One: The Big Deal
Watching Andrew Datko getting beaten again and again in pass protection last week, a case could have been made that the seventh-round pick was the worst of the Green Bay Packers' eight draft choices.
On Saturday night, Datko was sharing first-team reps with Herb Taylor at left tackle.
On the one hand, that's a damning statement about the offensive line depth the Packers seem prepared to take into the regular season. Last year's first-round pick, Derek Sherrod, hasn't gotten onto the field since breaking a leg in December. Even if he were to make his practice debut on Sunday — neither Sherrod nor the coaches have even hinted at his timetable — it's a stretch to believe Sherrod could play effectively with such a lengthy layoff.
On the other hand, it's a salute to Datko, who seems to have made some progress in shaving away two years of rust and bad habits.
"Andrew just started picking up here these last couple days," offensive line coach James Campen said on Tuesday, a couple of days before the preseason-opening game at San Diego. "He just needs to play into it. He hasn't played a lot of football. You say he's got 40 starts (at Florida State) or whatever that number is, but he didn't play a lot last year. He's knocking some rust off and getting better and better."
Datko's early troubles are understandable. Yes, he started 41 games in his career. However, he played through a shoulder injury throughout his junior season. Because of the pain and lack of strength, Datko was forced into some bad habits just to get by. As a senior, he started four games before being shut down after offseason shoulder injury didn't heal properly.
"My junior year, I played my whole season with a torn shoulder so I had to play and pass block and run block a different way," Datko said. "In college, I kind of brought them to me and steered them. Now, I have to learn how to keep them out there and punch with my left hand. That's what practice is for is to get that left arm out there again."
A left tackle by trade, Datko played about 55 snaps at right tackle at San Diego. On Thursday, Taylor and Datko alternated at left tackle every two plays.
"In practice, sometimes I'm not using my left hand because of my habit of, ‘You're hurt,' when really I'm healthy," he said. "During individual drills, I have to remind myself, ‘Look, you're healthy, you can use your left.' The times I win, I use it. The times I lose, that hand's kind of out there. I just have to keep working on it."
Two: Rookie of the Day
Injuries to Sam Shields (elbow) and Davon House (shoulder) have opened the door for second-round pick Casey Hayward to emerge with a starting job. Hayward ran with the No. 1 defense for the first time on Saturday night. On Thursday, Hayward gave up a long completion to Vincent Brown but otherwise played fine.
In about the highest praise imaginable, cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt recently said he sees some of Charles Woodson's game in Hayward's. While Hayward isn't as big as Woodson, he's smart, plays physical and has a nose for the football.
Three: Position of the Day
Each day, we take a look at the competition at one position.
Inside linebacker: Where do the Packers turn without Desmond Bishop? At this point, D.J. Smith has taken Bishop's spot in the defense, whether it's in the base or nickel packages, where Smith lines up with A.J. Hawk, or in the dime, where Smith is the lone inside linebacker.
"Every play you take in there, you've got to play it likes its your last and you've got to be fully accountable because there are 10 other guys that are counting on you to do your job," Smith said.
As for depth, the Packers have plenty of options. The second unit on Saturday consisted of Robert Francois and Jamari Lattimore. They're the front-runners for roster spots behind Smith and Hawk. Rookie fifth-round pick Terrell Manning, who hasn't done much of anything noteworthy in camp, might have moved onto the right side of the roster bubble, though that will depend on special teams.
TE Andrew Quarless, on the Penn State scandal: "It's pretty sad. It's a sad story, a sad day in Happy Valley. Starting with the victims – it's a crazy thing that they weren't helped. There's a lot more that could have been helped, there could have been (fewer) victims. I have mixed feelings about it. I've been thinking about a lot it, thinking about Coach Paterno. He's one of the reasons I came to Penn State, just to play for a legend. To see his thing go the way it did, and for him to be deceased and not be able to defend himself, it's tough. But when I look at the whole spectrum of things, I think it's never good to put anybody … You know, there's only one God. Only one God. I'm not saying he was a god out there, but they put him on a high pedestal, where it was like he couldn't do wrong. I don't think you should put anybody above football, above who they really are. That was one of the things I took out of that. They really put him on a big pedestal there, and he could do no wrong, and then when stuff happens, it's, ‘Am I going to take a little blemish on my legacy, or am I going to try to (cover it up)?'"
RB Alex Green, who played in his first game on Thursday since sustaining a torn ACL on Oct. 23: "That meant a lot to me. That meant a lot to me. It's definitely great just to be out there with the guys. For me personally, it was a good feeling to be out there — putting the pads on, getting in the backfield again, it was a great feeling. It had been a long time since I had been back there so that definitely felt good."
WR Andy Brewer was released by Philadelphia on one day, claimed off waivers the next and played the next: "It was certainly a whirlwind. I was in three different cities in 48 hours. I was on a lot of plane rides, in a lot of cities, but I love it. I'm just so happy and thankful that God's opened up another door to play some football."
OLB Vic So'oto, who's had a quiet training camp, had a sack at San Diego: "I haven't had as many opportunities but I can't control that. When I do get my opportunities, I've got to make the most of them. Going into that first play,reading the play action, getting around the fullback and getting the sack is definitely a confidence booster and more of an affirmation of what I can do."
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.