Judge players in OTAs at your own risk

Is Daryn Colledge the next Mike Wahle? Is Jason Spitz going to join Colledge to form an all-rookie guard tandem? Can Greg Jennings make a splash as a rookie? Perhaps, but making such projections in a no-pads setting is futile.

The other day, a Milwaukee newspaper led a story with this sentence: "The early returns on the Green Bay Packers' 2006 draft have been encouraging at a number of spots."  

Please.

Certainly, rookie guards Daryn Colledge and Jason Spitz may turn into big-time players. Then again, once the pads are thrown on, they may pushed around in the same fashion as Adrian Klemm a year ago.

Judging offensive linemen in a no-pads practice is like judging the American justice system by turning to "Judge Judy." It's fun to watch football in June — especially when you could be watching the Americans stumble and bumble their way through that other version of football — but it's not very illuminating.

Thus, thank goodness the three weeks of organized team activities have come to an end.

The OTAs are an invaluable teaching tool for new coach Mike McCarthy and an invaluable learning tool for the players, who, in the case of the veterans, must learn new schemes and techniques, and the rookies, who get a chance to get their feet wet before training camp starts in July.

But enough about what rookies have impressed.

Enough about punter Jon Ryan knocking the cover off the ball in his battle against incumbent B.J. Sander.

Enough about the route running and hands of rookie wide receiver Greg Jennings.

Enough about Colledge being the perfect replacement for Mike Wahle.

Enough about Spitz unseating Junius Coston.

Enough.

Let's start with the punters. Until they feel the heat of a rush, until they are backed up deep in their end zone, until they are performing in front of 70,000 fans, until they are performing when the weather is something worse than sunny and 70 degrees, little of what transpired the past three weeks matters a bit.

Now, let's talk about Jennings. Anybody can run and catch passes when there isn't a safety about to drill you. Beyond that obvious difference, some players are fast while some players are football fast. I know this from my personal experience playing college ball. I was plenty fast in summer workouts, but tortoise-like when fully equipped. Then, is Jennings smart enough to play when the bullets start flying in August and September? If you can't read the blitz and be where Brett Favre expects you to be when you're his hot read, then you're going to make Favre look like a fool and doom your team. So let's put on the pads and see what happens before anointing Jennings as something special.

Coming full circle, let's turn to the guards.

Please, enough of the Colledge-Wahle comparisons. Klemm was supposed to be comparable to Wahle, too, in that he's very athletic. Athletic is great, but if you can't hold off Detroit's Shaun Rogers, Minnesota's Pat Williams and Kevin Williams, and Chicago's Tommie Harris, then you can't play. Wahle can run like the wind for a 300-pounder, but he also was as strong and nasty as a pit bull.

When the OTAs started, everyone was singing the praises of Coston. Then, Spitz replaced him in the starting lineup, and the rookie became the greatest thing since sliced bread. Again, if you can't block the NFC North's mammoth defensive tackles and if you can't pick up the Bears' frequent blitzes, then you're going to get somebody killed and you're going to get benched.

Football in June is great. But reading anything into what is essentially a classroom session is ludicrous.

Lawrence is a regular contributor to PackerReport.com. Send comments to steve_lawrence_packers@yahoo.com.


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