The Word: Training Camp Day 1

Thoughts, observations from first training camp practice

The tempo was upbeat.

Thousands of Packers fans created a game day atmosphere.

And the sound of birds singing and squawking filled the air.

Okay, the Green Bay Packers' first training camp practice wasn't that perfect.

Green Bay's top offensive weapon (Donald Driver) didn't participate due to a shoulder injury, DT's Ryan Pickett and Johnny Jolly failed their physical, and also didn't play ... and those beautiful bird noises?

That was just a smiling Robert Ferguson goofing around during team stretches.

Still there were plenty of encouraging signs, even from Mike McCarthy's inexperienced offense.

Vernand Morency and Brandon Jackson split carries with the first team offense. Morency's bounce in short spaces remains sharp, and Jackson's one-cut ability appears ideal for the team's zone-blocking scheme. What Jackson may lack in upper body strength - he struggled the most out of all running backs on the sled drive – he makes up for in leg power. At a squatty 5-10, 212 pounds, Jackson could surprise people between the tackles, as Jacksonville's Maurice Jones-Drew (5-7, 208) did last fall.

Big-bodied rookie James Jones flashed potential as a slot receiver, snagging several passes across the middle of the field in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11. Jones' long arms elevate his playing height well above his listed stature of 6-foot-1, a useful quality to possess considering Brett Favre is much more apt to overthrow than underthrow his receivers.

"It went well," said Jones on his first official practice as a Packer. "I'm just trying to make the most of my chances. I'm getting a feel of the other guys and how they move. I've been in the playbook a lot so that's all starting to come together."

Other notes:

Offensive Play of the Day
During the team's game-speed 11-on-11 drill, Aaron Rodgers rainbowed a perfectly placed jet pass to second year wide receiver Chris Francies up the left sideline. Francies evaded the jam at line and caught Rodgers' pass in stride over his right shoulder.

"It was a go route," Francies said after practice. "It wasn't an audible but it was an adjustment route- a double glance. He was pressed on me, so I just converted it to a go route.

"It's good to get an early connection with Aaron so now he can have more confidence in me to catch balls."

Defensive Play of the Day
Well, at least it's out of the way. Brandon Jackson had his 'Welcome to the NFL' moment today, courtesy of one of last season's heroes. A.J. Hawk stunted a blitz around the left defensive end, forcing Brett Favre to call a protection audible.

You guessed it. It was Jackson's job to pick up the blitz. Hawk bulled through the rookie and ‘sacked' Favre.

Stock is Up
With Driver sidelined, Robert Ferguson saw many snaps with the first team offense alongside Greg Jennings. Donning a new number (87), Ferguson started his do-or-die training camp on a positive note. He clicked with Favre early and often throughout practice on numerous routes. Now in his seventh season, Ferguson's rapport with Favre should be tops among the entire WR group.

Of course, he must remain healthy. Ferguson has missed 35 games in his career, including 12 last season due to a foot sprain. His veteran savvy gives him an inside track on the 3rd or 4th WR spot for now.

Stock is Down
Team physicals were being held simultaneously with Mike McCarthy's pre-training camp press conference Friday. With the Packers completing a very successful off-season workout program, the coach stated that he didn't anticipate any issues. Unfortunately, defensive tackles Ryan Pickett and Johnny Jolly let him down. McCarthy indicated the two failed the conditioning portion of the physical, and that he is "not happy."

With Harrell recovered from a ruptured biceps tendon and Corey Williams getting snaps with the first team, Pickett has some serious competition for his starting spot. Even after a very productive 2006 season (92 tackles, seven pass deflections), Pickett must remain hungry.

Just not that kind of hungry.

He said it
"There's a comfort level. There's a certain sense of ‘been here before.' We've gone through a whole season so we've seen a lot on how people are going to try to attack us. There's a sense of ‘been there, done that.' The comfort level allows your instincts to take over. You're instincts know what to do if you train the right way. Our defense is reaching that point."
- Linebacker Brady Poppinga on the defense in its second season in the same system


Tyler Dunne

Tyler Dunne is a student at Syracuse University. He is in Green Bay covering the Packers during training camp for PackerReport.com and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at tydunne07@yahoo.com.


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