2012 May : Packers Insider

Perry, Worthy thrown into the fire

May 27, 2012 by  
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By Tyler Dunne of the Journal Sentinel

~Green Bay — The tendency may be to pencil in any rookie behind a veteran. Set a precedent. Don’t throw too much at a wide-eyed rookie learning a new position. Nick Perry and Jerel Worthy were drafted as potential immediate-impact players for the Packers’ last-ranked defense. Guys who can help now. Not in 2013.

Still, it was a minor surprise to see both players thrown into the fire at the team’s first organized team activity. Perry worked with the first-team defense at left outside linebacker, while Worthy lined up next to B.J. Raji in nickel. At both positions, Perry and Worthy could give the pass rush some life.

Jerel Worthy #99 of the Green Bay Packers participates in drills during a minicamp workout at the Don Hutson Center on May 11, 2012 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Photo: Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

Of course, coaches aren’t going to name any rookie a starter in May. But they might as well not waste any time in giving both Perry and Worthy opportunities. It wouldn’t be a surprise if both players remained at those positions when training camp begins. It’ll speed up the learning process. Players learn by doing. Coaches constantly emphasize how precious reps are — be it OTA’s or training camp — so it does make sense to test Perry and Worthy early.

When asked about this Tuesday, coach Mike McCarthy said they want to see young players in as “many different combinations” possible.

“That’s when things get a little disjointed there as far as the different personnel groups, especially going against our offense,” McCarthy said. “We don’t just line up in one or two personnel groups. We’re evaluating everything — personnel, substitution. It’s a huge emphasis from the officiating department; we just had the officials in here yesterday. Obviously the player evaluation, the combination of different rotations per position, we’re trying to get it all done. That’s really what our message to the players was today, the fact that we have nine practices and the three minicamp practices.

“You have 12 opportunities to learn your job and, frankly, if you don’t know what’s expected of you by June 14th, your chances to make our football team drop drastically. And that’s our focus.”

For now, the team is being cautious with Mike Daniels. The Iowa defensive end had shoulder surgery in January and didn’t participate at rookie camp or the first OTA. When he’s healthy, he could get looks in nickel as well. Like Worthy, he’s a shorter, quicker defensive lineman. Neither may be ready to play in base right away, but they could get after the passer. We’ll see. That was a sore spot for the Packers all last season. On third downs, opposing quarterbacks were far too comfortable.

Fixing this was a focus in the draft and appears to be a focus in practices as well. Perry is making his transition to outside linebacker, to a two-point stance against a first-team offense.

“Me playing defensive end all my years in college to now standing up, I have to see things bigger now,” Perry said. “With coaches and my teammates, we’re getting off to a good start and I’m learning. I’m adapting to what they want me to do. …It’s pretty comfortable. I can adapt. And at the end of the day, it’s football.”

Perry added that going with the first team gives him some confidence, too.

“Definitely,” he said. “There’s a part of me that needs to be out there to help the team.”

August will be the true indicator. They’re not in pads yet. These practices are more about installations and fundamentals than all-out application. But seeing Perry and Worthy playing ahead of veterans may hint at some aggressiveness from Green Bay’s staff.

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Charles Woodson: Always honest and to the point

May 27, 2012 by  
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By Jim Owczarski. OnMilwaukee.com

~It was a good day for Charles Woodson to do his best relief pitcher impression on the mound at Miller Park on Wednesday, as members of the Milwaukee Brewers front office were on hand evaluating roster moves and starter Marco Estrada left early with injury – even though his best curveball probably went unnoticed. 

Charles Woodson: Always the most honest and refreshing interviews.

The future Hall of Fame defensive back stared down an imaginary runner at second base before unleashing his off speed stuff prior to the Brewers game against the San Francisco Giants, and then headed up to the press box dished on Donald Driver, a possible position change and the new-look Green Bay Packers defense in this edition of Milwaukee Talks.

OnMilwaukee.com: Have you talked to Donald Driver yet after his win on “Dancing With The Stars?”

Charles Woodson: I haven’t yet. He’s probably on a tour of some sort and receiving a lot of attention because of that. It’s pretty impressive. His time out there working hard trying to win that ball of some sort … he did great. I caught a couple of his routines throughout the course of him being out there. He was great.

OMC: Did you watch the finale on Tuesday?

CW: I didn’t get to see it. I watched it Monday night when he had the Packers colors on and did the cowboy routine. That guy man, he’s one of the hardest working guys I’ve ever been around. 

Woodson was a fan of Driver on DWTS.

 So, knowing that he was going out there to do “Dancing With The Stars” you were going to damn near have to kill him for him not to win because he’s going to work hard. It’s great to see him come out on top.

OMC: What did you think of the Packers placing an emphasis on defense in the draft?

CW: I thought it was great. Take a look back at our season last year, 15-1 is great by a lot of standards but from a defensive standpoint we didn’t hold our end of the bargain. And when our team needed us most in that first playoff game we really let the team down and I think our organization seen that we had some holes in our defense and some players we needed to pick up to try to fulfill some of those holes. I thought they did a great job of going specifically at what we needed in the draft, picking up some young guys, some young studs. I’m excited to see what these guys can do. I think they’ll do well.

OMC: With off-season training activities starting and training camp around the corner, does that help get the bad taste out from the loss to the Giants?

