Four-Point Stance: Practice No. 8 of Camp

The biggest star of Saturday's Family Night Scrimmage was receiver-turned-cornerback James Nixon. He's the latest project that shows cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt knows what he's doing. Plus, the night's big disappointment, the position of the day and more.

Here is a look back at the highlights of Family Night, which was practice No. 8 of the Green Bay Packers' 2013 training camp.

Big day

The Packers are loaded at cornerback. We've said that all along, and that point was driven home during the scrimmage.

Even with Tramon Williams (knee) and Casey Hayward (hamstring) sidelined by injuries, coach Joe Whitt's unit continues to shine.

We bring up Whitt's name because he was instrumental in turning Sam Shields into an upper-echelon cornerback after making the receiver-to-corner transition during his senior season at Miami. On Saturday night, James Nixon and Brandon Smith had interceptions.

Nixon was a jack-of-all-trades offensive weapon and kick returner at Temple before transferring to California (Pa.) and moving to cornerback as a senior. Smith was an oft-injured receiver at Arizona State who failed to stick with Carolina and Seattle as an undrafted rookie in 2011. He made the move to cornerback at Pete Carroll's urging, and spent all of last year honing his craft with Darrelle Revis' trainer. He got a shot with the Packers as a tryout player at the rookie minicamp in May and was offered a contract.

Nixon made the splash play of the scrimmage. Knowing he had help behind him, Nixon jumped a route by Jeremy Ross and grabbed B.J. Coleman's pass in stride and sprinted untouched about 66 yards for a touchdown. He punctuated his big play with a Lambeau Leap.

"I can't wait to call my parents and talk to them about it," he said.

Whether Nixon or Smith will stick around after final cuts remains to be seen. Saturday night was just one practice. A big practice, but a practice nonetheless. The next step is to "stack success," as coach Mike McCarthy would put it.

Bad day

B.J. Coleman is being given every opportunity to unseat Graham Harrell as the No. 2 quarterback. With a big arm and a willingness to learn, Coleman has some great tools.

The first week of training camp, however, has been a major disappointment. While he's had plenty of good moments, he's thrown more interceptions than Aaron Rodgers and Harrell combined. Coleman tossed two more on Saturday night – one the pick-six by Nixon and the other to Smith, who had inside position on Ross and used his 6-foot-1 frame to make a leaping grab on a first-down pass into the end zone.

"All in all, I really felt good – I actually settled in there on the field," Coleman said. "Both balls that were intercepted, good plays by the defensive back. You tip your hat to where credit is due. At the same time, I felt comfortable with the decision (on the pick-six) – maybe could have made it a split-second quicker. The second one, I felt comfortable with my feet, ball came out of my hand and the defensive back made a great play."

Coleman got the offense 1 yard from the "winning" touchdown in a two-minute drill. Taking the ball at the 35-yard line with 1:42 and one timeout, Coleman threw a great ball to Alex Gillett over Smith for a gain of 27, and a well-run screen to James Starks gained 23 yards to the 8. A third-down interference call in the end zone gave the offense a first-and-goal from the 1, but Coleman threw incomplete to Myles White on a rollout, Jake Stoneburner couldn't quite stay inbounds in the end zone on second down and a fade to White on third down was broken up by corner Micah Hyde as time expired.

Rodgers offered some words of encouragement, recalling when he went 1-of-7 on Family Night and also struggling in an unforgettable 2008 during the heat of the Brett Favre controversy.

"He's told me that many times before," Coleman said. "He's said, ‘Hey, man, just stay the path.' It's one of those things where you're going to have to continue to grow through what you do. Being able to hear that from him, a guy who's been so successful, he's been through his trials and tribulations, and to be able to see how well he's doing and to hear that from him has really helped."

Position of day

Never mind Marshall Newhouse against Don Barclay for the starting job at right tackle. It's now Newhouse against rookie fourth-round pick David Bakhtiari.

The two essentially split reps with the No. 1 offense on Saturday and both played well. Newhouse got the start and played most of the first series. Bakhtiari replaced him at the end of the draft and flattened rookie outside linebacker Nate Palmer on Rodgers' touchdown pass to D.J. Williams. They continually rotated in and out for the rest of the night.

Is the job Bakhtiari's, as long as he keeps playing well and improving?

"I feel like the job will be mine when I earn it," he said. "I'm going to continue to battle and show that I'm consistent and play good football. That's going to be on them (the coaches) to decide."

McCarthy didn't rule out Barclay re-entering the competition, but it looks like he's being groomed to be the utilityman of the offensive line. After playing right tackle and center to start camp, he's spent the last two nights at center and guard.

Four-point stance

-- Remember that stupid stuff about Eddie Lacy being overweight? Lacy had a monster night, whether it was moving the pile for extra yards or showing his patience and explosiveness to burst through a hole. Unofficially, he carried seven times for 63 yards. His first run went for 3 yards, and he followed that with dashes of 7 and 16 yards on back-to-back carries. He added runs of 19, 4, 8 and 4 later.

"I enjoy pretty much anything that's positive and helping the team be in a better position than it was on the previous play," Lacy said. "As long as it's moving forward, whether it's 2 yards or 12 yards, I'm pretty much cool with that."

-- Rodgers and the first-team offense raced down the field. Rodgers had completions of 14 yards to Randall Cobb, 16 yards to James Jones and 26 yards to Cobb – with Starks runs of 5, 5 and 4 yards sprinkled in. After safety Jerron McMillian defended a pass to D.J. Williams in the end zone, Rodgers rolled to his right and spotted Williams for an easy touchdown.

-- After a dismal night in which Mason Crosby went 3-for-8, including misses from 33 and 37 yards, the kicking competition is on. Rodgers, however, said he "fully expects" Crosby to be the Packers' kicker. "He's made some big kicks for us since 2007, and I think he's got one of the biggest legs in the league and it's very much a matter of being consistent. I'm counting on him, as are the rest of us."

-- The running back battle is incredibly intriguing. Lacy had a big night. Starks got the start and ran well, though he dropped a pass during the two-minute drill. Franklin had a terrible night – through no fault of his own – but he showed his open-field skills when given some daylight. It's worth noting that last season's leading rusher, Alex Green, a night after fumbling, was the fourth back to enter the game. He had a nice night, though, showing some burst and cutback ability. Plus, he had a nice blitz pickup on a third-down conversion. Undrafted rookie Angelo Pease continues to flash, too. He also fumbled on Friday night but shined in blitz protection on Friday night and made rookie linebacker Palmer look terrible on a 16-yard catch-and-run touchdown from Graham Harrell.


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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 packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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