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By CHRIS HAVEL
Defense has excelled while QB Callahan exemplifies staff’s ability to coach at high level
There has been precious few surprises during the Packers’ 2016 training camp and preseason.
It’s true that young, unheralded players such as Kentrell Brice, Geronimo Allison and Marwin Evans have been pleasant surprises.
It’s also true that inexperienced players impress each preseason, and punter Peter Mortell – the hometown kid – nearly earned a roster spot. Mortell was released Monday, which might be considered a surprise, but the fact that he was in a serious competition with incumbent Tim Masthay shouldn’t be.
What makes this preseason feel different is the Packers’ ability to show improvement and progress despite a choppy schedule and a rather unique off-the-field circumstance.
It appears Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews will be exonerated in regards to Al Jazeera-America’s report that included allegations of PED use by them.
That might’ve been a distraction, but GM Ted Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy handled it properly. They didn’t say anything to elevate the situation. They merely said they were going to let the investigation play out, while also making it clear that they supported their players 100 percent.
Subsequently, sources have said Peppers and Matthews will be cleared by the NFL.
Meantime, the Packers’ 21-10 victory over San Francisco at Levi’s Stadium Friday night kept Green Bay unbeaten.
More important, it kept them on track for a clean preseason.
Jordy Nelson participated in warm-ups, then showered, dressed and returned to watch from the sideline. It appears there’s a chance Nelson might see action in the preseason finale Friday night at Kansas City. Although with Aaron Rodgers likely not to play it makes more sense to sit Nelson until the season opener.
Offensively, the Packers have established a nice foundation for the run game. Eddie Lacy appears to have put the weight and conditioning concerns behind him.
Lacy ran hard while gaining 45 yards on seven carries.
James Starks, John Crockett and Brandon Burks also had flashes behind what again looks to be a deep and talented offensive line.
In the passing attack, Jared Cook’s speed, hands and agility undoubtedly had Packers’ fans envisioning mega-production between Rodgers and Cook. Also, a slimmed down Richard Rodgers looks more explosive and ready to provide stability if the Packers choose to use the double-tight end formation.
The receiver position is loaded.
Randall Cobb looks as good as ever, while Jared Abbrederis, Ty Montgomery and Davante Adams all have had their moments. Abbrederis needs more snaps, Montgomery needs more time to get up to full speed and Adams needs more consistency.
The aforementioned Allison has an intriguing upside. It’s possible the Packers will come to regret showcasing him against San Francisco. He finished with three catches for 78 yards and looked great doing it.
Rodgers started, looked smooth and gave way to Callahan. He completed 6 0f 9 passes for 60 yards and a touchdown. He also showed some chemistry with Cook.
Then Joe Callahan took over.
The rookie from Wesley College played well again.
He completed 16 of 24 passes for 167 yards and a touchdown. He was sacked three times but handled the pressure well. He kept his eyes downfield and showed exceptional accuracy.
It appears No. 2 quarterback Brett Hundley (ankle) will sit out the preseason finale at Kansas City, but he should be ready for the Sept. 11 season opener.
Meantime, don’t be surprised if Callahan lands on the 53-man roster. He’s played well enough to force the discussion.
Defensively, the Packers’ secondary swarmed.
Marwin Evans, the product of Oak Creek High School, made a nice interception to highlight what has been a strong camp. The in-state product has a shot to make the team at safety.
Kentrell Brice also appears to be a hard-hitting linebacker with good instincts, while Carl Bradford was in on six tackles against the 49ers and continues to play well.
Rookie defensive tackle Kenny Clark has been bothered by tightness in his back, but believes he’s had enough work to be ready for the opener. That remains to be seen.
Elsewhere, the Packers’ defense has been a feisty, swarming bunch that has been impressive throughout.
Thompson and McCarthy face some difficult roster decisions.
Then again, that’s not much of a surprise, either.
Havel also hosts Event USA’s MVP Parties the evening before home games. Also check out our new Podcast: Between the Lines for more Packers insights. New episodes every Wednesday.