28

July

Surviving Sunday: News, Notes and Analysis from Packers Training Camp

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Now that Packers training camp is underway, Surviving Sunday is shifting gears a bit.

Gone is the lengthy opening column where I wax poetic about a topic that may or may not relate to the Packers. Also gone are the non-Packers links to non-sports items and other nonsense.

Starting now, Surviving Sunday will be 100 percent focused on the Packers and all the happenings from the previous week’s training camp practices and exhibition games. With training camp in full gear, the Packers are getting serious about the 2013 NFL season. It’s time for Surviving Sunday to get serious, too.

Aches and pains
Before the first practice even started, there were several Packers standing on the sidelines, injured. Perhaps the Packers need to fire their medical staff and just hire a bunch of people who work at a Fed Ex store and specialize in using bubble wrap to protect delicate items.

Here is the list of the walking wounded: DL/OLB Mike Neal (abdomen), CB Casey Hayward (hamstring), RB DuJuan Harris (knee), T Derek Sherrod (leg), DL Jerel Worthy (knee), OL J.C. Tretter (ankle), S Sean Richardson (neck), CB Davon House (illness) and LB Jamari Lattimore (illness).

Neal and Hayward hurt themselves training on their own and were surprise injuries (although, I’m not sure how surprising it should be any more when Neal turns up injured). It sounds like Hayward and Harris should both be out a week or two, but who knows.

Depending how long Harris is out, it could open up the door for Alex Green or James Starks to A) stay on the team and/or B) impress in camp and move up the depth chart.

If those injuries weren’t enough, rookie WRs Charles Johnson, Kevin Dorsey and Sederrik Cunningham also went down on the first days of practice. Someone needs to make a sacrifice to the football Gods so they show a little mercy on our favorite team. (Update: Sounds like Johnson will be fine.)

Drama and gossip
Aaron Rodgers’ first news conference of camp sounded more like a group of high school kids catching up on the latest gossip than a football media session. Rodgers addressed the Ryan Braun/PED situation — saying “it doesn’t feel great being lied to” — and basically dismissed the recent barbs Greg Jennings sent his way from across the border in Minnesota.

22

July

Packers OL Andrew Datko: Training Camp Dark Horse or Off the Team?

Packers offensive lineman Andrew Datko

We don’t know much about Packers offensive lineman Andrew Datko because he was stashed away on the practice squad all of last season.

What we did know about him after the Packers drafted him in the seventh round in 2012 we’ve probably already forgotten because, well, he was on the practice squad all of last season.

Because the Packers offensive line situation always seems to be in some sort of disrepair, it’s important that we keep any offensive lineman who can walk upright fresh on our mind before training camp battles begin.

Here’s a refresher on Datko so you don’t have to ask yourself “Who is that guy?” should Datko make some noise during camp.

  • At Florida State, Datko started 12 of 13 games as a true freshman at left tackle. Even though he only weighed 260 pounds, he still had 21 knockdown blocks. Talk about starting your college career with a bang.  
  • He started all 13 games his sophomore season and only allowed two sacks. In 11 games as a junior, he only allowed one sack.
  • Things went downhill from there. After starting the first four games of his senior season, Datko hurt his shoulder — the same shoulder he hurt in high school. The injury required surgery in November and Datko couldn’t lift at the NFL combine, causing him to freefall down draft boards and fall right off many of them.
  • Physically, Datko is the type of offensive lineman the Packers like to draft: A successful college left tackle (when healthy) who is athletic, versatile and could theoretically play multiple positions.
  • Datko’s ceiling in 2013 is winning the Packers sixth man job along the offensive line. If he does that, both Datko and the Packers have to be ecstatic. It would mean the 6-foot-6, 315 pounder is healthy and Ted Thompson can breathe a little bit easier if Derek Sherrod is a lost cause.
  • Obviously, Datko’s worst-case scenario is the shoulder acting up again and getting cut.
  • Realistically, look for Datko to be in the mix for the seventh or eighth offensive line slot, probably not the sixth. The sixth-man job likely goes to the loser of the battle to start at right tackle. Datko lined up at guard during OTAs, which also helps his chances of making the team, if healthy.
16

July

Ten Packers Training Camp Topics: #9 — Battle at Right Tackle

The Packers felt strongly about Sherrod in 2011 when they spent their first-round pick on the tackle. But is he now healthy and ready to play?

The Packers felt strongly about Sherrod in 2011 when they spent their first-round pick on the tackle. But is he now healthy and ready to play?

The Green Bay Packers offensive line has underwent a significant shift this offseason. Bryan Bulaga and Josh Sitton moved from the right side of the line to Aaron Rodgers’ blindside, while T.J. Lang kicked over to Sitton’s old spot at right guard.

