The Word: Training Camp Day 7

Tight ends corp getting thinner; Jackson gets more comfortable; Woodson delivers

At this rate, offensive tackle Tony Moll will be changing his number by Monday.

A former tight end-turned-offensive tackle at the University of Nevada, Moll was forced into some action at tight end in this afternoon's practice at Clarke Hinkle Field.

The Packers' tight end corp was narrowed down to two today - Donald Lee and Joe Werner. Tory Humphrey was officially placed on injured reserve today after having ankle surgery Wednesday and Bubba Franks did not practice due to a scratched cornea that he sustained in Tuesday's practice. The injury is severely affecting his vision and could keep him out longer than expected.

Zac Alcorn and Clark Harris both had lights-out practices Thursday night, but couldn't ride their wave of momentum. The young tight end duo sat out practice today for separate ailments.

Alcorn has several foot blisters, according to head coach Mike McCarthy, who said "[Alcorn's] feet are all screwed up."

Harris has been relatively quiet throughout the first week of camp but seemed invigorated with Brett Favre's return last night when he snagged five catches in 11-on-11 drills. But he has a minor ankle sprain and expects to be back on the field soon.

"I just tweaked my ankle a little bit," shrugged Harris after practice. "I'll be back in a few days hopefully. It's nothing."

Franks appears doubtful to participate in Saturday's Family Night scrimmage at Lambeau Field. It is likely that Alcorn or Harris, or both, will participate in the scrimmage, which begins at 6:30 p.m.

"I have no idea if I'll play," Harris said. "I'm taking it day by day. It's up to the trainers and when they test me. We'll see how it goes."

Harris is anxious to return to practice. The cobwebs are cleared and his confidence in the offense is rising.

"It's nice to get out there and have some balls thrown to me," said Harris about last night. "I've been out there kind of thinking too much and not really playing my best football. So yesterday I kind of just went out there and let it fly and have some fun. I got open a few times and the quarterbacks found me when I got open."

The absence of this trio left only two tight ends for today- Donald Lee and Joe Werner. Considering Werner still needs instruction from coaches before each play (and was blocking downfield on a passing play once), the offense was really left with only one tight end to operate with.

McCarthy uses tight ends in a multitude of ways, which made today's practice quite a challenge.

"They need to get healthy," McCarthy said. "We were short so that's why we adjusted practice at the end. We did more special team work even though we wanted to do some red zone."

With more reps, Lee didn't disappoint. Favre looked to Lee with regularity today, especially in the team's red zone drill. Lee showed his underrated quickness on a 16-yard touchdown strike from Favre, leaving a cornerback in the dust on a hard cut to the middle.

McCarthy has noticed. Each day Lee appears more like the starter at tight end…and not by default.

"I think Donald Lee is having an excellent camp," said a sincere McCarthy. "He's playing with a lot of confidence. I think he is a lot more comfortable with what we're asking him to do. We probably moved him around a little too much last year. So, I think Donald is having an excellent camp."

The atmosphere at Family Night will be a good barometer for McCarthy to judge this uneasy position. Of course, the often-hobbled tight ends have to be on the field. If not, it's just another adjustment.

"I'm hoping both Zack and Clark will be back tomorrow," said McCarthy. "Hopefully Bubba can be too but the eye injury is not healing as quickly as everyone would like. So, we'll see what happens. We're going to do what we have to do. The whole football team needs to work so if we have to go four wideouts all day we'll go four wideouts all day."

Family Night will be full-contact on offense, defense, and the two-minute drill with special teams remaining in ‘thud' mode.

Here are some other notes from today's practice:

Offensive Play of the Day
Brandon Jackson's struggles in pass protection continued today, but it appears he is starting to run without thinking about when and where to cut.

In one 11-on-11 drill, the ball was placed at the offense's two-yard line. The defense stacked the line but Jackson found a crease off left tackle and blew through it. The whistles were blown after Jackson picked up 14 yards, but he had a full head of steam to bust through the tackle for several more.

It's difficult to judge running backs at training camp with limited or no tackling, but Jackson is improving. As Vernand Morency nurses a knee injury, Jackson is receiving the bulk of the snaps.

Fullback Brandon Miree has seen Jackson take the lumps early. But in his view, it will pay off for the rookie.

"I think Brandon is making a lot of strides," said Miree. "There's no progress without struggling. I think he is getting better and better. I'd like to see him get to the point where he's not thinking about the plays he has to make and he can just use his natural ability. I think he'll be coming around pretty soon."

Defensive Play of the Day
Wide receiver James Jones has glided freely many times across the middle of the field in the first seven days of training camp.

Charles Woodson reminded Jones today that in an actual game, short drags near the line of scrimmage don't come without consequence.

Woodson crept toward the line and unloaded on Jones after he caught the ball about five yards downfield. Jones hung onto the ball despite Woodson's blow.

Stock is Rising
Utility players are hard to find. Every offensive coordinator craves for a player that is athletic enough to be utilized in multiple roles to keep defenses guessing. That is why Chicago converted Devin Hester to wide receiver. Speed, athleticism, and agility can be used in countless ways with the help of a creative coordinator.

Rookie David Clowney could be that type of threat. The barely six-foot, 185 pounds he has dropped plenty of passes in camp. Today, however, he made a strong case for a roster spot.

During red zone work, Clowney motioned to the right, curled behind Favre and ran a swing route. Favre zipped it to him and Clowney turned on the burners for a 15-yard touchdown.

At Virginia Tech, Clowney only returned five kicks in three seasons, but he is competing for that role with the Packers. In today's kick return work Clowney displayed natural vision. The coverage unit wasn't at full tilt, but Clowney's speed gives him an immediate advantage over other Packers receivers.

That in itself is worth a roster spot.

Stock is Falling
Dave Rayner and Mason Crosby came back to earth today in their kicking dual.

Rayner was 3-for-6, missing from 34, 41, and 44 yards. Crosby went 3-for-5, missing his last two kicks from 41 and 44 yards. (Rayner was given an extra kick because his 41-yard attempt was blocked.)

The two combined for four ugly kicks at the end of practice in a mini-competition that won't carry any worth. You can't bring a sword to a gun fight.

"I thought the work within the practice was just OK," McCarthy said. "It wasn't Dave's best day, but I threw them a curveball there and it was really a reaction to the tight ends, kind of being down to one guy there at the end. They had their tennis shoes on. That was poor planning on my part."

He Said it
"It's going well. We have some good guys back there. We can really help this team win. Contrary to the criticism we've been getting, we have the ability to make a lot of plays at this position. Time will tell. Right now we're just going day-to-day with it."
- Running back Noah Herron on the team's running back competition

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