Crosby takes lead
If Monday's practice is any indication, Mason Crosby has grabbed the lead over Dave Rayner in the enteraining kicking battle.
Punter Jon Ryan, who held for Rayner last season, was paired with Crosby for all five field goal attempts in the afternoon practice. Crosby made all seven attempts ( distances of 32, 39, 44, 46 and 53 yards) while Rayner's only miss was from 53 yards.
The fact that Crosby was paired with Ryan, who will be the team's punter again this year, was somewhat telling. Rayner was paired with backup holder Aaron Rodgers. Coach Mike McCarthy said after practice that the kickers will switch off on holders, so that may be the case in Tuesday's practices, but we'll see.
For now, Crosby has the advantage in this battle. He has made a few more kicks in practice and booted a 52-yarder through the uprights Saturday night.
Offense struggles in late-game situations
Either Green Bay's defense is that good, or the team's offense is that bad. On Monday, the first-team offense went nowhere fast in the 2-minute drill when Brett Favre's laser toward Greg Jennings was picked off high in the sky by safety Atari Bigby.
Aaron Rodgers led the second-team offense 34 yards to the 26 before calling a timeout with 3 seconds left, allowing for Mason Crosby and Dave Rayner to attempt and make 44-yard field goals.
The first and second team offenses lined up at the 5 yard line in a fourth-and-goal situation at the end of practice, but neither team could put the ball into the end zone. Favre's pass to James Jones was incomplete, and Rodgers' pass to Carlyle Holiday was intercepted by cornerback Jarrett Bush.
While some feel that veteran tight end Bubba Franks may be released by the Packers, I say don't bet on it. The Packers need Franks, and Franks showed in practice on Monday that he's not about to go down without a fight.
Franks made an impressive, diving catch of a pass from Brett Favre for a long gain in a 7-on-7 drill in front of linebacker Tracy White. Franks has been catching the ball well in training camp, only to drop a pass on Saturday night.
Still, look for the veteran to bounce back, like he did in practice Monday, and be a factor for the Packers this year.
August 8, 2007
Colledge the future at tackle
It appears that guard Daryn Colledge is not only Green Bay's starting left guard, but the team's backup left tackle, and probably the future at that position.
Coach Mike McCarthy sat veteran starter Chad Clifton out of both practices in a precautionary measure to rest his knees on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Colledge, who made an emergency start in place of Clifton last season at Miami, took on a number of reps at left tackle in both practices.
Colledge, entering his second season, played tackle at Boise State, so it seems natural that he will be moved over when Clifton, who is entering his eighth season moves on. Clifton's current contract expires after the 2009 season.
"It's an excellent opportunity for me to get out there and look at the defense in a different way," said Colledge. "The tackle has a whole different opinion on how a defense looks compared to a guard. I think it makes me a better guard to see what the tackle is going through against different defenses, and allows me to think of what the guard needs to do."
Punter Jon Ryan and wide receiver Ruvell Martin have served as the holders on field goal and extra point attempts for kickers Dave Rayner and Mason Crosby. This week, however, quarterback Aaron Rodgers has entered the mix as a holder.
Martin served as a holder at Saginaw Valley State and as the Packers' backup holder last season. Ryan is the team's primary holder.
Moll steps in at tight end
Due to injuries to a few tight ends during the first week-plus of training camp, offensive lineman Tony Moll has lined up at the tight end during some of the practices. Moll played tight end while at the University of Nevada before he moved to tackle. Moll is currently the backup tackle to Mark Tauscher, but played some tight end in the team's intra-squad scrimmage last Saturday night.
Crosby has slight edge
The race for the kicking job between Dave Rayner and Mason Crosby is very close, but if the coaches had to make a decision today, Crosby probably would get the nod.
Crosby has made a few more field goal attempts than Rayner, especially from longer distances, and also was selected in the sixth round of the recent NFL draft by the Packers.
Both kickers will be employed in the NFL this season, but only one in Green Bay. The true test will be the upcoming preseason games, and it might come down to the final kick of the final game, but for now, Crosby has the lead in the race.
"I'm taking every kick as an opportunity every time I step on the field, but I'm looking forward to the preseason games," said Crosby. "Different stadiums, different venues and being able to show some stuff. Game situations obviously are going to be different. Every kick, every practice is important. That's what they're stressing. I'm going to take every kick and see where it pans out in the end."
