Hard-hitting Rouse ready to make an impact

Mike McCarthy's practices, which have been void of tackling, haven't allowed big rookie safety Aaron Rouse to show his promise. That will change soon, PackerReport.com's Steve Lawrence says.

Aaron Rouse stands tall, but he hasn't stood out.

That opportunity will have to wait for the Green Bay Packers' rookie safety.

It's impossible not to notice Rouse when you're at practice. Seeing a 6-foot-4 guy in the defensive backfield is about as easy as picking Yao Ming out in a room full of jockeys.

Through the first dozen days of camp, Rouse has split time between the second- and third-team defenses, sometimes paired with impressive Atari Bigby with the second team and others paired with Marviel Underwood with the third team.

In all cases, though, Rouse is playing free safety, which is Nick Collins' position. For now, it seems, Rouse has no chance of unseating Marquand Manuel at the other safety spot.

Perhaps that will change when Rouse gets a chance to do what he does best: hit people.

Mike McCarthy's training camp has been void of tackling. That's prevented the 223-pounder, who was known as an intimidator at Virginia Tech, from making his presence truly felt.

He's had some moments, though. On Monday, Rouse expertly read the play and intercepted Ingle Martin. Later that day, he drilled running back P.J. Pope.

"It felt great," Rouse said after that practice. "I've studied my playbook very hard, I've been studying the offensive routes, and once I get in there, instincts take over. I felt like I've been doing other things well, but when you get the opportunity you have to step up and make the play."

Even when he's not allowed to hit people, Rouse's promise is apparent. On Thursday morning, with the players wearing only shells and hitting being off limits, Rouse flashed his coverage skills. Twice, he blanketed seventh-round pick Clark Harris, a tight end who made his mark at Rutgers for his receiving skills. In between, he lined up against a flanked-out Harris and easily beat his block — and Harris' jersey grab — to seal off the edge.

Other times, Rouse looks like a rookie. On Thursday morning, for instance, his overpursuit allowed the back to cut inside for a decent gain. Too often, it looks like he's thinking more than reacting, which probably shouldn't come as a big surprise considering his NFL experience encompasses less than two weeks and he spent most of his Hokies career playing a hybrid linebacker/safety position.

"I think Rouse looks very good," McCarthy said Friday. "I'm anxious to see him tomorrow night in live action (at the Family Night Scrimmage). I think he's a guy who will definitely compete in the safety slots, and he definitely looks to be a personnel mismatch on special teams. So, I'm anxious to see him. I think he's off to an excellent start."

The preseason games are more important than training camp practices. That's true for all of the players fighting for roster spots or trying to climb the depth chart. It's especially true for Rouse, though, as he battles a decent group of young, talented and inexperienced safeties.

Rouse will be unleashed a bit during tonight's scrimmage, but he's definitely a player to watch when the preseason kicks off Aug. 11 in Pittsburgh. It will be those opportunities against teams wearing jerseys some other color than green and gold when Rouse will get a chance to make his presence felt. Literally.

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

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