Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy gave his veteran players an early start to their summer vacations by allowing them to skip this week’s minicamp.
The thinking, McCarthy explained, is to give the young players more reps and more chances to review the playbook installations so they can hit the ground running when training camp begins in six weeks.
“It’s just a lot of good comes out of this and, face it, 20 percent of your football team’s going to be first-year players,” McCarthy said on Tuesday. “That’s what history will tell you. That’s what the statistics will tell you. So, that’s all in accordance with our plan of how to get these young guys playing.”
With Green Bay’s usual free-agent philosophy — in other words, not signing any veteran free agents — it made perfect since for McCarthy to spend this week focusing on his young players. However, this offseason was different, with the additions of tight ends Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks, guard Jahri Evans, cornerback Davon House and defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois. They’ve got a combined 45 seasons of NFL experience.
“By no means are we where we need to be right now, but I don’t know if any NFL team is,” tight ends coach Brian Angelichio said of Bennett and Kendricks. “But we’ve made strides and obviously need to carry this over into training camp. We’ve got things we need to clean up, as does everyone, but I think we’re on the right track. I think we’re trending upward, which is important.”
Defensive line coach Mike Trgovac had no concerns about Jean Francois.
“Oh, yeah, he’s very bright,” Trgovac said. “He’s been around, being in San Francisco and some of the familiarities with that scheme. It’s not the same but he’s been around a lot of different schemes so he picks things up very quick. That’s not a problem at all.”
Having spent his first four seasons in Green Bay, House arrived with familiarity with defensive coordinator Dom Capers’ scheme and position coach Joe Whitt’s style. Without House this week, that meant more reps for third-year players Damarious Randall, Quinten Rollins and LaDarius Gunter, who figure to have key roles on the defense, and more chances for a group of young corners that include four rookies (top pick Kevin King and undrafted free agents Lenzy Pipkins, Donatello Brown and Raysean Pringle) and two second-year players with almost no experience (Josh Hawkins and Herb Waters).
Where House was missed, however, was from a leadership perspective. Whitt spoke glowingly of what House has brought to the team following a two-year stop in Jacksonville.
“He’s gone as far as any leader has gone in the room,” Whitt said. “I don’t think I’ve had a guy actually go to the hotel and work with guys. I don’t think I’ve had a guy call me and not ask about himself but, ‘Hey, Joe, what can I do to help so-and-so? What can I do to help this guy? How was individual? Am I giving you the effort that you want to lead the room?’ He’s doing those type of things. And he knows this is an important year, not only for the Packers but for him, as well. And so I’ve been pleased with him. And it’s real. It’s not anything that he’s trying to put on a false leadership role. It is genuine and it is real. And I’ve been very, very pleased with what he’s doing, and that’s why I think that this group can be good, because they genuinely like each other, and when you genuinely like each other, you’re pulling for each other and you play better. And I think he’s leading the group in the right direction.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.