Packers' training camp is one week old and as we head towards the first preseason game, let's take a look at some of the highlights so far:
- Charlie Peprah released - after failing his initial physical, Peprah was released by the team. While not a top safety in the NFL, he can play and surely could help a team in need once he heals up. My guess is that the team didn't intend to let him go and this was purely a medical move. Should the team become thin at S down the road and he's available, he will be the first call
- Offensive line practices with the same starting 5 all week - sounds pretty basic and obvious but in the past 3 seasons, Coach McCarthy and staff have been playing musical chairs to try and get the right group of guys together in time for the season. With Jeff Saturday the lone new guy (although hardly new to the NFL, he's a 12 year vet), the Pack appear poised to return a cohesive unit that should improve on last year's performance and provide a boost to the run game as well as buy MVP Aaron Rodgers some more time in the pocket. That. . would be bad for the rest of the NFL
- The race is on at WR - We knew Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb were entrenched at WR this season. Donald Driver restructured his contract and has remained in the team's plans, providing a heavy dose of savvy and class not just to the position, but to the team as a whole. James Jones returned as well, looking to prove that he belongs in this group and is more valuable to the Packers in Green & Gold than another uniform. He has been the subject of trade rumors. Both Driver and Jones will enter the season as the 4th and 5th WR's. Lastly, who will claim what is sure to be a 6th WR spot on this year's roster? The odds on favorite is Tori Gurley, who spent all of last season on the team's practice squad and turned down a few opportunities to join other teams' active rosters to bide his time in Green Bay. Also in the hunt are Diondre Borel, Shaky Smithson and Curenski Gilleylen, although I don't anticipate any to survive the final cut down. Borel has the most potential of the 3 underdogs but he will likely be the victim of a position group that is just too deep with talent. This is a good problem to have in a pass-heavy offense and an MVP quarterback at the helm.
- Jermichael Finley - Finley gets his own bullet point. Not many have had as high of expectations as those placed on Finley over the past 3 seasons. After missing most of 2010 with a knee injury, Finley returned in 2011 and was largely disappointing. He was admittedly timid due to the recovery process on his knee and he had concentration issues, dropping several crucial balls down the stretch last year. In 2012, he has a lot to prove and has already overcome a mild concussion, suffered during one of last week's practices. He will be the team's top option at TE and has to have his best year yet to bump up among the league's elite. Hot on his trail is the emerging DJ Williams, who much like Finley 3 years ago, is catching many an eye along with every ball thrown his way in camp. These are your top 2 TE's
- Randall Cobb as Slash - Some of you may remember the role that Kordell Stewart played for the Steelers in the mid 90's. He was QB, WR, RB and even punter a time or two. Randall Cobb has that same playmaking ability. The idea this season is to get the ball into his hands one way or another. Cobb played some QB in college and is a smart athlete. He has quickly become the team's 3rd WR and has even been seen as a. . holder? Yes, as a holder during FG drills. Stay tuned for more Cobb coming soon to an end zone near you!
- 2012 draft class - So far Nick Perry has been quietly learning his position and hasn't had his name mentioned much while OLB Dezman Moses, a UDFA, has been all the buzz. He carried over a great performance during OTA's to camp and is winning quite a few of his 1 on 1 matchups. He is making it very difficult to find his way off this team. He's my dark horse to stick and is this year's Vic So'oto. Let's hope he can stay healthy and actually flash that potential when it counts in September. Terrell Manning is having a superb camp and is said to be "everywhere" so far. He is competing at the ILB spot along with 2nd year man DJ Smith and Robert Francois, both of whom saw action in games last year. BJ Coleman is making the most of his reps as the team's 3rd QB. The big question remains if the team will keep a 3rd QB on the active roster or not. If Coleman is relegated to the practice squad, he could be a hot target of another NFL team looking for a young hopeful to groom for their future. With Aaron Rodgers seemingly the starting QB in Green Bay for the next several years, Coleman would surely listen if another team came knocking. Casey Hayward has made a few plays and has been a bit up and down, as is expected of most rookie DB's coming out of the 2nd and later rounds. DL Jerel Worthy and Mike Daniels have already infused some fire and pop to a D line that badly needed it. Daniels missed another practice today (August 2) and some questions about his health have been raised since he came into OTA's with a shoulder injury. With Peprah's release, Jerron McMillian surely will be called on to play and contribute in 2012. He is already drawing comparisons to Nick Collins who was similarly unknown drafted from a small school, but the comparisons end there. McMillian now needs to prove he's worthy of being named in the same company. He will find himself competing for time to do just that with fellow "rookie" M.D. Jennings, who saw very limited action last season and is still developing himself. Rounding out the draftees is Andrew Datko, who has been struggling lately at OT. The 7th round pick also had injury issues at Florida State and missed some time. He is another dark horse to be on the roster when the season opens and could be kept by default if Derek Sherrod isn't ready to come back from his leg injury. Coach McCarthy stated that he was concerned about the attitude of this year's rookie class heading into camp. He felt there was a prevailing mindset that life in the NFL wasn't so difficult and that it was easier than previously thought. He set out to change that mindset from day 1. Preseason game time will tell the story of success there.
- Health - The Pack have been relatively healthy to this point and have already had several players return from minor dings. John Kuhn could soon be set to return to practice for the first time this camp. That leaves Derek Sherrod, Desmond Bishop and Andrew Quarless as those from last year's squad who have yet to practice in full this summer. Sherrod and Quarless suffered late-season injuries and were expected to be out. Bishop is battling a calf injury but is expected to be on the field sooner than later. I expect Quarless to be placed on regular season PUP and possibly IR depending on emerging talent. He tore his ACL and MCL, taking a nasty shot to the side of his knee during a December game at New York. Sherrod broke his leg in multiple places just weeks later in the lone regular season loss at Kansas City. He was not able to pass his initial physical and has yet to come close to being cleared to practice with the team. Sherrod may very well end up on regular season PUP as well but he is expected to return and play this year.
Jason Perone, @WSB_Jason on Twitter