CW: It’s hard to get the bad taste out of your mouth because you get close and you know you don’t get the opportunity that many times so you want to take advantage of it. Getting back to the swing of things, getting back to the guys and starting fresh and knowing that this is a new year and a new opportunity, I think that’s the part that probably gets you.

OMC: Have you been talked to about moving from corner to safety?

CW: I hear all the reports about moving to safety and all of this, but I don’t think there’s any more I can do on the football field than I already do. I think the only thing that would ever change is just the title from being a corner to a safety. I’m a football player so I can do anything on that football field and they can put me anywhere and they know that. All the talk about ‘is he going to play safety?’ I kind of already plays safety, so it wouldn’t be that big of a jump.

OMC: You were up in Green Bay on Tuesday but didn’t participate in any drills, any reason?

CW: I just came around, took a physical and got into the meeting room and picked up these brand new iPads that they passed out with our playbook on it and all of that. Just came in to just being around them for a minute, put my eyes on some guys and see what was going on. That was it. I wasn’t practicing this week, had no intentions of it, but of course we’ve got our mandatory (practices) coming up in a few weeks and I’ll get out there and run around with the guys.

OMC: Pick up any enthusiasm from seeing the young guys run around? 

CW: I think the enthusiasm really just came with the draft, just seeing where the team went in drafting defense. If we get our defense back on track we’re going to be a really good team. We’ll be hard to beat. I’m excited about that.

OMC: What comes first – a good pass rush or good coverage?

CW: You’ve got to pass rush. You can get away with a lot of things on the back end if you’ve got a pass rush. With us, we had more interceptions than we had sacks last year, and you figure if you can have a pass rush with guys who know how to get the ball, you’ve got something pretty special. We know the importance of getting to the quarterback, either getting him off his spot or getting sacks. So we can get some guys in there that can help us now and shore up that pass rush. I think the biggest part will be freeing Clay (Matthews) up to do what whatever he wants to do on that line, having another guy on the other side that can take pressure off him and allow him to just have a monster year. That’s what we want and I think we’ll get that.

OMC: The Packers signed former Dolphins defensive end Philip Merlin on Wednesday. Does that once again how serious the team is about improving the pass rush?

CW: It’s serious, man. Listen, we lost to the New York Giants and that’s a team that I think they have a good defense, their secondary has some pretty good players, but it’s all about their rush. And they could rush four guys a lot of times and get to the quarterback or get him off the spot or get him out of the pocket. That’s a huge part of their defense. I think watching that game, I’m sure that (general manager) Ted (Thompson) and scouts and those guys said ‘Look, we’ve got to start getting back after this quarterback.’ If we do that I’m telling you, we’ll be right where we want to be.

OMC: What’s the fastest way to get a lot of the rookies you’ll be depending on defensively up to speed?

CW: Put the in the game and see what they’ve got. As long as those guys come in and they’re ready to play and they can pick up the defense, you put them in and let them play. The only way you get better, I feel like to me it’s not like quarterback where you draft a guy and you let him sit behind a guy for a year, two years or whatever and let him learn, if you’re on the defense, defensive line, linebacker, whatever, you put him in the game and see how he is once the lights turn on, once things start moving around and see if a guy can play. Guys are going to look good in practice, some of them, but the game’s a whole different deal. It’s a whole different deal, so put them in the game and see what they do.

OMC: Any added pressures this year to maintain a success level after a Super Bowl and a 15-1 regular season – or is 2012 a clean slate?

CW: I think if anybody was going to feel pressure it was coming off the Super Bowl year. Now we’ve played a year, we were 15-1, there was a lot of expectations for that year but we came up short. So now a year removed form that Super Bowl and now, to use your words, it’s a clean slate. Let’s start over, let’s get that hunger back. I think we relaxed last year a little bit so this year will be a chance for us to get back on there and be hungry about what we’re trying to do again.

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McAdoo brings fresh perspective to Packers QB position

May 27, 2012 by  
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By Rob Demovsky, Green Bay Press-Gazette

~Former tight ends coach knows he has something to prove

~GREEN BAY – Aaron Rodgers didn’t get the experienced quarterback coach he thought might benefit him at this point in his career, but he may have gained some things in exchange.

Hopefully a new QB coach will not have any impact on the sensational performance of QB Aaron Rodgers.

The reigning NFL MVP got perhaps an even greater say in the quarterback meeting room, plus his old coach hasn’t been far away.

With new Green Bay Packers quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo, the team’s tight ends coach from 2006-11, Rodgers already has developed an open line of communication that could be beneficial during key phases such as game planning and play calling. With his old position coach Tom Clements, who was promoted to offensive coordinator after Joe Philbin became the Miami Dolphins head coach in January, Rodgers still has the coach who drilled him on the fundamentals early in his career.

So far during coach Mike McCarthy’s noted quarterback school this offseason both McAdoo and Clements have been involved. Though Clements has been careful to let McAdoo run the meetings, the offensive coordinator will remain involved with the quarterbacks. That’s a change from Philbin, who spent more time with the offensive line, running backs and tight ends during his tenure as coordinator.

“Having Tom in the room as well is going to help (McAdoo) in his development,” Rodgers said Tuesday after the first practice of this spring’s organized team activities. “But what it comes down to is just him and I being on the same game and him giving me an opportunity to speak up in our meetings, too. Going into my eighth season, my fifth as a starter, I think we can both help each other out. And he’s allowed me to have a voice in that room, as Tom did, and I think that helps the young guys.”

