In all, there were 61 players on the field as the Green Bay Packers started their rookie orientation camp on Friday.
They were wearing shorts and helmets.
Other than last year’s practice-squad holdovers, they knew only the smallest percentage of the playbook.
So, making any strong opinions would be foolish. We’ll take our best shot at it, anyway.
First-round pick Kenny Clark: Other than a one-on-one pass-rushing drill that was obviously short on physicality because the players weren’t in pads, the linemen didn’t take part in any competitive periods. For a big guy, Clark’s athleticism was evident. You can see why UCLA used him as a standup pass rusher on occasion.
“Not really,” Clark said of feeling the pressure that comes with being a top pick. “I had a lot of pressure on me growing up and in college. Growing up and then dealing with coach (Jim) Mora, he did a terrific job at just keeping us low and not getting too high or too low.”
Second-round pick Jason Spriggs: While Spriggs was the sixth offensive tackle selected, we had him pegged as the third-rated prospect because of his enormous upside. He might not be as NFL-ready as, say, Michigan State’s Jack Conklin, who went eighth overall to Tennessee, but his ridiculous Scouting Combine numbers speak to who he could become. At 6-foot-6 and 301 pounds, he showed rare movement skills during pass-protection work. So what if he needs some polish? If starting tackles David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga stay healthy, he won’t have to play, anyway.
“It’s huge and one of the great reasons about coming here,” he said. “That’s one of the best factors about it, you have very experienced guys, veterans in front of you and that I can learn from.”
Third-round pick Kyler Fackrell: At 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds, Fackrell looks like a player who needs a year to get stronger to handle the rigors that go with playing outside linebacker. Like with Spriggs but unlike Clark, there’s no pressure on Fackrell to become an immediate difference-maker on a depth chart that includes Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers, Nick Perry, Jayrone Elliott and, at times, Datone Jones.
Fourth-round pick Blake Martinez: At one point, the five inside linebackers went through pass-coverage drills. They dropped deep, then accelerated forward to get the interception. Martinez looked incredibly smooth and natural, from changing directions to catching the pass.
“I feel like I’m not putting too much pressure on myself,” he said. “I kind of go in each day, trying to get better, learning the playbook and doing those things. If I have the opportunity to step in and contribute on this team, I’m going to do my best.”
Fourth-round pick Dean Lowry: During the aforementioned pass-rushing drill, the 6-foot-6, 296-pound Lowry looked incredibly quick in beating his man at least three times. At the draft, Eliot Wolf said “we do see him” as a defensive lineman, but it’s not hard to project Lowry getting some elephant looks down the road.
Fifth-round pick Trevor Davis: Davis was the lone skill-position player added on offense. The former Cal receiver is billed as a big-play threat, which he showed during a one-on-one receivers vs. cornerbacks period. More impressive than just beating his man, he was interfered with by the trailing defensive back but made the catch, anyway.
Sixth-round pick Kyle Murphy: At 6-foot-6 and 305 pounds, Murphy could stand to gain another 10 or 15 pounds of muscle to improve his upper-body and lower-body strength. He’ll get every opportunity. With the starting five intact, backups J.C. Tretter, Lane Taylor, Don Barclay and Josh Walker returning, and the addition of Spriggs, there’s a chance Murphy will be inactive all season. He’s a good prospect, though, and depending on what happens in free agency next offseason, he could be poised to challenge for a starting role next year.
Quarterbacks: The Packers didn’t draft a quarterback, leaving end-of-season addition Ryan Williams and two tryout hopefuls — Joe Callahan, the star at Division III Wesley, and Gary Nova, Rutgers’ career leader in touchdown passes who went undrafted last year and wasn’t signed after a tryout with the Giants — to run the show. Neither looked good but playing quarterback in a rookie camp is an incredible challenge.
“It’s really tough,” McCarthy said. “They’ve got to call the play, the huddle, the whole mechanics, the command. It’s new footwork for all the guys, brand new receivers they’re throwing to. It’s never been clean, and I don’t expect it to.”
Bill Huber is publisher of 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 www.twitter.com/PackerReport.