Green Bay Packers: What We've Learned Through Week 1 of Training Camp
The first week of training camp is officially over for the Green Bay Packers. There are still many more weeks of camp left, but we've already learned quite a bit about the Packers through Week 1.
Most of the news coming out of Green Bay has been positive. Players like nose tackle B.J. Raji and safety Sean Richardson are having outstanding camps.
Unfortunately, there has also been bad news and poor performances. Rookie wide receiver Jared Abbrederis tore his ACL during camp; undrafted tight end Colt Lyerla has found himself on the bottom of the depth chart thanks to his struggles during camp.
Today we're going to take a look at both the positive and negative things that we've learned through Week 1 of the Packers' training camp.
Could DuJuan Harris Become the Main Return Man?
Last year was supposed to be the year that running back DuJuan Harris won the starting job. However, a knee injury during training camp ended that campaign.
Harris no longer has a chance to be the starting running back in Green Bay, but he still could find himself starting elsewhere when the season starts. He's been returning kicks with the first-team kick return unit, according to Robert Zizzo of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
Considering how much the Packers struggled in the return game last year, having a player with Harris' running talents certainly makes sense.
If Harris has success early in the preseason as a return man, the Packers should have no hesitation in giving him the full-time job.
Rookie Davante Adams Finally Stepping Up
When the Packers drafted Davante Adams in the second round, everyone, including myself, instantly slotted him into the No. 3 receiver spot on the depth chart. However, Adams has been relatively quiet throughout the offseason.
He hasn't necessarily been bad, he just hasn't stood out, either. Well, that was until a few days ago when Adams' talents were on full display. During Family Night, Adams had the catch of the night, according to Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com.
When you combine Adams' hands with his unique blend of size and athleticism, you have the potential for a dangerous weapon. Look for Adams to continue to make noise as the Packers head into Week 2 of training camp, and to really push for that No. 3 receiver spot.
Wide Receivers Aren't as Deep as Originally Thought
Heading into training camp, the wide receivers were expected to be one of the deepest positions. Now through the first week of camp, that might no longer be the case.
First it was receiver Myles White struggling with punt returns. A player like White likely needs to prove he's more than just a receiver in order to make the final roster, and he simply hasn't done that.
The Packers also lost Abbrederis to a torn ACL during camp. Throw in the fact that rookie Jeff Janis hasn't practiced yet due to shingles, and the Packers' depth at wide receiver is now seeming a little thin.
The good news for Green Bay is that they still have a ton of talent with the likes of Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Jarrett Boykin and Adams. However, the depth that was originally expected might no longer be the case.
An Undrafted Tight End Might Make the Final Roster
The first name that comes to mind when you hear about an undrafted tight end for the Packers is likely Colt Lyerla. He definitely has the athleticism and upside to make the final roster.
However, he's been overshadowed by Justin Perillo out of Maine, according to PackerReport.com. While Perillo doesn't have the speed of Lyerla, he's a solid all-around player.
The good news for Lyerla, on the other hand, is that he's beginning to improve in camp, according to Jason Wilde of ESPN Wisconsin. He caught two touchdowns when the team was running drills in the red zone.
So, if Lyerla continues to improve, he certainly has a shot at making the team. However, if he goes back to struggling while Perillo continues to excel, then Perillo could be the one with a final roster spot.
B.J. Raji Has Returned
B.J. Raji would like to forget last year. So would Packers fans.
However, the Packers switched Raji back to nose tackle this year, and the change is already noticeable. Raji has been one of the few players who has dominated in every single practice.
He's been near unstoppable in one-on-one pass-rushing drills and very strong against the run, according to Paul Imig of FOX Sports Wisconsin. Head coach Mike McCarthy has even commented on how well Raji is playing, saying:
B.J.'s in great shape. Some of the things we've changed, not really changed, but what we're emphasizing in B.J.'s particular job responsibility, I think he does very natural. And if you ever want to get a center ready, B.J. Raji and Josh Boyd are your guys because they definitely present a challenge to covering up a center.
With Raji looking like he's back to an elite level, the Packers defense should improve in a great way.
A New Challenger for Inside Linebacker?
The position that's been in need of upgrading the most has been the inside linebackers. Neither A.J. Hawk nor Brad Jones possess much upside.
The backup inside linebacker who was expected to push for one of their jobs was Jamari Lattimore. However, it's been an undrafted free agent who's doing the pushing instead of Lattimore.
Rookie Joe Thomas out of South Carolina State has been all over the field for the defense, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Even linebackers coach Winston Moss has been impressed, saying, "It looks like he has a lot of raw talent with a tremendous upside. He has speed, athleticism and plays with a lot of confidence. He's off to a good start."
Thomas still needs to improve in coverage, but that will hopefully come with more reps during training camp. Don't be surprised if Thomas finds himself with a good chance at a roster spot when camp concludes.
Julius Peppers Continues to Work
Julius Peppers is 34 years old, but he continues to work like he's a rookie. That should be an encouraging sign for the Packers, who need a productive season out of Peppers to improve the entire defense.
Moss had this to say about Peppers, according to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
JP is very polished, he's very natural. But he wants to work. He's not going to sit there and feel as though there's some entitlement. He's here to work; he's here to get better.
It's great when you see a veteran of his stature that simply has no issues with wanting to show not only himself but the rest of the group that I'm in this to work hard, I'm very, very coachable and I'm looking to get better. He's putting in the work right now. All the things he's shown just confirms the production he's had in his career.
Not only is having Peppers on the field during practice going to help the first-team defense, but it appears as if it's helping the younger players too.
If guys like Nick Perry, Adrian Hubbard and Mike Neal can look to Peppers as an example, it should hopefully help them to work hard to succeed.
Look for Peppers to have an incredible year in Green Bay this year.
The Player of Camp so Far Has Been Sean Richardson
This one really shouldn't come as a surprise. As good as Raji has been, safety Sean Richardson has been even better.
He's recorded the only two interceptions that the safeties have made during camp, according to Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Considering the safeties recorded zero interceptions last year, Richardson's knack for finding the ball should be welcomed on defense.
When starter Morgan Burnett was out with an ankle injury last week, Richardson took his spot in the starting lineup and was an absolute stud, according to Vic Ketchman of Packers.com. He's been fantastic every time he's stepped on the field.
With the Packers desperately needing production from the safeties, Richardson has a real shot at moving into the starting lineup if he continues to play at such a high level.