Deal
The pads go on on Saturday.
Training camp might have begun with a bang on Thursday but it will continue with the crack of the helmets and the thumping of the pads on Saturday.
"One of the things I've always felt is you come out of the offseason with a certain impression, but that impression many times changes when you put the pads on," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said this week. "It's a game you play in pads, and you add the more physical component of the game, your opinions change – sometimes dramatically."
One phase of the game that must change dramatically is tackling. Last season, only five teams missed more tackles than Green Bay's 109, according to data compiled by ProFootballFocus.com. The coaches drilled it as best they could during the noncontact practices of the offseason and this week. Now, it's time to learn who wants to play physical.
"Last year, (we did) not really play as well as we have in the past," Charles Woodson said. "Tackling was a big part of it. There's an emphasis on it. Any time you have a glaring defect in a part of your game plan, it's going to be an emphasis the next year. They've really talked about it a whole lot and I think the main important thing for us is it's about playing with high energy, it's about flying around. There's going to be missed tackles, but if one guy misses a tackle and the next guy is there to make the tackle, then it'll be all right. We have to make sure that our defense is a fast-flowing defense, get to the ball and make sure that if the first guy doesn't get him, the second guy gets him; if the second guy doesn't get him, the third guy's right there, too, so there's not a lot of yards after the catch or yards after the first contact."
Two: Rookie of the Day
There's no way to judge a lineman when he's practicing without pads.
Still, Mike Daniels was a big mystery heading into training camp. The fourth-round pick missed all of the offseason workouts while recovering from surgery to repair a torn labrum suffered before Iowa's bowl game. Cleared for the start of training camp, Daniels strapped on his helmet for the first time on Thursday and showed some real potential on Friday.
Two plays stood out. Going up against second-year guard Ray Dominguez, Daniels used his strength to get immediate penetration. Dominguez held firm but Daniels kept pushing forward and pushing forward, finally forcing a throwaway at the sideline. Later, he beat one of the rookie linemen with a quick move and dropped the running back in the backfield.
Three: Position of the Day
Each day, we take a look at the competition at one position.
Running back: The Packers are short on experience at running back, with James Starks being the old man of the group. Starks, 26, enters his third season in the league with 162 career carries. Alex Green, 24, and Brandon Saine, 23, are second-year players, with a combined 22 carries. Undrafted rookies Marc Tyler and Duane Bennett are 23.
Combined, that quintet has carried the ball 184 times in the NFL. Compare that to Ryan Grant, who had seasons of 188, 312 and 282 attempts in 2007, 2008 and 2009, respectively. The Packers, of course, didn't retain Grant, figuring Starks, Saine and Green can give them what they need, not only with the ball but in protecting MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
"I think they're three talented guys," offensive coordinator Tom Clements said this week. "James has shown sparks of being an outstanding player. He has to continue to work toward that. Alex Green has a lot of ability. Before he got hurt, he was progressing to the point where he probably would have played a fair amount. He's a good runner, he's good out of the backfield – very good hands, good route runner. Brandon Saine is a steady, does-what-you're-supposed-to-do-all-the-time guy. Those three guys are solid players."
Experience – even just a year – is huge. During Friday' s practice, Jarrett Bush blitzed from the slot and was picked up by Saine, allowing Rodgers to throw a long touchdown pass to Randall Cobb. Later in practice, Brandian Ross blitzed from the slot on back-to-back plays. On the first, Tyler was late to react; on the second, Ross came in untouched.
Tramon Williams, on what he says to the rookies seeking his advice: "It's funny, because most of them do come to me because I was undrafted. I tell them to believe in what they do. Anything's possible. Don't look at the roster. If you're counting numbers and seeing who's going to make the team, then you're wasting your time. It just takes you go on the field and make plays and you can change everything."
McCarthy, on the difference between a young player having a good practice or two and a player having sustained success and making the team: "I would say the difference in a player making it is really not the physical. It's the mental. It's the preparation, the ability to be consistent in everything they do. Obviously, it starts on the field because if they don't perform they're really not part of that conversation to be on your football team. So, Ted (Thompson) and I both adjust the team the same way when we talk about the 53. We're not really looking for the 53 most talented players. We're looking for the 53 players that fit together to give us the best team. That's something we've always believed in. And I think it's been illustrated in the way we pick the team in the end. We don't just have a set formula for you keep so many players at each position. We really try to let the team unfold, the competition unfold, and we try to keep the best 53 players that we feel will be the best teammates and will come together and play as a team. So, that's our belief."
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.