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By CHRIS HAVEL
Green Bay’s abundance of WRs, DBs begin feeling-out process while battling with, against each other
The Green Bay Packers’ OTA’s (organized team activities) can be instructive despite the fact that players practice in helmets and shorts.
Several key takeaways early on from this week’s OTAs:
Packers head coach Mike McCarthy is a realist if nothing.
His uncommon common sense is one of the reasons the Packers have been to eight straight NFL postseasons.
This is reflected in the way the Packers have practiced in the OTA’s. McCarthy realizes any time spent on the running game is going to bring minimal returns.
Without pads on, the offensive linemen have a much more difficult time giving running backs a true sense of where the play is going to break. That’s true in part because defensive players, in particular inexperienced defenders, tend to practice a bit out of control. That can be dangerous without pads on.
Running backs trying to press the hole – and thereby impress the coaches – tend to run into their offensive linemen. At the same time, feisty defenders occasionally will either overrun a play, which leads to overcorrection, or fly in late and out of control.
It’s an unnecessary invitation to injuries for what’s gained. However, the passing game is an altogether different animal. McCarthy has increased the offense’s time spent on passing, which actually has some tangible benefits despite the lack of contact.
First, the Packers are loaded with young receivers, running backs and defensive backs. The more in tune they get with the passing game before training camp, the more time McCarthy can spend on running the football in pads.
It’s early, but the passing emphasis seems to have accelerated the whole notion of competition within and against position groups. It’s receiver versus receiver. It’s cornerback versus cornerback. It’s receiver versus cornerback.
It’s “game on” with jobs hanging in the balance.
The Packers’ young defensive backs look the part.
It’s early, but defensive coordinator Dom Capers already has more weapons to deploy than at most points last season. This was on display when Green Bay deployed its “nitro” package.
Essentially, it’s a fancy name for the “dime” package.
It features big corners on the perimeter. Kevin King, Davon House and Ladarius Gunter all are likely to play there.
It also has a hybrid position – rookie Josh Jones lined up there – that plays a dual role as part linebacker, part defensive back. Veteran safety Morgan Burnett and the departed Micah Hyde occasionally played a similar role last season.
Damarious Randall, with Quentin Rollins behind him, lined up as the slot cover cornerback. Behind them, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Burnett manned safety.
Given that means Rollins, Gunter, Demetri Goodson and Kentrell Brice all would be available in backup roles. That’s a significant upgrade from a year ago.
Ty Montgomery is finding his way at running back.
Make no mistake, No. 88 is a running back, and he aims to build upon what he did last season.
Montgomery is smart and confident. He also needs to be a bit selfish, too. By that, I mean he needs to work in concert with running backs coach Ben Sirmans to make sure he’s ready to be the lead dog in the backfield from start to finish.
Montgomery spent last season learning the ins and outs at a new position. This year, he needs to find ways to ensure his health so that he can be ready and available in December and beyond.
The Packers’ offense has hitched itself to Montgomery.
Precisely how many touches (carries and receptions) McCarthy is envisioning for Montgomery remains to be seen. But there is no question he is being counted on to fill Eddie Lacy’s void.
The Packers drafted three running backs, but that was more about securing quality depth and making a pre-emptive strike against (pardon the pun) running out of running backs.
Montgomery is up to the challenge. In fact, he’s predicting that the Packers’ offense is going to be “great.”
“I don’t want to write checks the rest of the offense has to cash,” Montgomery said this week, “But I’m excited about our possibilities.”
Montgomery isn’t alone in that sentiment.
Chris Havel is a national best-selling author and his latest book is Lombardi: An Illustrated Life. Havel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4-6 p.m. CDT on WDUZ FM 107.5 The Fan, or on AM-1400, as well as Fan Internet Radio (www.thefan1075.com). Havel also hosts Event USA’s MVP Parties the evening before home games.