I have to start by admitting that it's been a while since I have been down to training camp. The last time I was there Reggie White was on the sidelines and spectators sat on temporary bleachers set up along Oneida Street. As a result, I was struck by the improvements to the practice field and the overall experience of being at training camp. Lots more seating and definitely has more the feel of an event than in years past. It actually reminded me a bit of game day with the food vendors, Packer Pro Shop satellite locations, and free gifts at the door. Quite the change from when I was begging for autographs from Holmgren's crew.
Overall it was good to see the Packers back to work and doing some basic drills. I'm not sure if Mike McCarthy got his wish for an intense start to camp he wanted, but overall there were some strong initial performances to start the camp. I sat on the far end of the field, so I wasn't able to view every drill up close, but I was able to get a look at some of the QB & WR drills as well as some of the OL v. DL drills later in camp.
Also, it was great to get out and spend time around hardcore Packer fans looking to savor football again. I got a chance to sit behind some family members of a Packer (it was great to hear his kids yell "Daddy! Daddy!" when he would make a catch or a play). Got to meet a couple great fans as well and just talk football face to face. Even got to promote the site to a couple sitting next to me visiting from Stevens Point (if you are reading this now hi by the way!). Just a great morning.
Some specific thoughts after the jump.
Biggest surprise of the day - The amount of time Woodson spent at safety. I know you probably have heard plenty of this by now, but one of the things that struck me was the move of Charles Woodson to safety. I have to admit that I was skeptical about it through out the offseason. I thought that it would be some isolated work in the base defense and lots of "Corner Okie." Today though I was surprised by just how much Woodson was back there. Even saw him going over some fine points with Morgan Burnett and the safety position coach on more than one occasion. My gut tells me that this could be more significant than many of us first thought....this move to safety may be the real deal.
PA's Controversial Call - B.J. Coleman's Accuracy. One of interesting young players that I kept my eye on was B.J. Coleman. The guy definitely has some zip on the ball and there is no doubt that he has an NFL arm. I was a little disappointed with his accuracy. There is more than one occasion where I noted his pass was a bit high or a bit of a reach for the receiver he was throwing to. None of this concerning and no conclusions yet, but Coleman still looks to have some work to do.
Pleasant surprise of the day - Nick Perry's Performance. From the early reports Perry lost a bit of weight in order to help with the transition to OLB. In my opinion, he's well on his way to completing that transition. He looked good working with the one's today and on one occasion came close to "sacking" the QB....although that's tough to tell with no pads, blocking, or tackling.
Disappointment of the day - The Punt Returning Options. I like Randall Cobb back there, he's the best return specialist the Packers have had in a decade. When you get past Cobb things get a bit dicey. Today working with the Special Teams unit as returners as were Jordy Nelson and Tramon Williams. I don't know about you, but I really don't want to see either of them back there. Both are valuable, too valuable to risk to the injury exposure that returning may bring. Well that and Nelson was never really dynamic back there returning kicks.
Defensive Performance of the Day: D.J. Smith in coverage. D.J. Smith got an interception today and tipped a pass that led to another (or if it wasn't it was pretty close to another pick). The first pick came in a competitive drill against the offense. I have to admit that I was watching some OL v. DL drills at the time to see how the DE's were coming along when I glanced over to see Smith jump in the air and snatch the pass. Great play which drew a good reaction from the crowd. Not long after that Smith tipped a similar thrown ball over the middle which was then picked by Woodson.
Offensive Performance of the Day: James Jones makes a spectacular catch. There were a few great catches today, mostly by Jermichael Finley and D.J. Williams, but the catch of the day for me goes to Jones. It was a pairing of ones v. ones with Jones being covered by Jarrett Bush. Bush was in pretty good coverage. Bush was close and step for step with Jones, then Rodgers throws a ball high and behind Jones, allowing Jones to go up and make the play. Jones jumped and caught the ball over Bush and came down with it.