Practice 4: Player, Position, Rookie of Day

Here's a look back at the impact performers of Monday's practice, led by a one-handed linebacker and a third-year offensive lineman.

Taylor photo by Benny Sieu/USA TODAY

Here’s a look back at Practice No. 4 of Green Bay Packers training camp.

Player of the day

It’s not only Nate Palmer playing with a club cast on his left hand. It’s Nate Palmer playing well with a club cast on his left hand.

Palmer was injured on Saturday. To get ready for Monday’s practice, he wisely sought the advice of Clay Matthews, who played several games with a club cast to protect a broken thumb in 2013.

“The first person I went and talk to was Clay,” Palmer said. “He said the biggest problem would be striking.”

He struck early and often on Monday. In a short-yardage drill, Palmer got in the backfield and was in position to stop Eddie Lacy for a tackle for loss. The Packers don’t do full tackling in camp, so who knows if a one-handed Palmer could have gotten the 234-pound Lacy to the turf. But it was a good start to a good day. Later, in a red-zone blitz period, Palmer shot in untouched to force Scott Tolzien into an incompletion. Then, he “sacked” Matt Blanchard.

Palmer is the early front-runner to be the linebacker who replaces Matthews when Matthews shifts to outside linebacker. Palmer wouldn’t say exactly what’s wrong with him, nor would he put a timeline on his recovery. But Monday was a good sign for the third-year player who spent last season on injured reserve.

“Since I know that I can’t use my left hand, I’m trying to beat people to the spot (with speed),” Palmer said, “because I know if I do get locked up it’s going to be get hard off the block because I only have one hand. That’s something I tried to focus on today is just beat people to the spot.”

Position spotlight

There’s little doubt that Don Barclay and J.C. Tretter are going to make the team as the top two backups on the offensive line. If the Packers keep another, who will be the eighth lineman?

So far, guard Lane Taylor has stated his case while taking a lot of Josh Sitton’s reps the past three practices. It’s only one element but it’s worth noting that Taylor is 7-0 in the daily one-on-one pass-blocking drills. He hasn’t faced a murderer’s row of defensive linemen, but the first of his three wins on Monday came against Mike Daniels — easily the defense’s best one-on-one rusher.

“It’s great,” Taylor said of the first-team snaps. “Every rep I can get is great. It’s just another chance to get better. I’ll take every rep I can get.”

Rookie focus

Cornerback remains the big question mark for the Packers after the free-agent departures of Tramon Williams and Davon House. The questions remain but the options have shown early promise.

First-round draft pick Damarious Randall has had an excellent training camp, including an interception of Aaron Rodgers to thwart a two-minute drill late in practice. Randall showed excellent discipline, sticking with Davante Adams when it appeared Rodgers might run. Second-round draft pick Quinten Rollins is back after missing the start of camp with an injured hamstring. He had an excellent offseason. And undrafted rookie Ladarius Gunter continues to impress. When he’s beaten, he normally isn’t beaten by much — though he did get burned by Myles White for a 35-yard touchdown pass by Scott Tolzien in the backups’ two-minute drill.

Veteran cornerback Sam Shields provided his assessments on Randall and Gunter.

On Randall: “I think he’s settling in great. Great footwork. He’s using his hands more. Coach (Joe Whitt) was preaching on him about (that). He’s staying on top and he’s making plays, which we need as a defense.”

And Gunter: “Gunter, he’s doing a hell of a job. Big guy, long. You see him out there pressing guys when he does press. He’s still got some more work to do. It’s still early. He’s doing a hell of a job each day.”

Quoteworthy

Shields, on rookie WR Ty Montgomery: “Big. Strong. Physical. He kind of reminds me of (Percy Harvin) — a big and physical receiver. I mean, he’s not that big, but you see Harvin play, he’s like 6-5. That’s kind of guy like that. Guys are scared to tackle him because he’s so big and fast, but he’s making plays out there. He’s still got more learning to do, but he’ll be good.”


Bill Huber is publisher of 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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