Here are three free agents that were longshots at making the final roster at the beginning of camp, but now have a decent shot of making the roster:
1. Offensive tackle Orrin Thompson. He has been filling in behind Chad Clifton at the tackle position with the first-team offense on a number of occasions in training camp. He also did the same in off-season minicamps and Organized Team Activities practices.
2. Cornerback Tramon Williams. He is having a great camp, but in a position where there is an abundance of talent. He's up against Will Blackmon, Frank Walker, Jarrett Bush and Patrick Dendy for the two backup spots behind Al Harris and Charles Woodson.
3. Running back Corey White. He is part fullback and part running back, but has mainly played running back in practices due to injuries to Vernand Morency and P.J. Pope. White has been getting more and more reps and will have a great opportunity in the first two preseason games to show that he's worthy of making the roster.
An overview of practice.
July 31, 2007
Re-visiting Old City Stadium
If the Packers were expecting a Family Night-type atmosphere in front of an NFL Network audience for Tuesday night's practice at Old City Stadium (Green Bay East High School), it was nowhere to be found.
The Packers public relations department said that about 3,500 fans attended the practice, though, it seemed far fewer. In fact, by the end of the 2 1/2 hour practice, most of the bleacher sections were nearly empty.
Still, it is a good idea, and one that might grow, much in the same way Family Night has grown over the years.
The smaller than expected turnout may have trickled down to the players, who struggled at times in the scrimmage sessions. Coach Mike McCarthy said the offense was "sloppy" in the two-minute drills, and he is concerned about the ragged play at times.
"I'm a little disappointed in a fragment of our players," said McCarthy afterward. "We had tremendous energy in the locker room before we came over here. I thought it was a spirited practice, but we're having these lulls that we need to get rid of. I know everybody goes through them in training camp, but I'm not happy with the way the practice ended."
Remedy? Make the team practice tomorrow, the scheduled day off. Maybe in future practices, the young team will learn to play hard till the end of practice.
I was chatting with Harry Sydney along the sideline at Old City Stadium and we both agreed that the Packers seem to be tackling less in practice than ever before. On Tuesday night, there were only a few occasions when a runner or receiver was tackled to the ground. Otherwise, plays ended when players were either touched (two hands) or with 'thud' tackles (hit but no wrap-up.
While lack of tackling might reduce the risk of injuries, does it make it tougher. Sydney, a former fullback, along with former Packers safety Johnnie Gray both say there is no comparison to the hitting and tackling in practices in the 1970s and '80s compared to nowadays.
Each year, there seems to be less and less tackling, and this year, less practices in training camp. Is less more? We'll see during the regular season.
The Packers practiced their two-minute offense for the first time in training camp. Without Brett Favre, who is attending a funeral this week in Mississippi, the offense sputtered. The line especially blew it with false starts that caused McCarthy to be short-tempered after practice.
"I thought it was sloppy," McCarthy said. "I thought the false starts on the offense was way too many. The two minute mechanics is always a little rugged the first time out, if you look back at the spring and look back at last year we experienced that. But there's no excuse for false starts."
The first-team offense, led by Aaron Rodgers, moved 57 yards to the 3, but was unable to get the ball into the end zone. The second- and third-team offenses never moved the ball past mid-field.
Is this alarming? Not at this point. It is very early in training camp, but if this turns into a continuous thing over the next week or two, be alarmed.
Why take the risk with Driver?
I don't get it. On Friday, Driver was held from practice because of his ailing right shoulder. He passed his physical on Sunday and was back in uniform, practicing in pads for the first time Tuesday night.
While it's great to see Driver on the field, the Packers have got to be holding their breath with each hit he takes. If his shoulder was weak enough to fail a physical less than a week ago, why take the risk of losing your best play-maker so early in camp? Have him wear a red uniform (no tackles), but try to protect him. If the Packers lose Driver due to a big hit by some defensive back trying to make an impression in camp, they lose a major cog in the offense.
Pump up the volume
The Packers practiced with artificial crowd noise during the morning practice Tuesday. Good idea because it gets loud at outdoor stadiums, too, like Arrowhead Stadium, where the Packers play on Nov. 4.
The Packers usually practice with artificial crowd noise inside the Hutson Center in preparation for games in a dome on the road, but this is the first time that they brought the speakers outside to enable the offense to practice its silent counts.
Todd Korth is managing editor of PackerReport.com and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.