State of the Packers: Offense

Through two weeks of training camp, we take a look at how the roster battles are shaping up on offense. The key battle is being waged at tight end, where nobody has seized control of the starting job.

Aaron Rodgers doesn’t expect to play long and the defense will play with a double dose of vanilla when the Green Bay Packers kick off the preseason at Tennessee. That doesn’t mean there’s nothing at stake. Here’s what to look for, by position, on offense.

Quarterbacks: While they’ve alternated second- and third-string duties throughout camp, Matt Flynn has outplayed Scott Tolzien in the battle to be the No. 2 quarterback. Both players will get ample playing time against the Titans.

“Every time you step on the field, it’s a huge opportunity, regardless of where you rank or where you are in the depth chart,” quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt said. “When you step on the field, it’s not just an opportunity for your team, it can be an opportunity for 31 other teams to see you on tape as well. All preseason games are critical.”

Chase Rettig, who was kept in mothballs for Family Night, showed a good arm and some playmaking ability during the practice week. “Just getting his feet in rhythm with his body now is where we are with him, trying to slow him down a little bit in his drop and fix his drop a little bit,” Van Pelt said. “He’s a little heavy at the end of his drop. Those are little fundamental things that we’ve worked on, but he does bring some arm talent out there. There’s no question he can zip it.”

Running backs: DuJuan Harris remains a solid favorite to be the No. 3 running back behind Eddie Lacy and James Starks, but nothing is guaranteed. A quiet battle is brewing as Rajion Neal (5-11, 220) and LaDarius Perkins (5-7, 195) have picked up steam in the last week. In an effort to keep Lacy and Starks fresh, Neal and Perkins should get plenty of time against the Titans and throughout the preseason. The wild card is special teams. Harris, Neal and Perkins are in the kickoff-return rotation, with Harris No. 1 on that depth chart.

Wide receivers: Before training camp started, Rodgers said the Packers’ receiver corps was deep enough to merit six on the final roster. With Jared Abbrederis’ torn ACL and the inconsistency from the young challengers, the Packers at this point only have four receivers – Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Jarrett Boykin and Davante Adams -- worthy of playing in the regular season.

The best of the rest has been White, who has benefited from 12 pounds of muscle added in the offseason. He looks like a much different player than the one who caught nine passes in limited action last year. Kevin Dorsey, another second-year player, is pushing for a roster spot, as well. He hasn’t been as productive as White on offense but he’s in the kickoff-return rotation and ranks high on all of the special-teams depth charts. A player to keep an eye on is Gerrard Sheppard, who was claimed off waivers from Baltimore early in camp. Sheppard, who spent last season on the Ravens’ practice squad, is 6-foot-2 and has caught the ball well.

“When your opportunity is presented, whether it’s more reps in practice, you have to take advantage of it,” coach Mike McCarthy said after Family Night. “It’s such a competitive group. We talked about it before the season: Clearly, on paper, I thought it was the deepest group of receivers we’ve had in camp in my time here, and as we’ve gone through the first week-and-a-half of camp, I still feel the same way.”

Tight ends: Nothing has changed at tight end, where Andrew Quarless, Brandon Bostick and Richard Rodgers are battling to be the No. 1 tight end. Quarless is the steady veteran but Bostick and Rodgers have made more impact plays. Can Bostick and/or Rodgers do the little things at a high enough level to shake up the depth chart?

“I think it’s kind of early to be assigning guys roles at this point,” tight ends coach Jerry Fontenot said. “I mean, we’re exposing them to as much as we can, every possible situation – every possible blocking assignment, every possible pass-route assignment, every possible pass-protection assignment -- to find out where they are. Because again, you want all of your guys to be able to fulfill whatever roles they are fulfilling. We’ve all just kind of got our hands in the clay right now and molding.”

Offensive line: J.C. Tretter’s trial by fire as the No. 1 center continues against the Titans. It’s one thing for Tretter to struggle against B.J. Raji at practice; it would be quite another to get beat by Titans nose tackle Sammie Hill. “He had some practices last year, which helped him, but he had a whole offseason and then you put on the pads and it’s a different game,” offensive line coach James Campen said. “Hey, he’s got a big challenge with Josh Boyd and B.J. Raji, big people pressing him. It’s just through stacking success – what worked, what didn’t. Every day since we put on pads, he has progressed.”

Don Barclay’s pain should be Lane Taylor’s gain. Before Barclay’s season-ending injury, Taylor was the ninth lineman for a team that might take eight into the season. Now, Taylor not only is No. 8 on the depth chart but the top backup at both guard spots. Meanwhile, Derek Sherrod figures to get his first extensive playing time since his career-changing broken leg at Kansas City as a rookie late in 2011. Campen said he’s got a “bright future.”


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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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