Updating top offseason stories

In the second volume of this series, we look at the battles at right tackle, linebacker and elsewhere, and we share our observations about other story lines after watching Wednesday's practice.

Editor's note: This is Volume 2 of an ongoing series in which we follow the Packers' story lines through organized team activities and the mandatory minicamp.

1. Who will replace Tauscher at right tackle?

Just like last week, Allen Barbre took all of the first-team reps at right offensive tackle, the spot Mark Tauscher manned so capably from 2000 through 2008.

The Packers have four contenders to start at right tackle — Barbre, Tony Moll, Breno Giacomini and rookie T.J. Lang. The only one with NFL starting experience at the position is Moll, but he's getting the reps at left tackle as Chad Clifton mends from minor offseason knee operations.

There are two ways to look at Moll. The first is he's at left tackle as coach Mike McCarthy makes good on his vow to stop the offensive line shuffling. If the Packers were playing a game tomorrow, starting left guard Daryn Colledge would be moving to Clifton's spot. By moving Moll to left tackle, it allows Colledge to concentrate on left guard.

The second way to look at Moll is the Packers have him taking reps at a position he's not equipped to handle because he's not in their plans. But at least he knows the offense, unlike rookie fifth-round pick Jamon Meredith, who is taking the second-team reps at left tackle. So, Moll is there by default because Meredith's youth would be too much of an impediment for the starting offense.

Publicly, of course, the Packers are saying Moll is very much in the mix at right tackle. But it's hard to compete when you're not being allowed to compete.

As for Barbre, he mostly handled Aaron Kampman when the starting offense faced the starting defense. McCarthy said Barbre is "probably built best for right tackle." It's too bad he didn't get to learn from Tauscher the last two years.

Meanwhile, Giacomini remains out as he recovers from offseason ankle surgery. He expects to be ready for training camp. Lang is splitting time between right guard and right tackle with the second unit.

2. How's the defensive line stacking up?

With Ryan Pickett absent on Wednesday, the No. 1 line was made up of rookie B.J. Raji at nose tackle, Johnny Jolly at left end (Raji's spot) and Justin Harrell at right end (Cullen Jenkins' spot).

In nickel situations, Harrell is replaced by cornerback Tramon Williams, with the rest of the personnel remaining the same. In that grouping, outside linebackers Aaron Kampman and Jeremy Thompson play as stand-up defensive ends.

The second unit had undrafted rookie Ronald Talley at right end, Anthony Toribio at nose tackle and Michael Montgomery at left end.

As we've said a number of times, some big battles are looming on the defensive line, where the Packers will only keep six. The group will become deeper when intriguing Alfred Malone's ankle is healthy.

3. Who will be the four linebackers?

Jeremy Thompson continues to hold down the top spot at right outside linebacker, with first-round pick Clay Matthews III still sidelined by a minor hamstring strain. McCarthy is hopeful Matthews will practice next week.

The rest of the linebackers were like last week: Aaron Kampman at left outside linebacker, with A.J. Hawk and Brandon Chillar (for Nick Barnett) on the inside.

Rookie seventh-round pick Brad Jones was back after missing last week with a strained abdominal. Jones worked as the No. 2 left outside linebacker, with undrafted Cyril Obiozor back to the third team at that position. Jones looks like a natural at the position. He's someone to watch develop.

4. Rookie watch

Draft picks: B.J. Raji, starting nose tackle; Clay Matthews, injured; T.J. Lang, second team right guard and right tackle; Quinn Johnson, third-string fullback; Jamon Meredith, second-string left tackle; Jarius Wynn, back and forth between second- and third-team defensive end; Brandon Underwood; still in class at Cincinnati; Brad Jones, second-string left outside linebacker.

5. Bill's observations

— Last year, Will Blackmon and Jordy Nelson returned kickoffs as the Packers ranked last in the NFL in that category. On Thursday, Tramon Williams, Kregg Lumpkin and DeShawn Wynn got chances. Rookie fullback Quinn Johnson was back with them as a blocker.

— There was no punting at practice, so there's nothing to report in that three-legged battle. It may or may not be noteworthy to point out that the No. 2 holder was punter Durant Brooks. The top holder is backup quarterback Matt Flynn.

— The four undrafted rookie receivers are starting to separate themselves a little. Jamarko Simmons and Kole Heckendorf both made nice catches while Patrick Williams failed to make the play on a nice pass by Brian Brohm at the back of the end zone. The fourth, JaRon Harris, hasn't done much good or bad during reporters' limited access.

— The offense really struggled. Red-zone and 2-minute situations were the theme of the day, with McCarthy hinting that some installation segments give one side of the ball or the other an advantage. In the 2-minute, both Rodgers and Flynn were intercepted to kill drives. Tight end Jermichael Finley was unable to come up with a low pass by Rodgers, and Tramon William intercepted. Jarrett Bush got an easy interception when there was some miscommunication on a deep ball from Flynn to Heckendorf.

— Brohm did not get to run the 2-minute drill. A second-round pick last year, he remains the third-string quarterback. He made some nice throws but some of the inconsistency that showed up last year continued. He threw a bad swing pass to Lumpkin that was almost intercepted, and a pass during a 7-on-7 red-zone drill was intercepted by Aaron Rouse for what would have been a 100-yard return for a touchdown.

— During a special-teams segment, Aaron Kampman worked one-on-one with outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene on his pass drops. Later, Kampman made a nice pass breakup on a pass to Brett Swain. Greene frequently applauded the drops of Kampman and Jeremy Thompson.

— It's going to be a battle to be the No. 3 tight end behind Donald Lee and Finley. Evan Moore, at 6-foot-6, was a former receiver at Stanford who had his moments last year at training camp. He's a matchup nightmare. Undrafted rookie Carson Butler is a big guy (6-foot-4, 260) who can run and catch. They'll both challenge Tory Humphrey for a roster spot.

— The next open practice will be Wednesday, June 10. It will start at 11:15 a.m. and be held on Clarke Hinkle Field, weather permitting.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Bill also is giving Facebook and Twitter a try. Find him on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook.


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