Before McCarthy promoted McAdoo, who had never played or coached quarterbacks, Rodgers suggested that he might be better served at this point of his career if the Packers brought in someone with NFL quarterback playing and/or experience.

“I understood where Aaron was coming from,” McAdoo said. “I’m not defensive about that. I didn’t play the position. I’ve never coached the position. I have something to prove.”

So what can a 34-year-old with little or no quarterback playing or coaching experience teach the NFL’s most valuable player, who last season threw for franchise records in yards (4,643) and touchdown passes (45) with just six interceptions?

In at least one way, McAdoo has been preparing for this job for years. In 2010, the last time the NFL had an uninterrupted offseason, McAdoo sat in on the quarterback school sessions. He said he also did the same thing during quarterback meetings when he worked for other teams. He was a quality control assistant, which is an entry-level position, with the New Orleans Saints in 2004 and the San Francisco 49ers in 2005.

“(McAdoo has been) preparing for this eventuality,” Clements said. “Thus far, I’ve been in the meetings — Ben’s running the meetings; I’m just sitting in there and offering things I see — he’s in total control of the meetings. I’m sure as the season gets going a little bit more, especially in the regular season, I might not be able to be in there as much. But I’m going to try to be in there and be as helpful as I can without butting in.”

When McAdoo made the job switch, one of the first things he did was watch the film cuts — from the quarterback perspective — of every play last season. Then, he and Rodgers went through the film and the self-scouting report that coaches do each offseason.

“There’s certain things that different guys need at different stages in their career,” McAdoo said. “He obviously doesn’t need a lot of the fluff. He knows the offense. He’s been here since 2006, when we put it in, and he’s had an opportunity to work through with the wrinkles, and he knows the offense as well as anybody.”

Together, McAdoo and Rodgers made some adjustments to the offense that they put to the test during the quarterback school drills, which began last month. On Tuesday, they put those in play in an 11-on-11 setting — albeit in shorts and helmets — for the first time.

“I think Ben’s done a real good job,” Rodgers said. “He was actually with us in 2010 for a lot of the offseason in our quarterback school, so he knows the drills. He’s a good young coach. He spent a lot of time becoming an expert of the playbook and that helps.”

Though McAdoo doesn’t have the same working knowledge of all the quarterback fundamentals that Clements has, he has something that Clements didn’t when he was the quarterbacks coach.

“He has taught (the offense) from a totally different perspective,” backup quarterback Graham Harrell said. “With the tight ends in this offense, you’ve got to know run schemes, blocking schemes, passing schemes, all of it. He really brings that to the quarterbacks, really learning the blocking schemes and not just knowing the cheats at how to get to protection adjustments but knowing why you need that. That’s something Ben’s real knowledgeable on, and he’s been good for us. It gives us a different perspective that we had never seen.”

Packers pass rush help has Clay Matthews on the move

May 27, 2012 by  
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By Pete Dougherty, Green Bay Press-Gazette

~GREEN BAY – Clay Matthews’ move to right outside linebacker could mean he’ll actually be lining up in various positions across the defensive line even more than he had his first three seasons in the NFL.

The Packers selected Nick Perry in the first round of the draft last month and are playing him at left outside linebacker, which was Matthews’ position the last two years.

USC bookends: Clay Matthews explains a few things to fellow USC alum Nick Perry, this years' #1 draft pick

Matthews thus is moving to right outside linebacker, his position as a rookie in 2009. Matthews made the change Tuesday at the Packers’ first organized team activities practice.

“I feel good,” Matthews said about switching sides. “Obviously with Nick coming in here and bringing a presence off the edge, it’s only going to help us out. The misnomer about the position is we’re stuck to one side. On paper it’s going to say left outside linebacker (for Perry), but really those positions are interchangeable. So the faster we can get him up to speed, the faster we can have some fun moving around, flying around, make some plays together.”

A staple of coordinator Dom Capers’ defensive scheme is to line up his best pass rushers at various positions to create mismatches and uncertainty for the offense. Over the last three years, Capers has moved around Matthews more than any other player in his front seven. But having a more dynamic rusher opposite Matthews might allow him to move more now.

“I hope so. That’s the plan,” Matthews said. “It’s all about mismatches and preferable lineups. Whenever we can take advantage of that, playing on the right side, left side, middle, wherever you want me to play, we’re all about that, so I hope that’s the case.”

Said coach Mike McCarthy: “We want to make sure we create targeting problems with Clay Matthews. But just like any young player, you do want to have a starting point, and right now we want to look and see how comfortable Nick is on the left side.”

Matthews also said the Packers got the defense’s attention when they selected defensive players with their first six selections in this year’s draft.

“I think it says something,” Matthews said. “Obviously when you have a No. 1 or 2 offense, whatever it is, and your defense finishes last – that’s what we’re trying to address through free agency and the draft, and from what I could see today and through (individual position workouts), we’ve got some playmakers. So we’re looking forward to getting them up to speed and acclimated.”

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Gurley, Smithson, Borel hope to hang on for Packers

May 22, 2012 by  
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By Tyler Dunne, Journal-Sentinel

~Green Bay – All week before the Green Bay Packers’ playoff game against the New York Giants in January, Diondre Borel was Victor Cruz. Borel worked in the slot, mimicking the Giants receiver best he could.

