Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Observations of a Railbird Part III

 Tuesday, August 13, 2013 by Ted Verges

Brrr! It was really cold at Packer practice today. The temperature was in the low 60’s with a brisk, cold wind. The conditions stayed that way for the spectators throughout the practice. However, the players warmed up considerably about 2/3s of the way through practice when a coach unloaded on a player. The team was just a few plays into an 11 on 11 session.  Rodgers had taken a few snaps and was replaced at quarterback by Harrell.  Harrell fumbled his first snap and a coach bellowed, “Get him out of here!” And then there was another command, “And get him a center so he can practice his f____ ing snaps!”  The message, along with the language was heard throughout Ray Nitschke field.  It has been a really long time since I heard the F – bomb at practice.   Needless to say, the practice tempo picked up considerably, and things got a little warmer on the practice field.

In a later conversation with my son, he reminded me that Harrell was in a shotgun offense in college and very seldom took snaps under center.  But I’m still not so sure that the coach’s message wasn’t intended for the entire team as well as Harrell.  It had been a lethargic practice up until then, and practice really picked up at that point.

Practice was a little different today. They didn’t do nearly as much position drill work as I saw in earlier practices.  There were many team sessions where they worked against “cards”.  If it were an offensive session, the coaches would hold up cards in the defensive huddle so the guys would know what to do. The opposite would be true for a defensive session. They also had piped in crowd noise when the offense was at work.  I’m sure the cards had some Rams stuff on occasion, but I’d also guess there could be some 49er stuff on some of those cards, as well.

The first offensive unit had a number of changes. Barclay was at right guard. I didn’t see Lang on the field. Sitton didn’t practice very much. He was on the field, but he appeared to be ill as he often was off to the side on one knee. His replacements at left guard were usually Lane Taylor or Patrick Lewis.  Bakhtiari and Newhouse were the tackles. Bakhtiari worked with the first and second units, so he got many repetitions. Newhouse worked both the left and right sides. Tyrone Walker, the receiver who looked good against the Cardinals, was in the starting group.  He had a very good practice. He’s small but very quick in and out of his cuts. He catches the ball well with his hands and just has the look of a keeper!

The running back situation got even more interesting today. Alex Green and DuJuan Harris both saw much action today, and both were very impressive.  I’m seeing quickness at running back that I haven’t seen for quite some time.  The Packers worked hard on a play where the QB drops back and hands the ball off on a draw play type action. The back then runs straight ahead and picks a hole.  All the runners were doing it well. Look for it in the Ram’s game. It appears to this railbird that the running back position is getting complicated. Starks has had an excellent camp; Lacy is a lock to make the team; MM says Harris is his starter, and he very well could be; Franklin seems to bring a quickness that even the others can’t match; and Green looks like a multi skilled starter.  Plus, they like to use Cobb on an occasional running play.  It will be interesting to see which players they keep. Contracts might be a factor in that decision.

The competition between Jeremy Ross and Jarrett Boykin is interesting. Both play wide receiver. Both have the same body build and physical attributes.  Boykin looks like a professional receiver. He does everything well.  In addition to being a wide receiver, Ross is a kick returner. Every practice he will make a kick return play that takes one’s breath away.  He is very good on stand up screens.  However, he will also drop the ball far too often.  I think the coaches will try to keep both, as I don’t think they want Cobb running back too many kicks.

The QB situation might turn out to be a tough decision. Young is showing considerable improvement.  He has a different passing technique, sort of a shot put method. Right now his problem to this observer is that he sometimes throws a low pass.  He threw two passes to Mulligan that were in the area of Mulligan’s thigh pads. Both passes were dropped. Young also threw another pass into the dirt. However his talent did come out. He’s very good on the move.  At this point I have Young as #2 quarterback and Coleman as the taxi squad quarterback. They know what the have in Harrell, and I’m afraid it’s not good enough.

I’d like to share with you a couple of individual observations before I conclude with something that concerns me.  Folks, Clay Mathews is just good. They hold him back on the number of rep’s he gets because he goes all out on every play, every single play. The man has just one speed.  Just for information, Matthews and Perry did switch sides a couple of times.  Brad Jones looks very good. He, not Hawk, calls the defensive signals. I watched him on pass coverage quite a few times, and he is good   I didn’t like it when we drafted Franklin. I thought he was too small. I was wrong. The guy can play. He seems to have a gear that exceeds the other running backs. I also like his vision. Over the years I learned that some runners see things and others don’t.  He does. And let me tell you, we have a guy by the name of Rodgers who is just good. I don’t know what else to say other than he plays at a level that exceeds all the other players. When he’s on the field, things go smoothly, and we move the ball. Other quarterbacks can run the same play, but it’s just not the same.  Really, it’s a pleasure to watch the man at practice.

Now, I saw something that concerns me. The team was going at an 11 on 11 full go scrimmage. The offensive reserves were on the spectator side of the field with lots of substitutions based on down and distance.  I happened to notice Derek Sherrod because of his size.  But then I noticed something else. When he was standing there, he would put his weight on his left foot (his good leg) and his right foot would have the toe on the ground but not his heal.  He would frequently move his right foot around in circles, and he would also lift his right leg and grab his right heel in a stretching type of move. When the offensive line group moved from station to station, Sherrod walked with them without a limp, but he would perform the same actions as he watched the drill.  I’m not sure he even knows what he is doing. Here’s my concern. Is that injury not only in his leg but also in his head? We really could use that man in pads sometime this year, but right now, he looks like a PUP candidate.

In summary, I would say the first units looked good today. The only thing is, I don’t think they are going to play much against the Rams. We’ll see! Here’s hoping the weather is better at the next practice!

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