ST. LOUIS - Just a few observations as we hit the halfway point of the Green Bay Packers' pre-season schedule:
The Packers are serious about running the football!
That’s not just about play calling. They ran 41% of the time in the last seven games last season.
Roster actions speak louder than play calls. The fact veteran tight end Matthew Mulligan is on this team, Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin were drafted speaks volumes.
There is no doubt Mulligan will figure prominently in the revamped running game. He is one of the top blocking tight ends in the game.
Lacy, a big powerful rookie out of Alabama, at the very least will get the ball in short yardage running situations. I think eventually he will be asked to do more than that because of his quick feet, vision and burst.
Franklin is an interesting option on third downs with his open field ability and might have been the best blitz pickup running back in the draft.
If you play on third downs you had better be able to pick up the blitz because that is job one!
Incumbent backs DuJuan Harris, James Starks and Alex Green are healthy (in the case of Harris we will see him next week) and give the Packers five viable running back options.
What a difference a year makes for the Packers offense.
The Packers have a “big three” in their receiving corps (James Jones, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb) but for the most part in this camp that group has been reduced to one.
Nelson has been out after knee surgery and is hopeful of coming back for the opener in San Francisco. Cobb has been down recently with a bicep injury and is not expected to play tomorrow night in St Louis. Jones has been healthy and impressive in this camp.
Another key player in the passing game is tight end Jermichael Finley. He appears to be ready to have that “All Pro” breakout campaign.
Only a drop here and there has marred what everyone has acknowledged has been a dominant camp for him.
Seventh-round draft picks Charles Johnson and Kevin Dorsey have both most of the offseason and training camp due to injuries. It appears both are headed for a redshirt year.
We all expected Jeremy Ross and Jarrett Boykin, two second year players, to really step up.
So far, both have had their moments good and bad.
In the case of Ross, his ability as a kick and punt returner could be his “roster salvation,” but the occasional bobble has the coaches on edge and he must gain their confidence to win the return job.
What the Packers don’t want to do is expose Cobb to return duties again but right now he is the best they’ve got. They want Ross to win the job—now he has to do it!
I have no insider information. All I have to go on is what I observe.
At this point, I don’t think the Packers brought Vince Young to camp just to run scout team offense the first two weeks of the regular season.
I do believe Young who has started and won games in this league provides the coaches a comfort level if Aaron Rodgers misses any significant time.
Can he beat out Graham Harrell for the number two job? At this point I don’t think so because right now Young is just learning the offense.
On an early season Sunday, if Harrell had to play he could go into the game and execute the plan. I think Young will stick as the number three quarterback with this caveat: if at some point in the middle of the season Rodgers can’t go for some reason they could always install Young as the starter.
With a full week they would be able to construct a game plan that takes advantage of what he does best and is most comfortable doing.
B. J. Coleman to me remains a good prospect but his camp has been disappointing.
Perhaps one more year on the practice squad, quarterback school and next summer we find out once and for all if he can make it on this level.
Last week against the Cardinals there was one kicking opportunity; the opening kickoff. Mason Crosby nailed it through the end zone.
This week in St. Louis the hope is both Crosby and Georgio Tavecchio get several opportunities to kick.
Unofficially in live reps at camp and at the family night scrimmage, Crosby has made 31 of 40 field goal attempts while Tavecchio has hit 36 of 40.
Bottom line to this observer: Crosby is the more talented kicker.
He brings more to the table in terms of kickoffs both length and directional kicking.
He is one of the best “onsides” kickers in the league, but job one for the kicker is to put the ball through the uprights.
Mason’s struggles have been well documented. The Packers need Crosby to win this job and they need him to be the kicker they are paying him to be.
Mentally, Crosby is one of the strongest kickers I have seen, but last season and the inconsistency he has battled in this camp have got to be playing on his mind.
IN RAMS GAME
We won’t see RB DuJuan Harris or DE Datone Jones, this week.
Hope to see Trammon Williams and Casey Hayward soon but not this week.
Looking forward to seeing Mike Neal at OLB and the battle between Marshall Newhouse and Don Barclay ensue at offensive right tackle this week in St Louis.