Their games are similar, the Packers receiver says. Like Borel, Cruz was an undrafted, non-factor as a rookie.

"And this year, he (Victor Cruz) had a breakout season," Borel said. "I'm just praying and hoping that happens the same way."

The Packers certainly would take that. While it’s a stretch to predict any of Green Bay’s reserve wideouts will salsa dance their way to stardom, they do create an interesting numbers game in Green Bay this off-season. Veteran Donald Driver, one of five wide receivers on the roster last season, wants to keep playing. Further, his agent, Jordan Woy, says he has talked to the team about Driver’s contract.

But the Packers also must consider the future of their younger receivers. There’s only one ball to go around, only so many roster spots.

Green Bay may want to get second-year pro Randall Cobb on the field more. And there’s also Borel and Tori Gurley, two practice squad players the team gave pay raises to when other teams tried to sign them. Borel, like several others, will be gunning for a roster spot come August.

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Tori Gurley tries to keep his feet inbound while he pulls in the ball at Kansas City Chiefs defensive back Brandon Flowers defends.

“I have high expectations for myself to just get out there and play football,” Borel said. “I have a year under my belt, so I expect nothing less from myself. That’s how I’ve always been.”

The Minnesota Vikings tried to sign Gurley, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers nearly stole Borel. Both players opted to stay in Green Bay. Familiarity, for one, was a big reason. As Borel points out, there was no guarantee he’d be in Tampa Bay’s 2012 plans. Also, this isn’t a bad place to develop. Ted Thompson has flooded the position with talent since taking over as general manager in 2005.

If the Buccaneers had called Borel earlier in the season, he admits it might have been different. In Green Bay, he learned a new position. On the scout team, the former Utah State quarterback worked at all possible receiver spots. Going to Tampa Bay would have been something like shaking the Etch A Sketch.

Borel opted to stay behind Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Cobb and Driver.

“The competition,” he said. “Competing here, you never know what could happen. Anything could happen. As a football player, when the time comes, you have to focus on yourself during practice, camp; you can’t worry about other people trying to make the team.”

Borel (6 feet and 199 pounds), who added some much-needed muscle over this past year, projects as a slot receiver. Meanwhile, the 6-4 Gurley could give the group a different dimension. There’s Shaky Smithson, too. Like the other two, Smithson was an undrafted pickup by the Packers a year ago.

He spent last season on injured reserve with a shoulder injury. Tagging “FINAO” at the end of his tweets – “Failure Is Not An Option” – Smithson is also hoping for an opportunity.

As a senior at Utah, Smithson led the nation in punt-return average (19.1 yards).

Smithson says his return skills are an extension of his background in inner-city Baltimore. He isn’t afraid of the chaos around him. Baltimore, he says, is where that “FINAO” motto comes from.

“You can do it, no matter what everybody else says,” Smithson said. “I see tweets. I see what people say. I see this and that. All that stuff is motivation. I just need to step my game up when it’s time to play.”

Last season, the Packers kept five wide receivers and five tight ends on the roster. As Borel notes, maybe that will change. Maybe the Packers will go with six wide receivers. But that’s a conversation for August, not May. Either way, the young receivers say they’d like to see the 37-year-old Driver back.

“Him being here, he’s a leader also for this team,” Borel said. “He’s a great player to learn from – as a man and as a receiver.”

Smithson adds that former Packers receiver Antonio Freeman, who has looked after him in Baltimore, was a mentor for Driver. In meetings throughout last season, Driver was a go-to source of advice.

“Donald remembers what Antonio Freeman did for him when he was a rookie, so he gives back,” Smithson said. “Donald has a great heart, man. He’s a great guy. We’ve both been through tough times. So he knows how it is. He’s not going to take food out of your mouth. He’s going to try to put food in your mouth.”

It will be an overcrowded position.

In addition to these eight players, there are four 2012 undrafted free agents. Dale Moss, a basketball-turned-football star at South Dakota State, acknowledges he took Driver’s uncertain status into consideration when he chose Green Bay but would like to see the veteran back.

“I absolutely would,” Moss said. “He’s a staple of the Packers’ organization. He’d be an amazing guy to learn from. Obviously everybody in Green Bay loves him. And being a young receiver, being able to learn from someone like that would be great.”

Gurley has size.  

Smithson has speed.

Borel has that history at quarterback.

It helps him at receiver. On the practice squad, Borel says he was able to read blitzes and disguised coverages.

Now, a decision on Driver looms. If he returns, competition will heat up.

“As a player, I’m just trying to stay focused and do what I’m supposed to do here – special teams, receiver, whatever my role is,” Borel said. “I’ll just grind. And at the end of the preseason, we’ll see what happens from there.”

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Packers’ philosophy, loaded roster working against Donald Driver

May 21, 2012 by  
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By Tom Oates, Green Bay Press-Gazette

~Going into the final week of “Dancing With the Stars”, Donald Driver has been installed by oddsmakers as the favorite.

If only the odds of Driver returning to play a 14th season at wide receiver for the Green Bay Packers were that good.

It goes without saying that no one wants to see Driver kicked to the NFL curb at age 37. If there is such a thing as a first-ballot candidate for the Packers Hall of Fame, he’s it.

Donald Driver is a fan favorite, the team's all-time leading receiver, and oh by the way he can still play. Ted Thompson has his toughest player decision here since 2008 with the Gunslinger.

