For most of training camp, Breno Giacomini was nothing more than a speed bump for the Packers' defensive linemen.
Giacomini, a fifth-round pick, spent his first three seasons at Louisville alternating between tight end and offensive tackle before finally settling in at offensive tackle during his senior season.
So, perhaps it was no surprise the 6-foot-7 Giacomini had such struggles during training camp and the preseason. Now, with veteran stalwart Mark Tauscher out for the season, Giacomini has moved up the pecking order. Tony Moll will start at right tackle on Sunday at Jacksonville, but Giacomini could be on the game-day roster for the first time since Week 2 at Detroit.
"I knew I had to come in and these guys would be a little bit better and a little faster, and I know it's going to be a long process," Giacomini said. "I came in looking at like this was kind of a redshirt year for me."
Coach Mike McCarthy and offensive line coach James Campen have lauded Giacomini's improvement over the last three months. Asked what he needed to work on, Giacomini said, "Everything."
"Footwork, hands, pad level, the angle that I'm taking towards the defender now," he continued. "Everything's changed with the coaching and listening to these other guys and watching what they do and watching film of other guys."
It helps to go up one-on-one against one of the best defensive ends in the business everyday. Aaron Kampman, the Packers' Pro Bowl left defensive end, lines up across from Giacomini during every practice.
"I think Breno has done a very good job," McCarthy said. "His opportunity to practice against Aaron Kampman I think has really helped him, and he takes full advantage of it. He's very competitive, very athletic, and he has so much football in front of him."
Giacomini also points to his daily battles with Kampman as a big reason for being "100 times better" since training camp.
"You couldn't wish for something any better than that," Giacomini said. "You know, Pro Bowler. I'm coming in and trying to learn the position and I have this guy lining up, you know, a Pro Bowler, every day. I just keep getting better, and I love it."
Kampman, whose 9.5 sacks are almost half of the Packers' total of 21, has seen the difference. During training camp, the defensive ends used their reps against Giacomini to pad their "sack" totals during one-on-one drills. Now, the battle is a bit more even.
"I think he's gotten better. He's a good player," Kampman said. "I think he's going to continue to find ways to improve his game. He competes. I've been impressed with him how he's worked, come to practice every day and tried to get better, and I think he has."
Giacomini sees the difference in his play, and so have teammates like fellow rookie lineman Josh Sitton. But he knows he's far from a finished product.
"I'm not going to stop now," he said.
Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Giacomini: ‘I just keep getting better'
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