Now in his fifth training camp, B.J. Raji knows the deal. There are moments to coast a bit, with the focus on fundamentals and footwork and maybe not quite the emphasis on ruining each and every play by the offense. What matters, after all, are Sundays in the fall, not weekdays in the summer.
There was no coasting from Raji on Friday night, however.
For the first time during training camp, Raji was the dominant performer on the field. On back-to-back snaps of an inside running drill, Raji destroyed Greg Van Roten. On the first, Raji helped make the play. On the second, Raji wrapped up Angelo Pease about 4 yards in the backfield.
Then came the daily one-on-one pass-rushing drill. Raji, who didn't have a sack last season, entered the night with a 4-8 record, according to Packer Report's scoreboard. On Friday night, however, Raji finished 3-1. He used a wicked spin move to beat Don Barclay and brute force to handle Andrew Datko twice.
Someone has to be the odd man out in the backfield. Obviously, it's not going to be Lacy or Franklin. Harris, who hasn't practiced in camp, provided instant offense late last season. Starks has been on fire this summer and probably has been the best of the backs.
Thus, every mistake gets magnified, and Green made a big blunder when he was stripped by Johnny Jolly. Also, in a blitz drill, Green won his first two reps but barely got his hands on Donte Savage and was overpowered by Jarvis Reed. That's a brutal drill for the running backs, who have to stand their ground against an unblocked linebacker with a 5-yard running start, but pass protection is first and foremost in the minds of the coaches.
Position of the day
Speaking of Savage and Reed, they've had their moments, but they have not been the best of the four rookie outside linebackers. That honor belongs to powerhouse Andy Mulumba.
Mulumba, to be sure, has not been a star. As a pass rusher, he's a work in progress. In 48 games and 31 starts at Eastern Michigan, the native of the Democratic Republic of Congo had a mere 4.5 sacks. At 6-foot-3 and 260 pounds, Mulumba is pure power. Whether it's a one-on-one drill or a team period, good luck running his direction. The highlight of his night was beating Bryan Bulaga to thwart a running play. He added a pass breakup against Lacy during a blitz period.
"Mulumba's doing good," coach Mike McCarthy said after practice. "I've liked him since the spring. I thought he jumped out in the spring. It's been no different since he put the pads on. I think he's an excellent fit for our defense. He plays with excellent leverage with his long (levers). He has a nasty streak to him. I thought Donte Savage has jumped out here the past two days, too. I'm very happy with that outside linebacker group."
The one draft pick among the rookies was Nate Palmer in the sixth round. Palmer hadn't done much in camp but he had a big night after missing Thursday's practice. He ended the 11-on-11 blitz period with a big bull rush against Datko that got position coach Kevin Greene excited. In the one-on-ones, he got past Lacy with a swim move and probably drew a hold by Starks.
— You might not believe it, but the Packers were fourth in sacks last season. They have the potential to be dominant this season with the addition of first-round pick Datone Jones and the budding standout that is Mike Daniels. In the one-on-one pass-rushing drill, Daniels went 3-1 but had a good push on all four reps. Jones went 2-2, with the losses coming against tackles Bulaga and Marshall Newhouse. Daniels is brute force, with a swim move as a change-up. Jones is quickness, with strength as a change-up.
— Newhouse got a dozen snaps (give or take) at his old spot, left tackle. What was more interesting is perhaps the door is open for rookie David Bakhtiari to win the starting job at right tackle. He got a ton of action with the No. 2 and No. 3 offenses while Don Barclay, who had been Newhouse's chief competition, spent the night at the interior spots.
— Angelo Pease went 3-0 in the blitz drill against Nick Perry. Before starting to panic that last year's first-round pick can't beat an undrafted rookie, outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene on Thursday said Perry "absolutely" will be a better rusher in a game, when he'll have time to set up his moves.
— What to watch on Family Night? One, Mason Crosby vs. Giorgio Tavecchio at kicker; two, Graham Harrell vs. B.J. Coleman at quarterback; three, safety Jerron McMillian in coverage; four, running back Johnathan Franklin in pass protection; Bulaga vs. Clay Matthews when the starters square off.
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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.