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Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Some injuries of concern?

by bizarro
for PackerChatters

Training Camp 8-16-2005

Well, we'll start with the first: Joey Thomas returned and started in the drill sessions. But, it was quite apparent that he is not at full speed and he is very frustrated by it. You can see it itching at him from across the way...unfortunately, he sat out the remainder of the session after the first 30 min.

About 1 and 1/2 hours in I noticed Corey Williams was no longer lined up with the 1st unit. Actually, he wasn't lined up at all. I scoured the opposing sideline and I did not see him. In the final 7 vs. 7 session I notice Corey sitting on top of a water cooler pointing to his abdominal or some portion on his left side of the body. I don't like this one bit and I hope it doesn't become a nagging problem.

The scariest portion of the a.m. session had to have come on the last play of the session. Al Harris was guarding his man in the flat and one moment he's in tight coverage the next he's writhing in pain on the ground. He crawled out of the play at first and then got to his feet on his own. But, initially I was very worried because he appeared to be in serious pain. He later was limping around on his own power and did not see a trainer-however, he was grabbing the are of his lower left hamstring into the area behind his knee. We must keep an eye on this...It is really a downer right now because he had a great practice. He was the best CB in the one vs. one drill with the WR's breaking up 2 to 3 out of a handful of opportunities (this drill gives virtually no chance to the CB but Harris really showed up) and he also held his ground on a HB counter play that got outside and he stood in beautifully heaping loads of praise from Batesy. Let's keep our fingers crossed--we need him in that secondary.

One thing I am definitely noticing this year is the focus on fundamentals with our defense. Each morning the CB's are working on techniques of shedding blockers and assisting in the run game. This morning started with a drill focusing on the proper angle to pursuit when a RB is leaving the backfield behind a FB or OL. Bates emphasized the aspect of the triangle formed by the OL (in the line) the lead blocker and the RB and how the CB must attack the angle. Lionel Washington alerted Chris Johnson on an ill-advised approach to the lead blocker that surely would have seen him pushed to the outside and the RB into a gaping hole. Chris Johnson later was beaten fairly badly in the 1 vs. 1 CB/WR drill. His most glaring problem right now is trusting his jam (or simply developing one), and trusting his instincts in the short passing game. He has such makeup speed in the long routes but I must remember he is still virtually a rookie...but he has a long way to go and much ground to makeup--I'm still pushing for him however to improve and gain confidence if nothing else.

After the initial CB drill, the focus was put on form tackling. Bates placed a dummy blocker atop two large mats and the CB's and Safeties took turns attacking the dummy from a low angle to attack the legs-Bates chided both Johnson and Hawkins fro initially taking to high of an approach. The second portion of this drill saw the CB attack low and roll with the dummy. When Bates left this session he immediately ran over to the LB area where the LB's were again working diligently on attacking the sled with proper leverage and bursting off to meet a would be blocker or RB with proper footwork.

I mention these things, because I am solely focusing on the defensive side of the ball right now in the early goings of practice. And the two things that stand out instantaneously is the emphasis placed on fundamentals-this is something I don't remember seeing nearly as much of last year-and the omnipresence of Batesy. He is everywhere. More importantly, I am seeing improved coverage in certain passing drills. Not necessarily the one vs. one drill but, more importantly, the understanding of assignments within a coverage scheme. Every practice for about 10-15 minutes they lineup the first and second pass coverage unit with the 3rd teamers acting as WR's and RB's. They show various WR and RB formations and the defense is called upon to cover their routes. Again, this is another emphasis on a fundamental part of the defensive side: route recognition and coverage assignments.

Some quick hits:

**Before moving into the offense vs. defense sessions the two units were placed together in a blitzing drill. The qb's never released the balls, per request, as the OL worked on blitz recognition. One has to think they are starting to prepare for Buffalo to avoid a similar performance as seen in the scrimmage.

Aaron Kampman blew up a running play today. It appears as though he is starting to get a feel for playing with his new weight. He looked very solid in portions and the running attack continues to be stifled quite a bit more on his side of the field as opposed to KGB's where the running game seems to go at will.

