One: The Big Deal
Running backs coach Alex Van Pelt will spend Thursday's preseason game against Cleveland with his fingers crossed.
Injuries have obliterated Van Pelt's depth chart. With James Starks (turf toe), Brandon Saine (hamstring), Duane Bennett (knee), Cedric Benson (inactive), John Kuhn (ankle) and Jon Hoese (hamstring) sidelined, Van Pelt's options are limited. The running backs are Alex Green and Marc Tyler, and the fullback is Nic Cooper.
Perhaps Van Pelt should bring a Bible. Or some bubble wrap.
Green, whose workload remains limited as he recovers from a torn ACL, will get the start and play the first quarter or so.
"It's gone up a little bit," Green said of his snap count at practice. "A few more guys went down so it went up a little bit more because of that, too, and my knee getting a little more healthy. I'm getting the feel of things more and I'm starting to get back into a rhythm, so I think (my role) has increased."
Tyler, an undrafted rookie, has been the sacrificial lamb, so to speak. Not only is he getting reps with the offense but he's been the primary back with the scout team. He'll play the final three quarters.
"It's been tough," Van Pelt said. "Marc has been a stud. He's taken about 50 percent of the reps, scout team reps included. He's done a great job of stepping in and taking on the load, he really has. It's tough. Alex isn't 100 percent yet so the last guy left has a lot of reps. He hasn't complained once. He's run everything we've asked him to in our offense, and he's done the same thing for the look team. I'm proud of him."
Tyler said he's "a little tired" and tries to stay fresh by taking ice baths.
"You can't compare this to nothing," he said with a weary shake of the head. "It's fast and furious out there."
Cooper ran for more than 1,800 yards last season as Winston-Salem State reached the Division II semifinals. He's been making the transition to fullback but would be a fallback option in a one-back set if Tyler needs a break.
And, in case of emergency, there's receiver Curenski Gilleylen, who played receiver for his first three seasons at Nebraska before being moved to running back for his senior year.
"Anybody that can carry it right now is up," Van Pelt said.
Asked if he's been doing double duty on the playbook, Gilleylen said: "Just a little bit. I don't think they're going to throw the whole thing at me as far as all the protections and checks, but they want to make sure I can do some of the base things."
Two: Rookie of the Day
Receiver is the Packers' deepest position. Beyond the Big Five and first-year players Diondre Borel and Tori Gurley are two really promising undrafted rookies who could wind up on the practice squad: Dale Moss and Jarrett Boykin.
Boykin, despite being Virginia Tech's career leader in receptions and yards, went undrafted and signed with Jacksonville but was cut after the rookie camp. Boykin, whose draft stock was sunk by a 4.74 clocking at the Scouting Combine, hooked up with Green Bay and is getting better with every practice. At 6-foot-2 and 218 pounds, he's got excellent size, and he seems to have a knack for gaining separation. His hands were among the biggest among the receivers at the Combine, and he's used those to catch just about everything in sight. During the span of a few minutes on Tuesday, Boykin caught two passes from Graham Harrell and one from B.J. Coleman.
Three: Position of the Day
Each day, we take a look at the competition at one position.
Quarterback: Training camp started with a clear one-two-three pecking order, with Aaron Rodgers followed by Graham Harrell and rookie B.J. Coleman.
Nothing has changed.
Harrell is the clear-cut No. 2. He hasn't been great at training camp and wasn't exceptional at San Diego (15-of-27 for 135 yards and one touchdown), but his two-minute drive at the end of the first half amplified the coaches' belief that he is a gamer.
"He's becoming an expert in the offense, which is important for the game to really slow down for you, so he's understanding that better," Rodgers said. "I think, really from the first day he got here, he's throwing the ball a lot better than probably most of us expected and he's still throwing the ball really well. He just understands the offense better, so he's not really thinking as much. He's doing better with the protection schemes. He made a great protection adjustment in the game and hit (Randall) Cobb down the middle on the big play there in that two-minute drive. When you see a play like that, you realize he's come a long way."
Coleman has shown his ability in spurts. Strong-armed and intelligent, there's little doubt he has the potential to be a starting-caliber quarterback. However, his accuracy is inconsistent. A perfect example came on back-to-back plays on Tuesday. On the first, Coleman rifled a pass to Cobb, who beat Tramon Williams on an out for a touchdown. On the next, Coleman's slant to Jordy Nelson hit cornerback Casey Hayward. During a two-minute drill at the end of practice, Coleman went 0-for-3 and was sacked.
GM Ted Thompson, on bucking the norm and investing heavily in his guards: "Obviously, the tackle positions, especially the left tackle, seems to be the position where a lot of the money flows in terms of contract extensions, but we feel like all along the line of scrimmage, if you have quality people, quality big people are hard, hard to find, especially in guys like T.J. that are good people and fit in well and enjoy being a Packer. I think he really likes being a Packer. I think he likes the community. I think he likes the people that he works with. I don't think you can oversell that."
Defensive coordinator Dom Capers, on DE Ryan Pickett: "He's an outstanding run player. He's big, he's physical, he's a good technician in the run game. It normally takes two blockers (to block him). He's an experienced guy, a veteran that knows how to play the game. Over a period of time, you grow to count on him because he's an accountable guy."
NT B.J. Raji, on last year's defensive performance: "If you look at Dom's tenure here, last year was an anomaly. That's how we're looking at it. In 2009, we were the No. 2 defense in the league. 2010, we were a top-10 defense. Last year, we dropped all the way to 32nd. I don't think that's the constant here. I think that's unusual for us. At the end of the day, I think there'll be a chip on our shoulders from a defensive perspective. When you have a reason to play and you're playing with the type of aggression that we plan on playing with, I think it'll be contagious on the other two phases of the game."
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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.