Play of the day
Jake Stoneburner went flying up the middle of the field, with inside linebacker Sam Barrington right on his heels. Quarterback Matt Flynn made what appeared to be an off-target throw. Instead, Stoneburner said, it was perfect, as he made a twisting, one-handed catch for a big gain.
“It was a seam route and when the middle of the field is open, just run,” Stoneburner explained. “The linebacker got depth and I kept on running and Matt put it right where it needed to be so the linebacker couldn’t get his hand on it and I was able to get my right hand on it.”
With more plays like that, Stoneburner — an undrafted free agent in 2013 who played tight end and receiver at Ohio State — will be in the mix at a position that’s completely up for grabs (see below).
Player of the day
Who knows what will happen once the regular season is under way but B.J. Raji was a dominant force during the first day of the one-on-one pass-blocking/pass-rushing drill.
Raji, who has gone 36 consecutive regular-season games without a sack and returned to Green Bay on a one-year deal after lukewarm interest in free agency, won all three of his rushes by using an impressive repertoire of techniques. On the first, he used a quick swim move to blow past starting center J.C. Tretter. Then, he used a powerful bull rush to overwhelm Tretter. He immediately was pitted against second-year player Andrew Tiller, who was blown away, as well.
“I think every year is a ‘prove it’ year for everybody,” Raji said on Sunday. “But particularly in my case, I know that’s what I look for. It wasn’t like I went into it with closed eyes. I came back with something on my mind, that was to help the defense become the best that we can be. And, obviously, I have some individual goals.”
Position of the day
Coach Mike McCarthy wisely wasn’t going to “give an evaluation” of his group of tight ends, because that position group is the most wide-open on the team.
Andrew Quarless is the established veteran but, after missing all of 2012 with a major knee injury, was only so-so in 2013 and is off to a slow start in camp. Former Division II receiver Brandon Bostick and third-round rookie Richard Rodgers have caught the ball well but have to show they can block. Is Stoneburner ready to challenge? Is Ryan Taylor anything more than a special-teamer? Can undrafted free agents Justin Perillo (who has been impressive) and Colt Lyerla (who has been less than impressive with a bad drop and a fumble) get in the mix?
“I would think so,” Stoneburner said when asked if every role is up for grabs. “We all seem to get reps. All of our reps vary each day, we all get different combinations going together. Andrew is the senior in our room and obviously gets the most reps but without having that one guy that’s been there for a while, you can tell it’s wide open. They’re trying to see who can make plays and see who will be ready to go out there.”
Tight end has evolved into a diverse and challenging position. On one play, he might be a traditional, on-the-line tight end. On the next, he might be a receiver. On the next, he might be a fullback. McCarthy said the half-line run-game drills “will be very important” to determine who emerges.
“I think it was exciting to watch Andrew last year come on late in the season, made some really good strides there, and then he got hurt and missed a lot of the offseason. So, that’s tough,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “I think Richard is an interesting prospect, with Jake Stoneburner last year, Ryan Taylor, who’s an incredible special teams player and has just not had a ton of opportunities on the offensive side of the ball. And then the young guys we brought in add a lot to the mix, as well. That’s a deep position and another one where we’ve had four guys in the past, it could be three (this year). It will be interesting to see how it all shakes out.”
Quote of the day
T.J. Lang, on the sore shoulder that has mostly sidelined him through three days of training camp: “With offensive linemen, you have that attitude that you can play through some things. It’s just something throughout the years of playing you start to feel things catch up to you a little bit. So, there’s just times you need to take a step back and get back on the right track and get healthy, and that’s something I’m doing right now.”
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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.