The Word: Training Camp Day 17

Bigby makes most of opportunity in practice; Lee and Bush turn in big plays

For the first time in a training camp drill this summer, safety Marquand Manuel didn't line up with the first team defense.

Two days removed from a lackluster preseason opener, Atari Bigby was given snaps alongside Nick Collins in the defensive secondary.

The move was certainly a surprise after Bigby's role in Pittsburgh's two biggest plays Saturday night. In the first quarter, receiver Walter Young caught a post pass inside Green Bay's 20-yard line. Bigby had a clear shot at him but whiffed, as Young turned it into the Steelers' lone touchdown. In the second quarter, Santonio Holmes blew by cornerback Will Blackmon at the first level and Bigby at the second for a 49-yard completion.

Head coach Mike McCarthy offered Bigby shot at redemption today and the safety responded.

In a late 11-on-11 two minute drill, Bigby nestled into his zone displayed his athleticism by leaping high for an interception off Brett Favre. The pass was intended for Greg Jennings, who stood five yards behind Bigby.

Range is definitely Bigby's calling card. It's what could separate him from hard-hitting safeties Marviel Underwood and Aaron Rouse. Bigby just needs to establish a mental rhythm so his athleticism can flourish more frequently.

"I think Atari is a very talented safety," McCarthy said. "I think his range is as good as we have in that particular group back there. He needs to clean up some things. But he's young. He just needs more opportunities."

The strong safety position battle has flown under the radar throughout most of camp. But as Marquand Manuel's inconsistent play persists, Bigby, Underwood and Rouse will see increased reps.

Aggressiveness is the backbone of the position. Unfortunately full contact is restricted daily at camp. This simply adds to the pressure of every snap in practice. Without a legitimate chance to shine in run support during practice, safeties needs to be playmakers in the passing game to stand out.

Plays like Bigby's interception today make a big difference.

"Our safeties just need to play," McCarthy said. "We have some young guys back there and we just need to put them in competitive situations to take advantage of opportunities so they can show us what they can do."

Other notes from today's practice:

Offensive Play of the Day
McCarthy said he was impressed with the solid game from Donald Lee Saturday night.

"I thought Donald Lee played very well in the game, particularly his run blocking," the coach said. "He had a couple big time one-on-one blocks in the game. It was highlighted in the offensive meeting."

Today in practice, Lee made two big catches downfield. If he can combine consistent hands with improving run-blocking, Lee will lock down the starting tight end spot.

In the first 11-on-11 segment, Lee caught a 30-yard pass from Aaron Rodgers with Underwood on coverage. Later on during the two-minute drill, Lee got involved with his starting quarterback. On 3rd and 5, Favre hit Lee on a 10-yard crossing route and the tight end gained an additional 15 yards after the catch.

Defensive Play of the Day
For cornerbacks, anticipation goes beyond natural instincts.

It takes split-second glancing and split-second reaction.

On the final play of practice, at the defense's five-yard line, Rodgers threw an interception to Jarrett Bush, who would have probably returned it for a 99-yard touchdown.

But it wasn't an ‘offensive miscommunication.' It was the 23-year old Bush making a veteran in-play read.

"The offense loves that route," he started. "I didn't know whether Aaron would go up top with the ball or throw a stop route so I just played my technique. I peeked at Aaron and saw him wind up. When I peek, I can only peek for so long because then he is going to go up top and I have to be able to turn and play the ball. So when I caught him winding up, I said to myself, ‘I'm taking this!'"

Stock is Rising
Saturday Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila whipped around Pittsburgh's Max Starks as if he were John Michels.

Today, KGB's resurgence continued. Since being demoted to his pass-rushing role of old, Gbaja-Biamila hasn't appeared over-the-hill. Instead, he's still over quarterbacks.

During today's 11-on-11 action, KGB zipped past Chad Clifton towards Favre's backside, and slapped the ball loose.

KGB turns 30 in a month, but you can't tell that he's getting any older from his daily hustle at camp. His speed is still an obvious level ahead of everyone else on the defensive line. Gbaja-Biamila should make the team and substantially add to his sack total this season, which sits at 64 ½.

His value as a specialist is just too great to cut lose for the Packers.

Stock is Falling
The drops, look-out blocks, overthrows, sacks, and interceptions lingered into today's practice from Saturday's three-and-out extravaganza.

Hopefully, Green Bay's defense is just that good.

The Packers' offense struggled mightily during 11-on-11 action today, particularly the first team offense.

In the first 11-on-11 installment, Favre was 2-for-5. One incompletion was an ugly overthrow to Robert Ferguson. He second was actually a completion…the chest of Charles Woodson on a quick slant, intended for Greg Jennings. The third misfire was a result of Marquand Manuel blitzing untouched from the left side. To top off the series, KGB forced a fumble on the unit's final play.

Later on, Favre threw an interception to Bigby and had passes bounce off the hands of Underwood and Charles Woodson.

Thankfully, three preseason games and a handful of practices remain for Favre to gain chemistry with his revamped core of receivers. The pace he is currently playing at is a step ahead of everyone else right now.

He Said It
"He understands the game so well for a rookie. It was a broken play, I rolled out to the right, and he was able to get his guy off of him and continue his way back to the ball. On other routes, he was able to make catches and turn it into positive yardage. I think he had a pretty good night for his first game."
- Quarterback Aaron Rodgers on an improvisational pass to receiver James Jones against Pittsburgh

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