Friday, May 30, 2014

Observations of a Railbird

May 29, 2014 by Ted Verges

               O.K., I’ll admit it; I was excited to attend my first Packer practice of the season.  There are many issues to check out ranging from the free agents to the rookies to improvement of the young veterans to the new defensive scheme. As excited as I was going to practice, I was even more excited after practice based on what I had just seen.

               I think Edgar Bennett must live a charmed life based on the amount of talent he has at his position. The wide receiver group is very good and very deep.  Nelson and Cobb are just outstanding and are on the same wavelength as Rodgers.  But what caught my attention was the two rookie receivers, Abbredaris and Janis. Janis is bigger than Abbredaris, particularly in the chest and shoulders. Abbredaris has a little more explosive speed. They both run the 40 in about 4.5, but I’m sure Abbredaris is faster in takeoff speed.   Both guys were worked mostly at a split end position although Abbredaris got some work in the slot; both caught everything thrown their way; both demonstrated good run after the catch ability; both scored touchdowns; both played with considerable poise, and neither required corrective coaching.  Finally, both got some special teams work: Janis as a gunner on the punt team, and Abbredaris as a punt returner.

               Let me share some action I observed involving Abbredaris.  He scored two touchdowns on punt returns.  We were having trouble getting anything done with other guys returning punts. Then they sent Abbredaris back there. The first time he was up, he took it to the house. He started right and burst back up the middle and scored untouched.  He also took his second rep back for a touchdown. Again, it was up the middle with an impressive burst.  He also made two noteworthy plays as a receiver. 

On one particular play, Abbredaris was lined up wide right as a split end.  At the snap, the defense blitzed the two inside linebackers in a cross charge into the “A” gaps. Flynn saw it and threw hot into the general direction of Abbredaris.  Abbredaris also read it, cut his route off, and turned it into a stop. He caught the ball and turned up field for a 20-yard gain.  It was an impressive play for a veteran to say nothing of a rookie, mid-level draft choice in his second practice. On another play Abbredaris was lined up in the slot on the right side.  He ran a post – corner route that got him wide open.  It was the type of double move that he does so well.

               Davante Adams was not at practice today, but some other receivers also had good practices.  Boykin made some tough catches usually of a short nature. He is a physical presence on the field.  Kevin Dorsey looked good, as did Myles White.  There’s going to be some tough decisions to be made at the wide receiver position.

               One of the plays that got a big reaction from the spectators, and teammates, was an impressive catch and run by Colt Lyerla. He was lined up tight right, ran a post, had to stretch out and made a great hands catch and immediately avoided the other safety who was closing in for the hit. He took it the length of the field for a TD.  Not only did the crowd respond, but also so did his teammates.  He got lots of attention when he got back to the offensive group, and he had a huge smile on his face. I think the guys like him and are rooting for him to make it.  He is a big guy who can really move.  The other new tight end, Richard Rodgers, didn’t do much today, but he did look good getting off the bus. He was physically impressive.  He looked like he would have been a nice 5th or 6th round pick (Just had to get that comment in there!).

               Another play that earned cheers from the crowd was a screen pass right to Lacy.  He caught the ball in stride, made a couple nice cuts, and outran the pursuit. I didn’t know he had that kind of speed and open field ability.  Again, he got a great reception from his offensive teammates.  He appeared to be very well liked.

               Some more random observations were:

               I was pleased with the work of Derek Sherrod.  He showed no signs of his injury. He did everything full go. I root for him because he’s had to overcome so much.

               When you fill out your final roster predictions, don’t forget the name of DuJuan Harris at running back.   The man is so very, very quick. He was impressive.

               They had Hyde at safety and he worked with the first team defense.  I spent considerable time watching Clinton-Dix when he was in there.  I couldn’t help but notice his good use of angles.  He almost always arrived at the ball at the same moment as the receiver. He looks like a clone of Burnett . . . same height and weight.

               Tretter was starting center, and I watched him quite a bit. I wanted to see if he could execute a reach block.  He did.  All his snaps were good and he is quick, and poised.  I also focused on Linsey when he was in at center.  He missed his reach block and followed it up by committing another error.  When you miss that block you should do one of two things: follow your man and block him past the hole or turn back and pick off the first opposite color jersey that shows from the backside. He did neither. He stood there and showed anger at himself. But, the guy is physically impressive with huge arms.

               BJ has gained weight, which surprised me. It was interesting to focus on him, as he seems to enjoy the game and his fellow teammates.  He was having fun.

               Bakhtiari looked to have put on some good weight around his middle, and he didn’t lose any foot quickness.

               Peppers played outside linebacker and he worked both sides. I never saw him drop into coverage.   He usually was on the split end side and often ran down the ball carrier when running to the opposite side.  Peppers is really an imposing figure on the field.

               Matthews and Perry were on the field but didn’t participate in any action. Worthy and Davante Adams were not at practice. I’m not sure why.

               I really enjoyed this practice and what I observed.  But, there’s so much more I want to see, so the old Railbird will be at his perch quite often in the coming days. I hope you’ll enjoy these reports.

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