Indeed, Driver is everything you want in a player, starting with his rags-to-riches story. He is the franchise’s all-time leading receiver, is extremely popular among fans for his positive, outgoing personality, is beloved for his many charitable endeavors and is a respected mentor to the team’s young receivers.

Oh, and he can still play. Not like he once could, mind you, but Driver showed in the Packers’ playoff loss that he can still make plays.

The problem is, keeping a player of Driver’s age, declining production and $5 million salary-cap number goes against everything the Packers regime believes in. General Manager Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy have built an NFL power by drafting and developing players, retaining core veterans in their prime and keeping the roster young. They seldom, if ever, have allowed sentiment to enter into their decisions.

Donald Driver may be the most popular Packer player with the fans ever. If he's forced out like last year's Dancing With the Stars WR, Hines Ward, it will deal a painful blow to Cheese Nation.

But Driver might present Thompson and McCarthy with their greatest dilemma yet. Though given their track record, it seems unlikely that he will be playing in Green Bay this fall.

If the Packers have reached a decision on Driver, it won’t be made public until sometime after his “Dancing With the Stars” experience. With his participation on the nationally televised show, Driver is gaining a legion of fans, which should aid his post-NFL career, and the Packers’ image is benefitting from his likable persona.

The subject of Driver’s future is a sensitive one among Packers fans, with even the slightest ripple turning into a tidal wave of debate.

Thompson and McCarthy were asked about Driver’s future a few weeks ago and each dodged the question, causing many antennae to go up. Driver tweeted a cryptic message last week about being “a Packer for life” and some viewed it as a precursor to his departure. Driver’s absence from the team’s offseason workouts due to his involvement with the TV show has been read as a sign that he’s all but gone.

The truth is, no one knows what Thompson and McCarthy are planning and neither is known for showing his cards prematurely.

Driver was the only receiver who played well in the playoff failure loss to the Giants. If they all played like him, the Packers probably would have repeated as Champs, and he might have retired, going out Elway-style.

There are some legitimate football reasons to keep Driver around, the biggest one being his team-first attitude. Despite playing a position loaded with prima donnas, Driver never pouted when younger players started usurping his snaps and his receptions. He also stated publicly that he’s willing to take a pay cut to stay with the team. It’s possible the Packers could see him as an insurance policy and keep him at a reduced salary in the event injuries thin the wide receiver corps.

Clearly, Driver remains an asset on the field and in the locker room. It is also likely that, if released, he would sign on with another team.

Nevertheless, if you look at how the Packers operate, their current roster works against Driver. Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Randall Cobb, all 28 or younger, are proven NFL wide receivers. And the Packers are impressed with the promise shown by Tori Gurley and Diondre Borel, who were on the practice squad last year, and Shaky Smithson, who spent the season on the injured-reserve list.

The Packers like to see their second-year players make a big jump and that appears to be their game plan for Cobb this season. Jennings, Nelson and Jones are all established, so it figures that the Packers would not want Driver’s presence to hold back Cobb by taking away any of his opportunities.

More than playing time, the Packers might be concerned about roster spots and preparing for the future. They paid Gurley and Borel well above practice-squad money when other teams tried to sign them last season, a strong indication that one or both fits into their long-term plans. If those two continue to develop, there won’t be much room on a roster that at most will carry six wide receivers.

Finally, it’s possible the Packers won’t want to pay Driver — he’s due the $1.5 million bonus at the start of training camp and has a $2.6 million base salary — for salary-cap reasons. They don’t need the cap room now, but they might at some point, especially if they sign core players such as Jennings, Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews and B.J. Raji to long-term contract extensions.

Thompson and McCarthy have deviated from their master plan before, whether it was trading up in the draft or signing free agents. However, those moves were usually made out of necessity. Unfortunately, keeping Driver doesn’t fall into that category.

Everybody Loves Donald.

The truth is, no one knows what Thompson and McCarthy are planning and neither is known for showing his cards prematurely.

There are some legitimate football reasons to keep Driver around, the biggest one being his team-first attitude. Despite playing a position loaded with prima donnas, Driver never pouted when younger players started usurping his snaps and his receptions. He also stated publicly that he’s willing to take a pay cut to stay with the team. It’s possible the Packers could see him as an insurance policy and keep him at a reduced salary in the event injuries thin the wide receiver corps.

Clearly, Driver remains an asset on the field and in the locker room. It is also likely that, if released, he would sign on with another team.

Nevertheless, if you look at how the Packers operate, their current roster works against Driver. Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Randall Cobb, all 28 or younger, are proven NFL wide receivers. And the Packers are impressed with the promise shown by Tori Gurley and Diondre Borel, who were on the practice squad last year, and Shaky Smithson, who spent the season on the injured-reserve list.

The Packers like to see their second-year players make a big jump and that appears to be their game plan for Cobb this season. Jennings, Nelson and Jones are all established, so it figures that the Packers would not want Driver’s presence to hold back Cobb by taking away any of his opportunities.

Driver is willing to take a pay cut to keep his illustrious Packer career going. He wants to play and finish one more Super Bowl win.

More than playing time, the Packers might be concerned about roster spots and preparing for the future. They paid Gurley and Borel well above practice-squad money when other teams tried to sign them last season, a strong indication that one or both fits into their long-term plans. If those two continue to develop, there won’t be much room on a roster that at most will carry six wide receivers.

