The Packer Report: Following the Trends

With one week of training camp in the books, we give you quick-hit looks at 23 trends worth watching. Who is rising? Falling? We have the answers in our latest update.

With one week and nine practices in the book, we bring you 22 trends of training camp.

Trending upward

Training camp as a whole: Intensity is up. Reps are up. Hitting is up. Why? "We were 6-10 last season," coach Mike McCarthy says succinctly. A good coach is a coach who is willing to learn along the way.

The defense as a whole: OK, it's only training camp, so reaching conclusions without seeing a game is foolish. But the new defense generally has had its way with one of the most productive offenses in the league last season. And that's without B.J. Raji and Nick Barnett. It's a credit to the coaches, led by coordinator Dom Capers.

Charles Woodson: When Woodson gives up a catch, you get the feeling it's only because he's dialed back his speedometer a bit to save his legs. During true live settings, Woodson has been fantastic.

Tyrell Sutton: A 5-foot-8 running back has no chance in this league. He'll be run over by the giants of this game. Well, maybe not. As camp has progressed, Sutton has gotten better. Just ask physical safety Charlie Peprah, who blitzed full speed ... only to be knocked on his butt by Sutton. "Critics can say whatever they want," he said.

Nick Collins: Contract squabble? What contract squabble? Collins, with supreme athleticism and great instincts, is poised to show last year's pick parade was no fluke. It barely looks like he was absent for most of the offseason work.

Spencer Havner: Switching sides of the ball at this point of a career is usually reaching into a dark hole in hopes of grabbing a handful of diamonds. The Packers like his special-teams ability — in four games last year, he downed two punts inside the 10-yard line — so they made him a part-time tight end. It's a position he hasn't played since high school, but he's as looked as good as the other players vying to be the third tight end.

Desmond Bishop: Somehow, the hard-hitting Bishop needs to get on the field on defense. He's far, far, far and away the Packers' most physical linebacker. Inside linebackers coach Winston Moss said Bishop's freelancing leads to big plays for and against. If they can rein him in just a little, he would add a much-needed physical note to this defense.

Aaron Kampman: So what if Kampman can't cover Greg Jennings deep down the middle? Ninety-five percent of the NFL's cornerbacks can't cover him, either. Not to downplay Kampman's weakness in coverage, because at some point this season, he's going to get matched up against an athletic receiver or tight end and get burned. But it's part of the give-and-take of this scheme.

Cullen Jenkins: The MVP of the defense during camp. Unblockable, whether it's a run or pass. So much for the notion that a defensive end can't be an impact player in the 3-4.

Jermichael Finley: The MVP of the offense during camp. He can't be covered, and he's blossoming as a blocker.

Donald Driver: The ageless wonder just keeps on going. He's caught everything thrown his way while adding his usual jolt of energy to the proceedings.

James Jones: Jones says the knee injury that ruined last season is but a distant memory. He's just too strong for most cornerbacks to handle. He just has to conquer the lapses that lead to the occasional dropped pass.

Justin Harrell: He's not going to start over B.J. Raji, but at least he's practicing and carving out a niche on this team as a stout run defender. With Harrell, you take your victories where you can get them.

Special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum: If the special teams struggle again, it won't be because the players didn't get enough teaching. Slocum is like a high school coach, breaking down kickoff returns and the like to the smallest levels.

Trending downward

Quinn Johnson: One look at the 255-pound fifth-round pick and it's obvious that he has the potential to be a menacing lead blocker. Thus far, though, that hasn't shown up on the practice field. A fumble and a dropped pass are issues, as well.

A.J. Hawk: Sometimes, Hawk plays as if he was the fifth pick in the 2006 draft. Other times, though, you wonder if he's not the fourth-best inside linebacker on the team behind Nick Barnett, Brandon Chillar and Bishop.

Clay Matthews III: Right when it appeared Matthews was seizing control of right outside linebacker with his combination of physicality and athletic ability, he tweaked the hamstring that kept him out of three weeks of OTAs.

Brad Jones: The seventh-round pick didn't figure to get on the field as an outside linebacker but his athleticism made him a good bet to be a core player on special teams. Unfortunately, a back injury has sidelined him for all of camp. With linebackers Danny Lansanah, Havner and even Cyril Obiozor showing flashes, Jones' roster hopes are shrinking by the day.

Duke Preston: Preston was the Packers' "big" offseason signing. Most of the time, however, it's apparent why the Bills made no effort to re-sign the player who started 11 games at center last year. He seemed like a lock to make the roster before camp but is being pushed by undrafted Evan Dietrich-Smith.

Jamon Meredith: As is the case with Johnson, it's far too early to give up on this fifth-round pick. Physically, it's obvious why the Packers like his long-term potential as a left tackle. Right now, though, he's just not strong enough, as evidenced by one-on-one pass-rushing drills.

Allen Barbre: Maybe it's just facing Kampman every day, but Barbre has taken a step back during training camp after a strong offseason. The starting right tackle will be the guy to watch against Cleveland on Saturday.

Kickers and punters: Mason Crosby's 0-for-3 start to training camp and last week's shank-a-thon for the punters remain fresh in the memory bank. The preseason games will be telling.


Agree or disagree?: Discuss hot Packers topics in our, free forums. Leave Bill a question in the subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum.


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. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.


Packer Report Top Stories