Evan Dietrich-Smith will begin the season as the starting center, leaving right tackle as the lone unclaimed spot on the front line.

Last year’s starting left tackle, Marshall Newhouse, will begin training camp perhaps as the favorite to win the job. Newhouse has started 29 games the past two seasons for the Packers, but according to Pro Football Focus, he hasn’t performed overly well.

PFF’s grades have Newhouse ranked No. 54 among 80 offensive tackles in 2012. Newhouse came in dead-last at No. 76 during the 2011 season.

The Packers view Bulaga as their best pass protector, and they hope that by moving him to the left side, they’ve better protected their biggest asset in Rodgers. Newhouse will compete with Don Barclay, who started the last five games of the season, and 2011 first-round pick Derek Sherrod for the right tackle job.

Sherrod didn’t play a snap last season after appearing in five games as a rookie in 2011. The team will give the former No. 32 overall pick every opportunity to win the starting job, but Sherrod has yet to practice this spring, still recovering from a devastating leg injury suffered in 2011.

Barclay, in some ways, was the unsung hero of the Packers offense last season. With Sherrod on the sideline and Bulaga ending up on the injured reserve with a hip injury, Barclay was called upon to take over as the starting right tackle as an undrafted rookie.

The offense didn’t miss a beat without Barclay, as they averaged 32 points per game in the six games he started.

In April’s NFL Draft, the Packers used their third pick on Colorado tackle David Bakhtiari. The rookie played all along the offensive line in college, and he’ll enter training camp as the probable backup to Bryan Bulaga on the left side.

Question: Who wins the starting right tackle job?

4

July

Will Lingering Injuries Hang Around the 2013 Packers?

Tramon Williams on the ground with an injured shoulder is something Packers fans do not want to see in 2013.

Injuries suck. Injuries suck worse when they occur to players who suit up for the Green Bay Packers.

What makes injuries even more sucky is that the serious ones linger into the following season, or lead to once-good players getting released (hello, Desmond Bishop).

The Packers have had a bunch of players go down with serious injuries since 2010. Many of those players are gone, many are still around and are still feeling the effects of those injuries today.

Which Packers could be battling lingering injuries in 2013? Unfortunately, too many:

Tramon Williams

After a Super-Bowl run where Williams elevated himself to near the top of the list in the “Who’s the best CB in the NFL?” debate, he jammed his shoulder early in 2011 and hasn’t been the same since. He hasn’t been bad, just not as good as we thought he’d be after the Super Bowl win. Williams talked openly about the nerve damage in his shoulder bothering him in 2011 and it’s unclear if it still dogged him in 2012. Nerve damage doesn’t sound like much fun, or an injury that automatically heals itself. The fact that Williams recently turned 30 probably doesn’t help his shoulder much, either.

Davon House
Speaking of shoulders, Davon House also had problems with his. After playing much of last season in a shoulder harness, House had surgery in the offseason and now says he feels better than ever. Unfortunately that’s what every player coming back from an injury says. You never know what’s going to happen when surgery is involved, though.

Alex Green
It’s not easy returning from a torn ACL. It takes most players two seasons to get back to where they were pre-injury. Every now and then, a guy will go Adrian Peterson and come back even stronger than he was before. Alex Green was not as good as Adrian Peterson before he hurt his knee in 2011 and he defintiely wasn’t Adrian Peterson his first season back in 2012. Will the knee still bother him in 2013? If it does, he might not make the team. It’ll probably come down to how comfortable the Packers are with James Starks’ always-nagging injuries and how they feel about Green’s knee.

2

June

Surviving Sunday: Packers News, Notes and Links for the Football Deprived

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

I had an idea for a new Packers offseason gameshow while driving home from work today.

The first nine years of my adult life I had a job where I took a city bus to work. It was nice to not burn gas and spend half my salary on parking, but I always had to stay alert so I wouldn’t get stabbed. There are some, ahem, interesting people that rode the city bus on my route.

Now I have a job where I drive 30 minutes to work, in my own car. Yes, I’m burning gas (free parking, thankfully), but I don’t have to worry about getting stabbed. This frees up my brain and allows me to think of all kinds of silly things, like my idea for a Packers offseason gameshow.

I’ve already filmed the pilot episode, and am ready to share the transcript with all of you today. I brought back the ghost of Richard Dawson to host my show, mainly because I crack up whenever I see old Family Feud episodes when Dawson tries to make out with all the female contestants.

The name of the show is Will Johnny Jolly Play for the Packers Before…

Enjoy.

Richard Dawson: Welcome ladies and gentlemen to everyone’s favorite new favorite game show! The object of the game is to guess if Johnny Jolly will play a regular season snap for the Packers before another player currently on the Packers roster. It sounds confusing, but it’s not.