Finally, it’s possible the Packers won’t want to pay Driver — he’s due the $1.5 million bonus at the start of training camp and has a $2.6 million base salary — for salary-cap reasons. They don’t need the cap room now, but they might at some point, especially if they sign core players such as Jennings, Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews and B.J. Raji to long-term contract extensions.

Thompson and McCarthy have deviated from their master plan before, whether it was trading up in the draft or signing free agents. However, those moves were usually made out of necessity. Unfortunately, keeping Driver doesn’t fall into that category.

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McCarthy likes what he sees from rookies

May 13, 2012 by  
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From Paul Imig, Fox Sports Wisconsin

~GREEN BAY, Wis. — After the first two-hour practice of the Green Bay Packers’ rookie minicamp, coach Mike McCarthy wasn’t about to provide in-depth individual player evaluations with such little information to go on.

But with all eight of the Packers’ draft picks signed before taking the practice field for the first time Friday afternoon, McCarthy had his full complement of players to begin assessing in drill work.

With players in helmets but no pads, contact was minimal, but it was enough to make a first impression with the Green Bay coaching staff.

First-round pick Nick Perry, who is switching from his preferred spot as a defensive end in a 4-3 defense to outside linebacker in the Packers’ 3-4 scheme, lined up at left outside linebacker, the position typically occupied by Clay Matthews.

Rookie OLB Nick Perry, #53, talks with linebacker coach Kevin Greene on Day One of minicamp Friday, May 11th

“We played Nick Perry exclusive on the left side,” McCarthy said. “That will definitely be the starting point for him.”

Jerel Worthy, Green Bay’s second pick at No. 51 overall, immediately looked like the type of dominant force on the defensive line that the Packers are hoping he can become.

“His first step is clearly something that we were excited about when we evaluated him in college,” McCarthy said of Worthy. “You could definitely see that. I don’t like to compare players, but he has a very explosive first step, even for a big guy. Whether he’s playing the 3-technique or even the shade, he’s definitely going to be a factor inside. That was evident through our drill work today.

“Very explosive for a big guy.”

The other second-round pick general manager Ted Thompson traded up to get, cornerback Casey Hayward, like Perry and Worthy, could be asked to start immediately if Charles Woodson moves to safety.

“He looks great,” McCarthy said of Hayward. “He definitely looks very explosive through the hips. It’s something that jumped out at me the little bit I saw during drill work. He’s an excellent athlete. I think he’s an excellent selection. I’m glad he’s here.”

The notable absence on the field was fourth-round pick Mike Daniels, a defensive tackle from Iowa who will not be able to participate at all due to an injured shoulder.

“He may be able to go through (individual position work next week) because there’s not really any contact,” McCarthy said. “I think I’ll get to see Mike on the field Monday, Tuesday and Thursday next week, and then we’ll probably re-evaluate him when we have the physicals the following Monday and see if he’s ready for the first OTA on Tuesday.”

While safety Jerron McMillian (fourth round), linebacker Terrell Manning (fifth round) and offensive tackle Andrew Datko (seventh round) also all participated in drills, there were a lot of eyes on quarterback B.J. Coleman, a seventh-round pick out of Tennessee-Chattanooga.

McCarthy, known for his ability to develop quarterbacks, liked what he saw in Coleman. Throughout the practice, Coleman was splitting throws with recently acquired free-agent pickup Nick Hill, a left-handed former Arena League QB who is part of the competition to be Aaron Rodgers’ top backup.

“I would say Coleman, you could see he has good arm strength,” McCarthy said. “He was very anxious, excited as far as in the classroom, speaking with (offensive coordinator) Tom (Clements) and (quarterbacks coach) Ben (McAdoo). I didn’t spend much time with him in the classroom.

“It’s like a lot of quarterbacks. His footwork history is different than what he’ll be taught here. So there’s going to be adjustments there. You could see that right away.

“But I liked his command in the huddle. He’s aggressive. He can throw it. He’s definitely a young man we’re excited about having here and working with and developing him fundamentally and in the philosophy that we believe in.”

There were also 14 undrafted free-agent signings of the Packers that participated in the full practice session. The most notable names of the group include wide receiver Dale Moss, safety Sean Richardson (a Vanderbilt teammate of Hayward) and USC running back Marc Tyler.

The only other player to miss Friday’s practice was undrafted free agent signing Jaymes Brooks, an offensive interior lineman out of Virginia Tech. Brooks has a hamstring injury and will not be able to participate in any of the rookie sessions.

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Packers have high hopes for Jerel Worthy and Mike Daniels on defensive line

May 13, 2012 by  
Filed under News

By Rob Demovsky, Green Bay Press-Gazette

~The Green Bay Packers got so little out of their third defensive line spot last season that any contribution Jerel Worthy and Mike Daniels can provide should be an upgrade.

Defensive coordinator Dom Capers tried Howard Green, Jarius Wynn, C.J. Wilson and Mike Neal at that spot with little success, and he was forced to play workhorse B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett more snaps than he would have liked. 

The Packers didn’t bother to re-sign Green. Neal will have to serve a four-game suspension to start the season because he violated the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs, and free-agent pickup Anthony Hargrove was suspended eight games for his role in the New Orleans Saints’ bounty scheme. The other offseason addition, Daniel Muir, had been out of football since midway through last season. 

Enter Worthy and Daniels, taken in the second and fourth rounds, respectively, of last month’s draft. 

