What can you draw from one practice — the night component in a two-a-day, no less — of the opening weekend to an NFL training camp?
Maybe not a whole lot on the macro-level; most of the starters are still the starters, and there’s way too much time between now and September 12 to know for sure who will be available when the Packers’ final roster has taken shape.
But on an individual level it’s never too early to remember last season, and to watch and look and hope for differences and similarities. You never know, one practice could always be the start of the trajectory change for a player, be that a skyrocket or a train wreck.
Plus, who doesn’t like making hasty assumptions well before the appropriate time? I bet you do. See, there’s one!
So with that, here are some questions from training camp that could have been temporarily answered on Sunday night in Green Bay.
Can Aaron Rodgers throw a ball into a net from a respectable distance?
Yes, yes he can.
Rodgers looked pretty locked-in and earned some applause after showing off his footwork by jumping laterally over some pads and firing into a row of net targets from around 20-30 yards. He got even more cheers when he sank three consecutive fade passes into a basket from around the same distance.
This is pretty cool, but like my friend Jag said, “Too bad they can’t throw to empty baskets in games.” Yeah, it was basically batting practice.
A better highlight came when my other friend, Ben, yelled “shootout!” – from Rodgers’ solution to tie games on ESPN’s “Mayne Event” a few years back – during a quiet moment before practice. Rodgers heard, smiled sheepishly, and shook his head.
Oh yes, we remember, Aaron. The doctor feels no pain!
B.J. Raji: Enormously massive or merely oafishly large?
Raji, somehow, I’m unsure how it’s possible, looks bigger than last year but with that same quickness that made him our first round pick. The program had him listed at 337 pounds and he seemed to be using the weight effectively, pushing people around like body pillows and getting into the backfield regularly during scrimmages.
He looks hungry, in every form of the word and from the look of things, should a running back attempt to sneak through Raji’s area on the field, he could be smacked into a concussed state with the force of a small wrecking ball.
That, and Raji could very well eat someone, like he almost did Ray Rice last season. Honestly, I don’t think I’d be that surprised.
Is kicker Mason Crosby looking confident and consistent after last season’s not-so-impressive showing?
My least favorite Packer last year (saying a lot, considering Jarrett Bush) displayed the same hands-on-his-hips and head-tilt we saw all too often last season after a botched field goal. The Guy Who Kicks Really Far can still do that, provided he doesn’t have to worry about the pesky uprights, which he still tends to avoid.
On Sunday night, his preferred direction was wide left – and once, really, really wide left – and word out of Monday’s camp is that he didn’t fare much better. The team didn’t bring anyone else in, so for now, placekicker is his job and his alone.
They must be seeing something I’m not, because I see a reason to start taking ibuprofen right now, in preparation for that first attempt. I may need a beer as well.
Does lining up and trying to throw each other to the ground count as a drill?
I’m not sure, but that was the most entertaining part of training camp I saw.
The linebacker and tight end units were brought right in front of the bleachers, and one guy from a side would line up against one guy from the other, pause, and just attack each other. They grappled and did their best to rip the other to the ground, with linebackers coach Kevin Greene serving as the official referee/screamer/person who looks like they wanted to jump in the drill.
You could see how this got sort of intense.
The best was the Jermichael Finley/Clay Matthews showdown, which is probably what it would look like if two brick walls ran into each other. Again, I don’t know if this can be qualified as a “football” drill, but it had to have helped with something. It also served to remind me why I was never cut out to be a football player. At least one of my limbs would not be functioning correctly anymore if I had gone down that road.
A few other things seen at Packer training camp:
- Jermichael Finley is crazy to comprehend in person. He embarrassed safety Derrick Martin on back-to-back pass routes, making Martin fall over himself twice due to the combination of Finley’s quick feet and Martin’s probable fear of trying to stay in front of this freak of nature. Seeing this guy run full speed with the ball in his hands almost made my chest collapse. I have no idea how it would be trying to tackle him.
- Rookie tight end Andrew Quarless, at 6’4”, 252 pounds, looks to be cut from the same freak of nature mold as Finley. If he produces anywhere near the general vicinity of Jermichael, the Packers could have a ridiculously athletic tight end combination.
- Atari Bigby, sidelined with an ankle injury, wants a contract extension on the grounds that, basically, he’s been here awhile. I do feel bad for Bigby, who can’t seem to shake the injury bug, and he has been alright when able to stay on the field, but as the nagging injuries pile up, rookie Morgan Burnett keeps getting more reps with the first team. Nothing here adds up to grounds for a new contract, but I hope Bigby can at least get out there and try to earn it.
Photos courtesy of the Green Bay-Press Gazette/Evan Siegle
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