Since Greg Jennings signed with Minnesota, the Green Bay Packers knew they'd need one of their young receivers to step up.
Holdover Jarrett Boykin has been the most consistent player of that group. With Charles Johnson and Kevin Dorsey perpetually sidelined by injuries, undrafted Tyrone Walker has taken advantage of practically every opportunity thrown his way.
Walker, who was Illinois State's career leader in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns, went undrafted and had to scratch his way onto the roster as a tryout player at the rookie camp. Walker has continually improved, and Friday night's performance against Arizona – five catches out of five passes for 41 yards – served notice that he's in this battle to stay.
"Immediately," Walker said when asked when he felt like he belonged. "If you're good – the vets noticed first and they kind of guide you and they groomed me. I'm just slowly building. It's just the foundation right now. Hopefully, I can build it up to something big."
Walker is humble but confident – though he said the veterans give him a hard time by telling him "my swagger's terrible. He's also hungry. Though some of his disappointment comes from the offense's performance as a whole in a 17-0 loss, Walker said he needs to do more with the ball in his hands and perform better on special teams.
"As long as my confidence is up," he said, "I feel like I can play with anyone."
House had a miserable night. During three series against Carson Palmer, House gave up an 18-yard completion on the first snap from scrimmage and was beaten deep for a 38-yard touchdown by Andre Roberts. On the next drive, with Drew Stanton in at quarterback, House was beaten deep for a gain of 36 by Charles Hawkins, a 5-foot-8 undrafted rookie from Southern.
It's a far cry from the way House has performed at practice.
"I've been pleased with the way that he's finishing better and just his whole approach to it," cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt said on Thursday. "He's been a leader in that room, and even though he missed some time with the injuries and the illness, he's come back with the right mindset. He's been a guy that I've been really pleased with. He's a guy that has great length. He can bend for a big guy, so he's able to get to some balls."
Position of the day
It was a bad night for the quarterbacks jockeying for position on the depth chart behind Aaron Rodgers.
Graham Harrell completed 12-of-19 passes but for just 76 yards. Take away 20 yards in sacks, and the passing game netted just 56 yards with Harrell in the lineup. He threw an interception, though receiver Jeremy Ross will get some of the blame, and he fumbled when sacked by John Abraham. Still, his passer rating of 49.5 was better than Vince Young's 42.4 and B.J. Coleman's 39.6. Young went 1-for-3 for 7 yards but lost 6 yards on a sack, and Coleman went 2-for-7 for 15 yards.
"The thing about Vince Young, from my personal opinion in the evaluation process, was the man's a winner," coach Mike McCarthy said. "The man's won games. He's won championships in high school, college. You look at the way he's gone about it. I think he fits good into our room. Obviously, he's at a disadvantage because he hasn't been here and he's got a lot to learn. Ben McAdoo's doing a great job with him. Those two are spending a lot of extra time. We'll do a much better job getting him ready to play against St. Louis."
-- The running game, for a week, anyway, wasn't as good as McCarthy has wanted. The Packers rushed 29 times for 89 yards, an average of just 3.1 per carry. The long run went for just 8 yards.
"We've got to run the ball a little more effectively, I think, moving forward," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. "We had a lot of attempts tonight but not a lot to show for it. We need that balance moving into the season, and we've got to find it the next three weeks."
-- One silver lining was the run defense. The Cardinals gained 92 yards on their 35 attempts, an average of just 2.6 per carry. Defensive linemen Josh Boyd (five tackles, one for a loss), Mike Daniels (two tackles, one quarterback hit) and C.J. Wilson (two tackles) were particularly active.
-- Johnny Jolly doesn't show up on the stat sheet, but he played well in his first game after serving a three-year suspension. He got some good push on a few running plays and strung out quarterback Ryan Lindley's rollout on a failed fourth-down pass.
"Man, it's awesome," Jolly said of the reception he's received from the fans. "There's no fans like the Pack fans, man. They were there with me from Day 1, and they're still with me to the day. I can't even explain the way I feel about those guys."
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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.