If Worthy is everything the Packers hope, perhaps they finally will have a replacement for Cullen Jenkins, who left in free agency last summer.

From a height and weight standpoint, the 6-foot-2, 308-pound Worthy practically mirrors Jenkins (6-2, 305), who in the Packers’ 2010 Super Bowl season had seven sacks in just 11 games.

May 11, 2012; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers rookie defensive end Jerel Worthy (99) takes part in a drill during the Green Bay Packers mini-camp at the Don Hutson Center. -Mandatory Credit: Mary Langenfeld-US PRESSWIRE

Worthy, who was picked 51st overall, got off to an impressive start Friday during the first practice of rookie orientation camp, which featured 59 rookies and first-year players. 

“His first step is really something that we were excited about when we evaluated him in college,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said after Friday’s practice. “You could definitely see that. I don’t like to compare players (Cullen Jenkins, Warren Sapp), but he has a very explosive first step, even for a big guy. Whether he’s playing the three-technique (defensive tackle) or even the shade (defensive end), he’s definitely going to be a factor inside. That was evident through our drill work today. Very explosive for a big guy.” 

Worthy, who lined up at right end in the base 3-4 defense and will play defensive tackle in the nickel package, comes to Green Bay with a chip on his shoulder. Some projections had him as a first-round pick, but perhaps his reputation for not playing hard all the time factored into him being picked in the second round. He turned pro after his redshirt junior season.

“I felt like I was a first-round guy,” Worthy said. “I didn’t go in the first round, but at the same time I ended up in a great organization surrounded by great people, great coaches. So I’m just ready to roll.” 

If Worthy can contribute right away, it could lesson the burden on Raji, who wasn’t as productive without Jenkins last season as he was with him in 2010. 

Daniels also could factor into the rotation. The Packers drafted him knowing that Hargrove likely would get suspended, but perhaps they didn’t anticipate he would get sacked for eight games. 

However, Daniels has injury issues to overcome. Though he started all 13 games last season as a senior at Iowa, he needed shoulder surgery after the season to repair a torn labrum. The late January operation prevented him from working out at the combine in February, but he attended and met with the Packers. 

The Packers held Daniels out of practice and other than some light jog-through work, the 6-foot, 291-pounder won’t practice this weekend. McCarthy said Daniels could be cleared for individual position work next week and possibly be ready for organized team activities that begin on May 22. Daniels had nine sacks as a senior at Iowa, a school known for producing NFL linemen on both sides of the ball. 

He said he hasn’t paid attention to the Packers’ depth chart or that two players at his position, Neal and Hargrove, will start the season on the suspended list. 

“I’m just here to do my job, keep my mouth shut, go to work and learn every day,” Daniels said. “These guys get after it, and it’s definitely going to be an experience. The pressure’s on me. I have to come in and work at the same level as guys like that.” 

Another player who could factor into the defensive line group is Lawrence Guy, a seventh-round pick in 2011 who spent all of last season on injured reserve because of concussions. Guy has been cleared to return but couldn’t participate in this weekend’s camp because his year on injured reserve counts as an accrued season of service. Only rookies and players without an accrued season could take part this weekend. 

Last year, the Packers kept just six defensive linemen on the roster to start the season, including Neal, who was inactive the first nine games.

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Rodgers to Moss?

May 4, 2012 by  
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By Brian E Murphy, PackersInsider.com senior editor

~Favre to Moss was an “almost”.
Starting in 1998 when Randy was available in the draft, and in 2007 when Brett Favre almost had Ted Thompson bringing Moss in from Oakland, it was a “what might have been”.

Well now, “Rodgers to Moss” is a definite possibility as the Packers have won the battle to sign Dale Moss.

Who the hell is Dale Moss, you wonder?

Who is Dale Moss?

That is a good question, and it’s a similar question to what Giant fans were asking about an undrafted wide receiver named Victor Cruz, a few years ago. Also it’s a similar question to what Charger fans were asking about another former college basketball player, Antonio Gates. Those two guys turned out pretty good.

Dale Moss might never catch an NFL touchdown pass. But then again, he might turn out to be an NFL stud. He has the size, speed, and skills.

Could Dale Moss become the Packers Victor Cruz?

Moss, from South Dakota State, will be a player to watch in Packers camp. A four-year basketball player for the Jackrabbits, Moss used his extra year of eligibility to play football. He wound up leading South Dakota State in catches, yards, and touchdowns in 2011.

Moss is 6-foot-3, 213 and ran a 4.52 at the South Dakota Pro Day. More impressive were Moss’ explosive, 10-foot-10 broad jump, 41 1/2-inch vertical, and 4.13 short shuttle.

Moss caught the eyes of some scouts at the Shrine week of practice.

He was not invited to the NFL Combine due to a lack of experience and name recognition, but those numbers would have brought a buzz to the house that Peyton built there in Indy.

Many experts expected Moss to be drafted in one of the latter rounds, but nobody did. Instead, a dozen or so teams tried to sign him as an undrafted free agent. This is the same route that got the above mentioned guys (Gates, Cruz) into the NFL, as well as guys like Jimmy Graham, James Harrison, Kurt Warner, Tramon Williams, and Sam Shields. There’s plenty of talent out there that goes undrafted.

“I had a flood of teams contacting my agent,” Moss said. “I just felt like Green Bay was going to be my best situation.” 

