Notebook: Three Competing at OLB

Brad Jones, Brandon Chillar and Brady Poppinga are battling to be the starter opposite Clay Matthews. Plus, Joe Philbin says there's plenty of time for Bryan Bulaga to settle in at guard; Jason Spitz is odd man out; plus much, much more from Tuesday.

In one regard, the hamstring injury that will sideline Clay Matthews for at least a couple of weeks is a blessing.

With the Pro Bowler on the sideline, that means more reps for Brad Jones, Brandon Chillar and Brady Poppinga as they compete to be the other starter at outside linebacker.

On Tuesday morning, Jones and Poppinga took most of the first-team reps, with Jones on the right side and Poppinga — in his first practice back from a concussion — on the left. At night, Jones (right) and Chillar (left) frequently were the tandem.

"Yeah, I think it's obviously Clay and then we'll have good competition," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said after the morning practice. "Those other three guys are competing and they're all competing well. I feel good to have three guys really competing for the position, because I think that we can put any one of them in the game. So, if we do have somebody go down, we'll have somebody that's competent to step in."

Matthews had 10 sacks as the starting right outside linebacker last season but spent most of the first week of training camp on the left side. Capers didn't think the injury would affect Matthews' transition. Rather, Capers hinted that Matthews will play both sides, depending on matchups and the need to mix things up. Part of that is a response to the playoff loss at Arizona, when the Cardinals used double-team or chip blocks on practically every passing play.

"I think you've got to try to create targeting problems for them in terms of where he's going to be and that type of thing," Capers said. "If you always know, if you've got Clay and Cullen lined up over here together, all right, there's no question where that protection's going to go. And so I think there are advantages to have those guys in different (spots). We'll have different schemes where we'll move them around. Clay and Cullen are two of our top rushers, so you've got to try to keep them rushing as much as you can from various spots. You've seen us move Cullen around a lot in camp."

New-look line

With the coordinators made available on Tuesday, Bryan Bulaga's opportunity to start at guard remained big news.

"You like him as a football player," offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said. "It's not a complicated game. We're looking for guys who can block, we're looking for guys who can stay on their feet, we're looking for kids that are physical and competitive. He's shown a lot of nice things as a tackle. It's just a progression. Coach wants him to have a chance to compete, so that's where it is. I think a lot of the things you like at tackle, you like at guard. He's a football player, he's got the mentality of a football player, he moves pretty well. We're going to take a look and see what he can do."

As I wrote yesterday when taking the coaching staff to task, it might have made more sense to try this with a handful of reps here and there in May and June rather than giving Bulaga a shot at left guard with 14 practices remaining in camp.

We have a bunch of observations from Tuesday night's practice in the subscribers-only Packers Pro Club Forum.

Philbin, however, didn't buy that line of thinking.

"I think it's enough time," he said. "I remember when Daryn Colledge was a rookie and we go down to Miami and he plays left tackle and I don't think he had taken 10 reps at left tackle his whole rookie campaign. Guys have to prepare for multiple positions, unless you're a truly established veteran starter in this league. I don't think we can use that as an excuse. If he demonstrates that he's capable, that will be plenty of time."

The odd man out

While Colledge has a chance to keep the job at left guard, it appears Jason Spitz is out of the running without getting a fair shot. Spitz, who missed the offseason practices because of last year's back surgery, played all three interior spots during the first week of camp without getting a chance to focus at left guard.

"Jason is a very valued member of our offensive line," coach Mike McCarthy said. "He has excellent flexibility. He has started in football games, a number of football games for us. He's played multiple positions, and I don't view him any differently. He's someone that can battle for a starting position, but he's also someone that can play three positions if needed as a backup. My focus for Jason is really to see him get back to where he was when he was playing full-time. You forget that he was out all last season."

Spitz, who has 45 starts under his belt — including all 16 in 2008, when he played every snap — is day-to-day with a calf strain.

Aches and pains

A whopping 18 players were held out of the morning practice, including tackles Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher, who are on one-a-day schedules.

Clifton didn't participate in the night practice, either, because he got sick after the afternoon meetings. Allen Barbre took the first-team reps so Bulaga could focus on guard.

Players who were out for the night practice: Brett Swain (knee), Atari Bigby (ankle), Will Blackmon (knee), Derrick Martin (ankle), Al Harris (knee), James Starks (hamstring), Frank Zombo (ankle), Alex Joseph (quad), Clay Matthews (hamstring), Spit (calf), Donald Driver (calf) and Andrew Quarless (hamstring). Cyril Obiozor dropped out with a calf strain. Nick Barnett (knee) and Ronald Talley (ankle) returned.

Roster move

Cornerback Josh Bell was put on season-ending injured reserve with a foot sprain and Maurice Simpkins, a 27-year-old linebacker from Coastal Carolina who played for the Green Bay Blizzard indoor team, was signed.

"He had a good workout," McCarthy said of the 6-foot, 236-pounder. "I saw his workout in there today and we felt that he validated an opportunity. I have not seen any film on him, I just saw his workout after the a.m. practice."

Four-point stance

— After the morning practice, McCarthy said second-year defensive end Jarius Wynn was merely doing "OK." Wynn must have got the message. In one-on-ones during the night practice, he ran around Barbre and then dumped Chris Campbell on his butt in the most thorough beating delivered by anyone during training camp.

— The night practice was cut about 10 minutes short.

"Our numbers are thin," McCarthy said. "This is always a tough practice. If you look at the past three years of this format, this is a point in camp where your team's pretty much stressed out. The design of the camp, particularly with the Wednesdays off, is to try to avoid the fatigue injuries as much as possible, and we're heading in that direction, so we cut a little time off."

Chris Bryan got the first rep during a punting period. His three punts averaged 42.3 yards. Tim Masthay got two punts and averaged 41.5. Both hit only one good punt.

— Slocum said a return duo of Brandon Jackson on kickoffs and Will Blackmon on punts is a "real scenario." Blackmon had three punt return touchdowns in 2007 and 2008 while Jackson returned a kickoff for a touchdown during the scrimmage.

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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