Even people who read Packers blogs should be able to understand it and play along at home. Let’s get started.

Female Contestant No. 1: I’m ready, Richard.

(Dawson leans in and gets a smooch)

Dawson: Will Johnny Jolly play a regular season snap for the Packers before running back James Starks?

Female Contestant No. 1: Oh, that’s a tough one. I wish Jolly participated in OTAs this week so we at least knew what kind of shape he’s in. But the injury-prone Starks could be on the chopping block with with Eddie Lacy and Jonathan Franklin on the team. I’m going to say yes, Jolly will play for the Packers before Starks because Starks won’t make the team.

Dawson: That’s a logical answer. Time will tell if you’re right. And if you are right, you win an even longer kiss from me!

28

May

The Battle to be the Packers’ 6th Man on the Offensive Line

Don Barclay

Will Don Barclay be the Packers sixth offensive lineman?

There has been a lot of news worth following on the Packers offensive line this offseason. Another storyline up front that should develop further once training camp heats up is who will “win” the sixth-man slot on the offensive line.

I put “win” in parentheses because, technically, if you’re the sixth man on the line, it means you failed to land a starting spot. In other words, you lost the battle you were actually trying to win.

Nobody goes into camp hoping to “win” a spot on the bench, but when it comes to the offensive line, the sixth man typically ends up getting at least a few starts and playing some type of meaningful role during the season. If you don’t start on the line, being the sixth-man is the spot you want to secure.

The leading candidates to be the Packers sixth man appear to be Marshall Newhouse, Don Barclay, Derek Sherrod and rookie David Bakhtiari.

Derek Sherrod
In an ideal world, I think the Packers would like to see Sherrod storm into camp fully recovered from his broken leg and show everyone why Ted Thompson spent a first-round draft pick on him. Unfortunately, it doesn’t sound like Sherrod is on track to do that.

Ideally, the sixth-man on the line needs to be able to play multiple positions. Sherrod was drafted as a left tackle, but did compete at guard during training camp of his rookie season. Strength and nastiness appeared to be Sherrod’s weaknesses before he was injured.

Can he hold up inside against the big and physical interior lineman if asked to play guard? Is Sherrod physical enough to provide the run-blocking needed at right tackle, or anywhere else on the line?

Marshall Newhouse
Take everything I wrote about Sherrod about nastiness and apply it to Newhouse.

Newhouse has showed signs of being a decent pass-blocker, but the Packers are looking for more of a complete package. They need more consistency in pass blocking and more results in run blocking.

One possible scenario with Newhouse if he doesn’t win the starting right tackle job is this: The Packers would have two “sixth men” up front, Newhouse at tackle and a more physical run blocker-type player at guard.

14

May

Could the Packers Start a Rookie on the Offensive Line?

JC Tretter

Packers rookie offensive lineman J.C. Tretter

If I put the over/under on the number of rookies the Packers will have starting on the offensive line for the regular season opener at 0.5, would you take the over or the under?

What if I changed the season opener to week 10, but kept the over/under at 0.5?

If you believe some of the scuttle out of the Packers rookie mini-camp, recent draftees David Bakhtiari and J.C. Tretter are in the mix to start at right tackle. There’s also an outside chance that Tretter or undrafted rookie free agent Patrick Lewis of Texas A&M could give presumed starter Evan Dietrich-Smith a challenge at center.

If I had $100 burning a hole in my pocket, I’d take the under for the season opener and the over for week 10.

I don’t think Mike McCarthy wants to start a rookie right away. Ideally, I think he’d like to see Marshall Newhouse, Derek Sherrod or Don Barclay win the job. That’s not to say the rookies won’t get their fair shot. I’m confident they will.

But unless one of the rookies blows the veterans out of the water, McCarthy probably wants the young guys to develop a bit before getting tossed on the field to protect the league’s highest-paid player.

I’d take the over because of injuries if the bet was changed to week 10. If Dietrich-Smith gets hurt, I think a rookie will get a shot at center over Greg Van Roten. Unless Van Roten hit the weight room hard over the summer, he’s doesn’t seem strong enough to hold his own against NFL interior lineman or super freak linebackers at the second level.

A rookie will probably have to move ahead of Barclay at right tackle, but if there are multiple injuries up front, I see Barclay playing the role of sixth offensive lineman and filling in at any position (Dietrich-Smith’s former role), leaving the right tackle slot wide open for Sherrod or one of the rookies.

I know it’s only May, and I might change my mind about all of this 10 times before we get to real football, but it’s fun to speculate for now.

It’s always hard to determine if the “(insert name of Rookie) could start” stories that come out of rookie camp have any meat on them or not. It’s rookie camp. Coaches are going to say good things about the new guys and imply that they’re good enough to start.