As shown in his vertical testing, Moss has unbelievable leaping ability with the timing to go up and snatch the ball up high.

The Packers didn’t draft any receivers, but that position is loaded. In fact, two of last year’s practice squad receivers, Tori Gurley and Diondre Borel, turned down chances to sign with other teams in order to remain with the Packers on their practice squad. Both are contenders to make the roster this season, but Donald Driver, James Jones, and Randall Cobb are the 3rd-5th WR’s and there’s no room really for anyone else. 

Moss is trying to follow the path of guys like Antonio Gates, Tony Gonzalez and Jimmy Graham. All have succeeded in the NFL after playing as much or more college basketball than football.

Who knows what will happen with Moss. But I still remember a funny little guy with chicken legs being drafted with the 213rd pick in the 1999 Draft out of Alcorn State. His name was Donald Driver. Who knew then that the guy would not only make the team, but end up becoming the Packers all-time leading receiver?

Packers hope Hayward is CB they’ve been looking for

May 2, 2012 by  
Filed under News

By Rob Reischel, Journal-Sentinel

~Green Bay – Ted Thompson said what everyone else was probably thinking.

“I’ve gone crazy,” the Green Bay Packers typically subdued general manager said during last week’s NFL draft.

In less than an hour, Thompson traded up twice in the second round. In Thompson’s previous seven drafts in Green Bay, he’d moved up three times total.

The object of affection in Thompson’s second trade was Vanderbilt cornerback Casey Hayward. Thompson sent his third-round pick (No. 90 overall) and a fifth rounder (163) to New England and received the Patriots’ second rounder (No. 62).

Thompson then plucked the 5-foot-11, 192-pound Hayward, who could become Green Bay’s nickel cornerback this season.

“I thought I would have gone a little earlier, but I’m not complaining at all,” Hayward said. “I’m just happy to be with a great organization like Green Bay, somebody that’s got a lot of rich tradition like them guys. So I wasn’t surprised at all.”

What was surprising is how little the Packers had to give up in the trade.

Each team uses a draft pick value chart in which they assign a point value to every pick. While each chart varies slightly, they’re typically close. According to one chart, the 62nd pick Green Bay received was worth 284 points. The two picks Green Bay traded were worth a combined 166 points.

Hayward is a bit stronger and more willing (able) to make big hits than last year's CB selection Davon House. House has a year head-start though, so it will be an interesting training camp battle to see which guy can possibly emerge to make it as the dime corner behind Woodson, Tramon, and Shields. It would take a lot for either to move past Shields as nickel, however.

In essence, the Packers didn’t give up much to move into the second round.

“Well, we thought it was pretty good value and felt like we had a guy we definitely had targeted that we thought was worthy of pulling that trade off,” Thompson said. “It just worked out that way. It was a good trade for us.”

Now, the question is, will the pick be as good? For Thompson, finding cornerbacks in the draft has been a remarkable struggle.

In Thompson’s first seven drafts, he’s taken five cornerbacks: Mike Hawkins, Will Blackmon, Pat Lee, Brandon Underwood and Davon House. The first four flopped and House showed little as a rookie in 2011.

Green Bay will hope for better luck with Hayward.

“He understands zone coverages . . . he can play man, he can get up there and press, he can play up,” Packer cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt Jr. said. “The thing that impressed me the most is he understood concepts.

“You couldn’t really run a play at him a number of times. If you ran it at him one time, he saw it and he understood it and was able to make an impactful play on the ball when it came at him again.

“He’s a guy that will fit in. Multiple teams would have been happy with this kid because he can play in a number of different schemes and has the ability to be successful on them.”

Hayward was a three-year starter for the Commodores who had 15 career interceptions and 31 passes broken up. Hayward’s best season came in 2011 when he finished fifth in the country with seven interceptions and was a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award.

Hayward’s tackling has been criticized, but he did have more tackles for loss (7½) than any cornerback in the Southeastern Conference in 2011. In addition, Hayward’s time in the short shuttle (3.90 seconds) at the combine was better than any other cornerback.

Hayward ran the 40-yard dash in a mediocre 4.53 seconds and has short arms (30-¼). Scouts have knocked Hayward for taking too many risks and say he’s susceptible to double moves.

“I think he’s an all-around player,” Thompson said of Hayward. “He’s very aware in space, very good foot athlete, good balance, good pedal, can plant and close, all that kind of stuff.

“He sees the ball well. . . . He can play with his back to the line of scrimmage. He’s got good hands. He’s got a knack for interceptions. He’s a player and he’s a pretty good tackler.”

Hayward’s arrival should help a secondary that was one of the worst in NFL history. Green Bay allowed 4,796 passing yards, more than any team in league history. Some of that was due to the Packers’ lack of pressure, but the secondary had a brutal year, as well.

Questions still loom everywhere, from Tramon Williams’ shoulder to the tackling ability of Sam Shields to Charles Woodson’s age. Hayward should add depth and perhaps a whole lot more.

“Have you looked at the offenses that we’re playing against with the Saints and the Lions?” defensive coordinator Dom Capers asked.

"It's pretty obvious you've got to be able to cover; you've got to be able to rush the passer because people are going to line up and throw the ball 50, 60 times. If you can't cover them, you're going to be in for a long day."

“They’re putting four wide receivers and sometimes five out there. That’s just the nature of the game nowadays.

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