The Packer Report: Following the Trends

Who is trending upward and who is trending downward? We have the answers you need to know after Monday afternoon's full-pads practice.

Packer Report follows the trends after the 15th practice of training camp.

Trending upward

— Inside linebacker A.J. Hawk had one of his finest performances of the summer. He seemed more aggressive against the run, frequently either getting the tackle or allowing someone else to make the play. And during seven-on-seven passing, Hawk stayed with receiver Jake Allen and made the deflection at the sideline. Interestingly — very interestingly — the No. 1 nickel defense during seven-on-seven had Brandon Chillar and Nick Barnett at linebacker, with Hawk on the sideline.

— Well, hello, Brad Jones. The seventh-round pick, who had missed all of training camp with a strained back, was superb on his first day of practice — as anyone within earshot of Kevin Greene can attest. He blew up a couple of running plays and batted a pass. The Packers will have a hard decision when figuring out their reserve linebackers, because undrafted rookie Cyril Obiozor has had a strong camp, too.

— Rookie defensive end Jarius Wynn continues to be a playmaker. Early in practice, he hustled his way down the line of scrimmage to corral Brandon Jackson on a screen. On the last play of practice, he intercepted a pass that was deflected by Brandon Underwood. In between, he used a great outside-in move to get past T.J. Lang in one-on-one pass-rushing.

— Rookie fullback Quinn Johnson appears to be figuring things out. He had a big game against Cleveland and carried that forward on Monday. Moments after linebacker Danny Lansanah beat fullback Korey Hall in a combo blocking drill, Johnson laid a punishing block on Lansanah. When Johnson finds his guy, a collision is inevitable. Problem is, he doesn't always find his guy.

— Third corner Tramon Williams is just a playmaker. He'll give up some but he'll get some. He made a superior read of Aaron Rodgers' pass to Greg Jennings, got inside Jennings and made the interception.

— Nick Barnett didn't make any plays, but it's good to see the veteran starter back on the field. He didn't take part in 11-on-11 drills, but when he was on the field for seven-on-seven, he seemed to moving quite well. He should be fine once he kicks off the rust.

— Another good practice from Mason Crosby, who went 6-for-6 on field goals, including makes from 51 and 53 with the wind at his back.

Trending sideways

— Aaron Rodgers just hasn't been consistently accurate during training camp. That was apparent during Saturday's preseason game, too. Maybe some of it is the blitzing. On the runner-up to play of the day (below), a wide-open Jermichael Finley wouldn't have had to make a great catch had Rodgers thrown a better ball.

— Running back Brandon Jackson is having a good camp when he's got the ball in his hands. But as a backup, you can't fall asleep on special teams, which is what he did when Joe Porter ran around Jackson to block a punt.

— Safety Atari Bigby hasn't had a great training camp. He'll always be a good run defender and he'll get his interceptions, but he's repeatedly too slow to help on deep routes. During seven-on-seven, Driver got behind the corner and Bigby didn't get there in time to prevent a long completion. Late in practice, though, he made a good read and picked off Rodgers in the end zone. Bigby also drilled Brett Swain to break up a pass.

Brady Poppinga at this rate is the favorite to be the starter at right outside linebacker. He's a tough customer against the run but he's still not much of a pass-rusher — a must-have trait in this defense. During the two-minute drill, Poppinga blitzed against Chad Clifton, with Clifton putting Poppinga to the ground with one mighty swat.

Trending downward

— That Justin Harrell thinks his career is over is horrible news. The newlywed is a good kid, and it's another nail in the coffin of a wasted first-round pick by the Packers. Hopefully, he's just discouraged at this point and the team and medical experts will figure out something. Don't hold your breath, though. At this point, for the good of Harrell's health when he's 50, you almost hope he calls it quits.

Durant Brooks has the talent to be a top-10 punter in the NFL but he's maddeningly inconsistent. Kicking into a brisk breeze, he had easily the best punt of the day, a soaring 55-yarder near the sideline that drew applause from the fans. But he also had the two worst punts of the day, including one immediately after his bomb. It's been fairly typical. Someday, he'll be a good punter in the NFL. Probably not going to be in Green Bay in 2009, unless he figures it out quickly.

Spencer Havner has been a great story and is a good bet to make the team at this point. But he dropped two passes on Monday. One was a tough grab, a bullet from Brian Brohm that turned Havner around a bit. It's a catch that Jermichael Finley makes in his sleep. It's plays like this one that remind everyone that Havner is a linebacker by trade.

— When he was signed, Duke Preston appeared to be someone who could challenge for a starting job. Now, he might not make the team. During one-on-one pass rushing, he was bull rushed by Dean Muhtadi, with Muhtadi showing sheer brute strength by toppling Preston over backward.

Play of the day

In a battle pitting two of the Packers' oldest players, Donald Driver made an incredible, leaping, one-handed catch on a long ball down the left sideline against Al Harris. With Aaron Rodgers under the gun from blitzing linebacker Brandon Chillar, Harris and Driver both adjusted well to the slightly underthrown pass, but Driver made perhaps the best play of training camp. Just a few plays later, Jermichael Finley made a juggling, one-handed catch on the run of a laser from Rodgers.


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