Packer Report chat: Minicamp

You had questions and we had answers as we chatted following the last practice until training camp. With your help, we covered all of the hot topics, from Greg Jennings to Nick Collins.

Bill: So what's on your minds tonight. No more football until Aug. 1.

So, you guys happy about the Jennings deal?

Bill: Definitely. Teams can't afford to let good players reach free agency. It's why there are so few good players ever available in free agency. Teams are too smart to let them get that far.

From beginning to now, how does the defense look in going from a 4-3 to a 3-4?

Bill: It's hard to say. Each day, a different segment was installed (base defense, red zone, nickel, etc). This minicamp just tied everything together. So, it's hard to get an every-day read on things for that reason. Talking to all of the assistants on Tuesday, though, they seem pleased. Dom Capers, who's obviously installed this defense at a few places, says things are right on schedule.

Now that Jennings is signed, is Nick Collins next?

Bill: I would think Collins has to be next on the list. The other "big" names are Chad Clifton and Aaron Kampman, and I think you need to take a wait-and-see approach with those two. Then it's Daryn Colledge and Jason Spitz and Atari Bigby. You can take your time, I would think.

I wouldn't put Cliffy on the "top priority list."

Bill: I wouldn't put Cliffy on it either. He's been a helluva a good player for a lot of years but he's also getting more and more brittle.

Bill, the competition between Thompson and Matthews III seems to be the most heated, would you agree?

Bill: I think that's going to be the heated battle in training camp. Not so much now because Matthews missed most of OTAs with the hamstring. But that will be a great battle during camp. Thompson looks pretty good, but we haven't seen anything live yet, so who knows how relevant it is at this point. Matthews seems more explosive to me. Thompson is pretty cerebral but I don't know how he'll be when everything's live. It's the big unknown.

From what you saw, how did Justin Harrell do?

Bill: Harrell was OK. Nothing more. Two of the four weeks of OTAs were dedicated to third downs and 2-minute situations, and he doesn't figure into those. Coaches think he's going to be a good run defender. Trgovac seems to like him quite a bit, but again, will his back survive live blocking? Talking to him after practice, he seems optimistic.

What do you think about Favre? Is he going to come back to get a ring or is it to stick it to Ted Thompson?

Bill: I think Favre is all about revenge. If he loved football so much, he could have stayed with the Jets.

Bill, did not Brett ask twice to be released by the jets?

Bill: Sure did, even after publicly saying several times he could never do that to the owner, Woody Johnson. My instinct is New York was a one-year layover to get to Minnesota. It explains why he made no effort to get to know his teammates and it explains why he was physically unprepared. It also explains why the Favre family got hotel rooms for Minnesota-Green Bay while Favre was still technically with the Jets.

If that was true, why wouldn't he have tried to fake an injury to try and preserve his body for next season?

Bill: He likes to play. He's also got his records, and there's nothing wrong with adding to them. But, like I said, he likes to play, and I'd certainly never begrudge him that part of it. Play until they drag you off.

Do you think that when the Vikings sign Brett that it could backfire on the Vikings?

Bill: Sure it could backfire if Favre is over the hill. And the whole circus could hurt the Vikings, just like maybe it did here last year. It's not helping that he won't know his teammates until the start of camp. Knowing the offense will obviously be a big help, but it can take time to build chemistry.

Who do you think will end up being the right tackle?

Bill: I'd have to say Allen Barbre. He's done nothing during the offseason to make me think he can't play the position well. He's handled Aaron Kampman. He's bigger and stronger. He says he feels more comfortable at tackle, which was his position in college. Taking all of those reps in the offseason gives him a huge advantage over Giacomini, who was a spectator.

Yeah, but I think Barbre's temper and stupidity could get the best of him sometimes.

Bill: You could be right about Barbre. He needs to reign in that temper. He was involved in practically all the scuffles at camp last summer. He seems smarter for taking the No. 1 reps every day for five weeks. The temper, though, you're right about that. He needs to find that fine line between an aggressive pain-in-the-butt to the guy he's facing.

Bill, I listened to an audio clip on Packers.com with Nick Collins. A reporter asked will you be here for training camp? "we'll see" he said ... doesn't sound promising.

Bill: I think Collins has to say that or he loses the leverage he's trying to gain. I'd be surprised if he's not signed by camp or early in camp. With Jennings out of the way, he's got to be the priority. Just my opinion, though maybe they want to see how he fits in the new scheme and get something done at midseason.

In terms of money, would you say he will be paid amongst the top safeties in the game.

Bill: I would guess so, yes. A, that's just the way contracts are done these days. The bar is constantly pushed higher. Plus, there's that $27 million in cap space. That's there for a reason: To sign players now while keeping the cap hits in later years at a manageable level. So, if something happens this year, I would assume Collins will be one of the highest-paid safeties in the league. Even the highest paid if they front-load the deal.

With Nick Collins, is the reason he wants a new deal is because he wants the money plus the security of a long term deal and do you think what happened to his father is playing a role in him wanting a new contract?

Bill: I'm not sure what's pushing Collins. Could be everything you mentioned. Could be someone's got his ear. Could be his agent, the same group that got the Ryan Grant deal done, senses he can do it again for his client. Maybe he's worried about the CBA and missing out on unrestricted free agency after the season.

