Mandatory minicamp is under way this week in Green Bay with a double-dose of coach speak at the podium. While the secondary has generated a lot of the publicity, for better or worse, the Green Bay Packers’ staff provided some interesting tidbits on players looking to break through in 2018.
Although one coach certainly wasn’t as talkative yesterday, here are some summaries from the press conferences this week.
The starter at right tackle in week one is up in the air, but Jason Spriggs is in the running.
After recently adding veteran Byron Bell, the Packers’ opening week right tackle position is cloudy. While Offensive Line Coach James Campen noted Bell’s capabilities as a former 70-game starter in the NFL, he also expressed the development of Jason Spriggs. After bulking up in the offseason, Spriggs has received snaps on the right side in minicamps with Kyle Murphy lining up at left tackle. Campen mentioned that Spriggs has been slowly adding more repetitions as he gets back into shape and re-gains stamina in his leg after a dislocated kneecap toward the end of last season.
More than anything, Campen praised the growth of Spriggs, a former second round pick heading into a make-it or break-it type of season.
You can see in his body he’s made some very strong gains in his size and strength. He‘s a kid that‘s going into his third year and wants to make sure that he‘s going to give everything he has. He’s matured and those things you’re happy to see, you’re pleased to see. Ultimately, it’s going to come down to his performance and how he handles things. But I know that he’s in a lot better physical shape and mindset than he’s been the previous two years, and I’m looking forward to seeing the big guy go.
Campen discussed that the starter at right tackle will be determined in training camp. But as camp comes closer, he will collaborate with Mike McCarthy on who should be given meaningful reps. As of now, it appears Spriggs has put himself in position to earn those chances.
Aaron Jones may establish himself as the lead back during training camp.
With a 5.5 yard average per carry as a rookie, Jones provided speed and elusiveness to the well-blended Packers backfield. As a sophomore in the Green Bay system, Green Bay is looking for Jones to take a step forward after an offseason of commitment to strength and conditioning.
While Running Backs Coach Ben Sirmans says that he won’t have a full feel for Jones’ new strength until pads come on in training camp, he was certain of Jones’ jump. He labeled lower-body strength as the weakest part of Jones’ game as a rookie, but mentioned his work in that area and the durability that comes with it. Sirmans estimated that Jones had gained about five to ten pounds in the offseason, but was not worried about that extra weight negatively impacting his performance or reactionary skills. In fact, Sirmans was excited about the extra strength Jones will gain to pair with his efficient running style that is lower to the ground and avoids big hits.
In minicamps, Sirmans has looked for cognitive development in his three players - Jones, Jamaal Williams, and Devante Mays - who are making the jump from year one to year two. He noted that all have improved in this capacity and in their reactionary speed and ability to retain information. But with Jones’ effectiveness as a rookie, the second-year back seems to be turning a corner and could assert himself as the starter as soon as training camp.
Rookie receivers are progressing, especially the team‘s fifth round selection.
Pass Game Coordinator Jim Hostler was asked about his impressions of the three rookie receivers drafted by the Packers and didn’t shy away from praise. Besides touching on the commonly-used size, speed, and length adjectives to describe the trio, Hostler touched on the suddenness and body control each has and the larger catch radius they provide for a quarterback.
Asked specifically about fifth round pick Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who has made several plays in minicamp so far, Hostler admitted that the South Florida product wasn’t exactly what he thought he was coming out of college. Hostler was surprised by MVS’s inside route-running and ability to play on both the inside and outside. He also mentioned that MVS was a bit more sudden and had much more lateral quickness than anticipated after being billed as a straight-line runner in college.
It’s always good to hear coaches talk up a third day selection. It’s even better to hear a coach mention that the player has “got a chance to be exciting.”
Greer Martini could be an unheralded undrafted free agent to make the roster.
Undrafted rookie Greer Martini of Notre Dame came into the Packers organization as a tryout player and worked his way on to the 90-man roster. Now, he’s trying to make it on to the 53-man list after strong camps.
Number 58 has been noticeable so far in camp and when asked about his progress so far, Inside Linebackers Coach Patrick Graham provided a glowing assessment. Among the words to describe Martini were:
- Works hard
- Smart football player
- Able to handle multiple positions
- Good communicator and able to get calls out to teammates
- Plays with a good football position - knees are bending, eyes are ready
- Doing what we ask him to do at the position
For a player who has been written off by most writers making early predictions about the final roster, Graham gave reason to be cautiously optimistic about Martini as a viable undrafted candidate at this point in the process.
Interviews with Winston Moss have become consistently wayward
On a day in which cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt, Jr. gave enlightening answers to the media about his position group, linebackers coach Winston Moss was the exact opposite for a second consecutive press conference. Frankly, it was among the worst conferences I’ve heard.
Clearly, Moss is upset with a member or members of the media, but his attitude has been disappointing for an Associate Head Coach of a publicly-owned franchise. When asked point blank about his temperament towards the media on Wednesday, Moss gave an awkward seven-second stare-down and simply answered, “I can’t help you. You ask the question, I’ll answer it.”
I’m sure Moss has not enjoyed the defensive scrutiny this offseason, especially from his edge rushing linebackers. I also understanding the concept of having your players’ backs. But answering nearly every question with a cold stare and one sentence offering a variation of “coming prepared to play hard” and ”being the best player he can be” hardly presents Moss or the new defense in a positive light.
Moss has not come across as an interviewer worthy of the head coaching positions he’s reportedly been sought for, and in all honesty, he and his linebackers have been deserving of the criticism they’ve received. A position group that has not generated enough pass rush also failed to add a meaningful rusher in the offseason. Questions about development of young players like Vince Biegel and Reggie Gilbert are fair.