Hannibal Navies made a great coverage play on Martin in a middle seam. Favre lofted the ball over Navies shoulder but he was literally strided for stride with Martin and raised his hand in at the last second to knock the ball free. Bates was all over that one as you can imagine.

Poppinga showed a better feel in the pass coverage game today. He ran with Martin on the same route about five plays later, and though he was a step behind, it was a vast improvement over yesterday. Duffner praised: "That a boy Brady, you gotta' compete...that's much better." He still has a ways to go but I like the improvement after one day and like I've said he is definitely one of the better LB's showing in the run defense. Woodfin is starting to disappear more and more and he's getting less looks as Manning gets better and better. I would say as of right now Manning is almost a sure bet to make the roster. He had another decent practice and he can play all 3 positions if need be. Today, he was switched from WSLB and the SAM within a given play. Brady, Lenon, and Manning manned the second unti with Navies, Thompson, and Barnett in the first. Barnett had an off practice...just wasn't on top of his game though he gave high effort as usual. Nick McNeil finally made a play as he stepped in and stuffed a RB behind the line, but I actually think it may be attributed to Montgomery completely forcing the RB inside after driving the OT into the RB's initial lane.

Martin, though dropping his first ball to date still looks like a much improved player. He continues to get separation in the passing game and has caught everything until his first drop today.

T. Murf didn't have nearly as sharp of a practice this morning. He let a few balls go that definitely could have been caught-including one that found its way through the outstretched arms of Hawkins (whom the coaching staff and players call 'Hawk', which definitely goes with his appearance around his man's ball all the time) and into Murf's in the corner of the endzone only to be dropped. On his way back Sherman gave him a couple words about "...having to catch that ball."

Chatman continues to catch everything. He is really improved and has definitely caught the eye of Favre. He looks to him over the middle and Chatman almost always has a step on his cover man.

Ferguson finally got a ball on a fly route. He had gained separation, again, and Favre threw a perfect lob pass over his shoulders...but-Fergy dropped it! Favre clapped his hands in frustration as did Fergy but it was definitely good to see the two attempt a hookup. Bottom line: Fergy has to catch that ball. He later caught a TD on a crossing route in the back of the endzone from Favre--they connected a few times today whereas I don't think Walker caught a ball all practice honestly. The play reminded me of Fergy's first TD catch at Detroit as a rookie icon_cry5.gif

Walker also dropped a deep ball today. My opinion is if you are a top-flight WR and a ball hits your fingers in stride you better catch the ball. Well, Walker dropped a deep one too through his outstretched fingertips.

Jamal Jones looked very good in the 1 vs. 1 drills as he beat Al Harris with a nice catch on a perfect throw by Rodgers, and he beat virtually every CB he faced. I was fairly surprised.

Najeh Davenport drew praise from Sherman on a nice run up the middle (hmmm, imagine that) in the 11 vs. 11.

They were finally allowing full contact in 11 vs. 11 and actually the offense only scored once from within the 20. Though the defense remains entirely too inconsistent stopping the first down run. I'd say all in all the defense was about 3 or 4 of 10 in keeping that first down run under 4 yards--but again, they were only allowing full on contact for about 15 minutes so this is an area that is hard to get a real feel on.

Leigh Torrance was starting with the dime today now that Joey Thomas is out as Hawkins was bumped into the nickel. Torrance actually looked very good out there-I was pleasantly surprised. He stayed with his man like glue and didn't give up and YAC when passed against--this is very encouraging. Earl Little started alongside Nick Collins due to Roman's continued absence. I'm wondering if Underwood will get a shot there. Todd Franz made one real nice breakup of a pass over the middle but later in the 11 vs. 11 he gave up a wide open skinny post to Donald Driver.

And Ahmad Carroll received due praise today on increased awareness in pass coverage. He is getting better, but he still needs to work on his one vs. one. I'm holding out hope for him though because we're going to need him to step up.

**Will Whittacker was back with the first unit. I'd say as of right now Whittacker and Klemm are our starting guards. DT remains the biggest ?.
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