In case you were wondering, this picture was not taken during the night practice on Thursday. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE
Sometimes I underestimate the Packer fan base. Sometimes I forget that many people just want to be around a Packer event, even if they aren't in the stands. As so many of you know, the party around Lambeau Field is just as unique and engaging on Sundays as being in the actual stands themselves. This realization struck me again as I walked around practice tonight and just watched people who came out just to be around the crowd, be close to the team, and just have a good time, rather than be glued to the practices on the field.
I also got the chance to hang out with a family who road tripped ten hours for their first visit to Green Bay and first opportunity to see the Packers. It was a kick to give them the tips on some good place around town and awesome to hear them describe their thoughts going through the hall of fame. The most striking part of the experience for me was hearing the daughter of the family in awe of hearing Aaron Rodgers' voice in person. For a guy who goes to a couple games a year I realize I take many of those experiences for granted, but that simple joy was one that struck me and a little humbling at the same time.
Anyways, on to the practice itself. I tired to follow up on your questions, but seating tonight got in the way of some of those observations. Don't worry though what I don't answer I will continue to watch for and address in the near future (hopefully after Sunday's practice). So keep leaving the questions and if you do happen to go camp and see a guy taking notes on a legal pad wearing a ball cap that looks like a Packer helmet give me a shout.
After the jump you'll find PA giving some love to the offensive tackles, A.J. Hawk showing up, and Greg Jennings looking like a man among boys...well maybe not that, but he did have a pretty darn good night.
Biggest surprise of the night - How much B.J. Coleman is growing on me. Tonight I came to practice with my wife. This meant that I wasn't able to slip into a posh seat by myself ninja style, but rather traverse the mass of humanity with a woman 7 and half months pregnant. It slows you down and limits the options for seating....and thus I was on the far end of the practice field and on the opposite end of practice than where I wanted to be. It did present some interesting opportunities, including watching the QB's with some of their accuracy drills. It was interesting to watch the mechanics and throws of the three QB's, but the most interesting was Coleman. At the beginning of camp I was a bit down on Coleman, but he has come along way and may be able to make a push for the 53 with some strong preseason games. I think I'm going to have to dedicate a full post as to why my mind is being changed on Coleman, but long story short, it was interesting to watch him closely tonight and I think he as much promise as the hype was suggesting about him after the draft.
Pleasant surprise of the night - The starting tackles looking good. I must admit that I have been disappointed that Derek Sherrod has not been healthy enough to make Marshall Newhouse fight for that starting job yet. Sometimes competition is overrated, and other times it's not. When you are talking about starting offensive line jobs I don't think competition is overrated at all; and so a good old fashion training camp fight would be nice to see. Despite this, Newhouse looked good in pass protection drills with the OLB's tonight. He held his own against the great Vic So'oto and was able to contain Clay Matthews as well. Newhouse may be doing well, but Bryan Bulaga was a beast. I did not see Bulaga lose any match up in one on one drills tonight, beating Nick Perry and Erik Walden. In fact, Bulaga just owned Walden in one of the drills, basically taking him to the ground. I'm expecting Bulaga to have a monster year this year.
Disappointment of the night - Ryan Taylor continues to struggle. A funny thing happens when we start talking about the TE position lately. The conversation goes to how the Packers probably could cut one, and that one is almost always Tom Crabtree. The cut Crabtree movement tends to point out that Taylor can do most of what Crabtree does and has more upside. It's a fair point. The problem is that Taylor has had a bit of a rough camp in my opinion. It continued tonight with a couple dropped balls. He's not flashing with big plays like D.J. Williams, and he's dropping more passes than Crabtree. I'm not saying his job is in jeopardy, but I do think Crabtree is higher on the rotation and there is a reason other than pure and simple seniority.
Offensive performance of the day - Greg Jennings is awesome. Do I need to say more? I was going to put Bulaga here for his absolute domination of Walden, but it was Walden and Jennings just seem to catch every TD pass thrown for the last few reps of 11 on 11 tonight. He is definitely looking ready for the season to begin.
Defensive performance of the day - A.J. Hawk shows up. Hawk is having a quiet camp, but not a bad one. His coverage looks a bit better (tonight he had a couple good break ups and some nice coverage on Donald Driver). He is also getting more penetration in run plays. I'm not expecting him to suddenly morph into the next Brian Urlacher or Ray Lewis, but so far he looking closer to the 2010 Hawk rather than the face palm inducing 2011 version.
PA pay attention! Update on rookie RB's. Lots of running plays tonight and so I decided to keep an eye on how Du'ane Bennett and Marc Tyler were doing. Well, Tyler was injured tonight so no go there. I will say this about Tyler for those who are wondering, he is a shifty runner with some good wiggle. He's also got a build very much like Ray Rice or Maurice Jones-Drew. I don't think he's got the top speed of those guys, but like Tori Gurley, he brings something physically different than the other RB's. Bennett didn't make many head turning plays either, but he has been better than I expected. He has talent. He's worked out well as a check down receiver and can make something happen when he's got space. He reminds me a bit of Brandon Jackson, in so far as he is great in space and can make things happen catching passes out of the backfield, but I'm not convinced of him as a between the tackles runner yet. This could change after Friday's scrimmage or next Thursday's game at the San Diego Chargers if he can string together some nice runs in a game situation.
Fan interaction of the night - Matthews pumping up the crowd. If you have seen Matthews when he is on the field or watched some of the NFL Films stuff of him mic'd up then you know he's a bit of a ham. Tonight was another example of that as he was walking between drills and doing his best Hulk Hogan impression.
Only at Packer training camp - Tailgating a practice. Maybe I'm used to the morning practice thing, but it was a little surprising to see the grills going and the smoke rising mixed with the smell of cooked meat. I probably shouldn't of been too surprised though since most of those people are probably just working out the kinks for tomorrow...then they can really get the party started. Also, I found it brilliant for all those who just set up their tents and tables, had a nice little tailgate going and then decided to join about half way through practice. By about that time the families had all gone home, so no lines or overcrowded seating to deal with, but the more exciting 11 on 11 and 7 on 7 drills had started. Good way to work it really.
PA's controversial call - I'm cooling on James Starks. Yesterday Jason Wilde highlighted Starks as having a rough day. Tonight he had another ho-hum day. He has some nice plays through out the practice, mostly with catching balls out of the backfield. He also has his share of drops and runs that don't seem to go anywhere. As I watched Alex Green have a couple nice runs, and Brandon Saine do about as much as Starks did throughout practice I wondered the value of Starks is to this team right now. I'm not saying he's a total bum out there who needs to be cut, but he is a player that needs to show something in those preseason games. If he doesn't then I'm going to start wondering when Green or Saine start to push Starks for that starting RB spot.
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