Nick Perry has been building to this throughout training camp.
Perry, last year's first-round pick, missed the final 12 games (including playoffs) after a knee injury and wrist surgery. That was a lot of on-the-job learning, between the games and practices, that he lost in making the transition from college defensive end to professional linebacker. Thus, it would have been foolish to expect Perry to come out and dominate from Day 1 of training camp.
Now, a week-and-a-half into things, Perry is getting better and better and looking more and more like a player who could make an impact this season.
During a "combo" run period, Perry demolished Jermichael Finley. And by demolish, we mean he pushed Finley 3 yards into the backfield and from the right side of the formation to the left. Later, he intercepted B.J. Coleman. Yes, beating Finley isn't like beating Matthew Mulligan, but Finley's blocked better this year than he has the past two years. Yes, intercepting Coleman isn't like intercepting Rodgers, but Perry was in the right spot, alert and made the play.
During the daily one-on-one pass-rushing drill, Perry used pure speed to get around Don Barclay. It was an impressive display by Perry, who so often gets by on brute force. Perry went 1-1 on Wednesday and 2-0 on Tuesday after entering the scrimmage with an 0-3 record.
"He's so much more aware in his pass coverage drops; that's impressive," position coach Kevin Greene said last week. "We ask him to do the same things that we ask Clay Matthews to do in pass coverage. Literally, he does it just as good. He plays fine pass coverage. He plays the run – obviously because of his power, but he's got very good fundamentals. He's a fine pass rusher. He's improving."
Undrafted rookie Tyrone Walker is battling for a roster spot at receiver and has a fighting chance with seventh-round picks Charles Johnson and Kevin Dorsey perpetually injured and Sederrik Cunningham on injured reserve.
Bad plays and physical errors are going to happen. What's not forgivable is not being aware of your spot on the depth chart. When Shawn Slocum called for the No. 3 kickoff team, the unit was a player short. By the time Slocum was done yelling over the PA system at Ray Nitschke Field, everyone within a few blocks knew what Walker had done.
Position of the day
On the defensive line, B.J. Raji has hit his stride over the past few practices. Ryan Pickett and C.J. Wilson relish doing the dirty work. Datone Jones' quickness and Mike Daniels' strength are obvious to anyone who has seen the one-on-one drills. Mike Neal, who returned to practice on Wednesday, gives the Packers a formidable six-man rotation.
In other words, that group is shaping up exactly as expected.
On the other hand, Johnny Jolly, Jordan Miller and rookies Josh Boyd and Gilbert Pena have failed to impress. Jolly makes one good play every practice. On Thursday, he knifed into the backfield to wrap up Angelo Pease.
The one-on-one pass rush numbers, however, tell a gruesome story. Jolly is 4-17, including 0-5 on Wednesday, Miller is 2-24, Boyd is 5-23 and Pena is 2-24.
— Barring a turnaround, B.J. Coleman is in deep trouble. He threw interceptions to Perry, Brandon Smith and M.D. Jennings, Jamari Lattimore dropped one, and Jarrett Bush and Micah Hyde got hands on passes. Maybe his biggest sin was staring and staring and staring as Pease ran a wheel route against Clay Matthews. Coleman threw it anyway and Matthews was there for the deflection.
— Vince Young had his problems, too. He overthrew D.J. Williams by a good 5 yards and was intercepted by Chaz Powell. Later, he scrambled to his right and flipped a wobbler back to the left for an incompletion. Obviously, Young's challenge is huge after being out of the league for 12 months and trying to learn the playbook on the fly.
In fairness to both quarterbacks, the team is in game-planning mode so they're running the opponents' plays.
— Sticking with the quarterbacks, Graham Harrell isn't going to cede anything to Young. He threw two nice long balls, one off play-action to Myles White and another that probably should have been caught by Omarius Hines, who had gotten behind Sam Shields.
"I think he's had a good camp," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. "He really dedicated himself this spring to making sure he had all the answers in the meeting room. That's the first step to really understanding how to play on the field is making sure there aren't any doubts in the meeting room and you're answering the questions in the right way. Graham's done a really good job of that. I think his play has been very consistent. I think he's in a very similar spot to what Matt Flynn was at in Year 4 — Matt obviously got the opportunity to play against the Patriots in his third year, but you can see the natural progression where mentally you're figuring it out and the physical part starts to take over."
— On the other side of the ball, safety M.D. Jennings had an all-world sequence. He was in great position on his interception, which was deflected by cornerback James Nixon. Later, he broke up a pair of passes in a span of three plays.
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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.