While the first week of training camp seemed like manna from the heavens, those practices are a far cry from real football. Thankfully, we observed something a little closer to the genuine article Saturday night when the Packers staged their annual Family Night scrimmage. Being the first real-ish football in exactly six months, there's much to dissect. Here are my five biggest takeaways from yesterday:
1. David Bakhtiari has entered the competition for starting right tackle
When the offense first took the field, the starters across the line were Bryan Bulaga, Josh Sitton, Evan Dietrich-Smith, T.J. Lang, and Marshall Newhouse. Halfway through the opening series, Bakhtiari was substituted in for Newhouse. While not the only tackle due praise, the rookie fourth-round pick looked solid in pass protection and shut down Nick Perry for the night.
There's still a ways to go before anyone can be viewed as the front runner at right tackle, but in just a week Bakhtiari has gone from 7th or 8th lineman to bona fide contender for the starting job. At a minimum, he's the backup plan to Bulaga at left tackle, an impressive feat for a mid-round rookie.
2. Eddie Lacy looks like a game changer
Count this as the takeaway most likely to look hyperbolic come the regular season, but after Lacy put his size and power on display to startling effect, it's hard not to buy into him as Green Bay's lead back. By unofficial count, Lacy ran for 65 yards on eight carries, good for an 8.1 average. The former Crimson Tide tailback looked strong this past week in practice, but this was his first exposure to live tackling in the pros.
Lacy doesn't have to be nearly as efficient as he was Saturday night to make the Packers more dangerous offensively. If he can set up play action and convert short yardage situations, Green Bay might put up its best third down conversion numbers since 2011.
3. Graham Harrell has an easy path to the 53
Even before camp started, Harrell sat in the driver's seat for backup quarterback. The Packers need to keep three quarterbacks in total between the roster and the practice squad. Because he was active for every game last season, Harrell has lost his practice squad eligibility. Unless the team plans to burn three roster spots for the position, tabbing second-year player B.J. Coleman as Aaron Rodgers' backup means letting Harrell leave for good. Consequently, Harrell only needs to match Coleman to keep his job as the latter can still be stashed on the practice squad.
Well, after a two interception debacle last night, Coleman has ceded considerable ground to Harrell for the backup job. Granted, one of those interceptions came on a spectacular play in the end zone by cornerback Brandon Smith. However, the pick six Coleman threw to James Nixon would have been intercepted regardless of whether Jeremy Ross fell down on the route. That's not to say Coleman should be counted out of the race, but given that Coleman needs to significantly outperform Harrell to win the job, his chances aren't looking great right now.
4. Johnathan Franklin needs a lot of work on special teams
A few days ago, Mike McCarthy stated that if the season was starting, Cobb would once again be the team's returner. While it may have just been a smokescreen, it's going to take more from the rest of the returners to keep him off special teams.
Saturday was a mixed bag; Jeremy Ross returned a kick for 49 yards, while Johnathan Franklin muffed a kickoff. Ross has long been our presumptive returner for 2013, but we'd like to see another returner step up to keep Cobb off the field on special teams. Franklin has been talked about as that guy, but his struggles in practice and Saturday's scrimmage suggest otherwise. This bears more attention going forward.
5. Mason Crosby is unlikely to ever regain his composure
The trials and tribulations of Crosby's regrettable 2012 have been well documented on this site. While many like myself defended the team's decision to stick with him last year, this offseason's kicking competition should be fully open.
After Saturday's scrimmage, Crosby has fallen behind first-year kicker Giorgio Tavecchio.
Crosby converted a dreadful 2-6 during the kicking period at the end of the night. Counting his attempts from the scrimmage, he went a paltry 3-8. Compared against Tavecchio performance (5-6 during the kicking period, 6-7 overall), it's looking like Crosby is still haunted by demons that sank his 2012 season. If he can't handle the pressure of Family Night, what hope does he have of keeping it together during the regular season?
What will keep Crosby in the race is his leg as Tavecchio struggles with distances beyond 45 yards. While a strong leg is valuable for those deep attempts, I'd rather the Packers go for it on 4th and less than five yards in enemy territory anyway.
Jason Hirschhorn covers the Green Bay Packers for Acme Packing Co. He has previously written for Lombardi Ave, College Hoops Net, LiveBall Sports, and the List Universe. He is also currently a senior writer for Beats Per Minute, an indie-music webzine. Follow him on Twitter: @JBHirschhorn