I honestly feel like Collins is a one-year wonder. I guess time will tell.

Bill: I thought about that one-year wonder thing a bit, but really, he's such an athletic guy. Sometimes, it just takes longer for a guy to figure out things. But, you could be right. Sometimes, everything just falls into place.

I think that was the real Collins we saw out there in 08. I don't see him ever getting 7 picks in a year again though. He credited all his success to his hard film studies and the playbook.

Bill: That's true. He gave a lot of credit to Charles Woodson. And, at the time last year, part of it was not worrying about his dad, who seemingly was recovering from his health problems. I think he'll be fine, even if the stats aren't there. He might come across as selfish now, but that wasn't my read on him in the past.

Bill, it appears as if Thompson is content with the roster, and will not be making any F.A. signings... would you agree?

Bill: Kevin Carter is still out there, and I know there was mutual interest there. But they might feel OK with what they've got with their defensive line. Personally, I'd make a run at Carter. He's old but he's tougher tha ndirt, knows what he's doing and is renowned for being a good leader.

What about Brandon Jackson? How did he look out there?

Bill: I don't think he dropped a pass during the practices we were allowed to watch, so that's a plus. The things he needs to get better at, like picking up blitzes, I just won't know about until they're out there hitting people. I'm not a big fan, but I keep reminding myself that he's only 23 or 24. He's a young guy who clearly has some skill.

How is B.J. Raji doing being a rookie and plus learning a NFL defense?

Bill: Raji is going to be big-time. 337 pounds with good feet for that size. He seems to be doing OK learning things. They're really throwing a lot of stuff at him, since he's starting at LDE, will be playing NT and is one of the No. 1 DTs in the nickel and dime.

What is your impression of Clay Matthews?

Bill: Personally, he's a great guy. Really smart. It's obviously important to him, for all the hard work he put in to just get on the field at USC. On the field, missing almost all of the OTAs put him behind, but it's obvious that he's athletic and smart. For all of the talk about Jeremy Thompson, I'd be surprised if Matthews isn't starting in Week 1 or at least in the first quarter of the season.

How did Tramon Williams and Will Blackmon do in the OTAs?

Bill: Williams was tremendous. You know, he gave up a lot of big plays last year so I wasn't as sold on him as some people were. He was superb during OTAs and minicamp. Every day, I'd look over my notes and see 38 doing this and 38 doing that. As for Blackmon, I'm not sure if there's anything to read, but when they went to the dime defense (four corners) today, Pat Lee was the fourth corner. That had been Blackmon all offseason and all last year.

Bill, seems James Jones' name barely was brought up thus far.

Bill: That's true, but when I thought about, I don't recall Jennings doing much, either. I saw a lot of Ruvell Martin and a lot of Heckendorf and Swain. I think that battle has begun and the coaches aren't so worried about the main guys.

Who has impressed you the most?

Bill: Jermichael Finley and Allen Barbre on offense, and my guy Tyrell Sutton made some plays too as far as the lesser-known guys. On defense, I'd say Tramon Williams, and to a lesser extent, some of the second-string guys, like Pat Lee and Desmond Bishop. Al Harris has plenty of game left in his older legs, too.

We know that Tyrell Sutton has hands, but I'm not sold on him being a complete player and runner/blocking.

Bill: Sutton isn't that fast but he seems to have that short-range quickness where he can make guys miss or get through a hole. Can he block? He's big enough because he's so compact, but I don't know if he's capable of doing it. He caught passes at Northwestern; he wasn't asked to block as much. I'm not sure any of those other guys are complete players, though. That's why they're backups, I guess.

Sutton is the vogue body type right now.

Bill: You're right about the vogue body type. Darren Sproles opened a whole new genre of backs. Unfortunately, Sproles is a 4.4-ish in the 40. Sutton is 4.6ish. But with all of those 6-foot-4 linemen, there's something intriguing about a little guy back there.

I have one more question and I will let you get to your personal life lol.... prediction on the season!

Bill: 10 or 11 wins, I'd say. For everything that went wrong last year and for all of the flaws that seem so obvious, they were close to being a good team last year. Throw in two first-round picks, a more experienced quarterback, a proven defensive coordinator and, hopefully, a real punter, that's a lot of improvements.

Speaking of punters, who do you think will end up being the punter this season?

Bill: Everyone in the media seems to think it's going to be Brooks Durant, who was a stud in college. I'm going for Jeremy Kapinos. Yesterday on a pooch punt, it landed at the 1 and bounced backward to the 2 and died right there. He had, and don't quote me on this, something like 17 punts last year but seven wound up inside the 20.

I think what the Packers need is a burner RB. When's the last time we've had one here? Oh ya, never.

Bill: They've had bad luck on the burner kinds. They've had a few over the years but they couldn't play. You're point is well taken though. Big plays make things so much easier than having to go 10 plays every time. Grant needs to do better in that regard. I like him, but he needs to make people miss. He didn't do that last year.

Making people miss isn't really Grant's style. He is more of a run right through you kinda guy. I don't see enough small-space quickness to make a lot of people miss.

Bill: He did it in 2007, though, though I mostly agree with your assessment. He had a boatload of 20-yard runs in 2007. Only two or three last year. Too many times last year, Grant had one guy to beat/break tackle and he couldn't do it.


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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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