Who Had a Good Week:
Eddie Lacy, RB-Anyone who viewed Saturday nights performance by Eddie Lacy had to feel good about what saw in his quarter and a half of action. Lacy looked every bit as strong and rugged a runner as advertised and clearly put himself head and shoulders ahead of any other running back who has performed for the Packers thus far this preseason.
The Packers haven't had a special talent in the backfield since Ahman Green left town in 2006, Lacy appears to be the most likely candidate since that time to fit that description, he gets the most out of every run, using power and shockingly quick feet along with a dogged determination to get every inch out of every carry that he possibly can, an approach that will no doubt make him an immediate fan favorite of Packer fans around the country who grew up on game films of the great Jim Taylor biting, scratching and bowling over defenders during the glory days of Vince Lombardi's Packers in the 1960's.
B.J. Coleman, QB- While it likely wasn't enough to put him back in the mix for the number two quarterbacking spot, Coleman had his best career preseason performance against the Rams Saturday going 8 for 13 for 86 yards and the team's first preseason touchdown on a beautiful scrambling nine yard touchdown pass to rookie tight end Jake Stoneburner at the right pile-on.
He appeared more confident and more in control then he ever has in any previous outing and displayed the impressive arm strength that initially intrigued the Packers when they drafted him a season ago out of Tennesee-Chattanooga. He may be too inexperienced to be relied on to man the number two post in 2013, but if Coleman is able to build on this performance, he could find himself back on the Green Bay practice squad when training camp commences in a couple weeks.
Tyrone Walker, WR- He may be lacking when it comes to the measurables at 5'10, 191 and with a 40 time in the 4.6's, but Tyrone Walker has made it clear throughout camp that he's an NFL caliber wide receiver, doing his job as an undrafted rookie by taking advantage of seemingly every opportunity he's been given and making at least one play everyday to gain the coaches attention and make it impossible for them to let him go. While he may not be a world class athlete, Walker does seem to have world class hands, he goes after the football aggressively when it's thrown in his direction and snatches it out of the air with his hands not his body. Where Walker has been particularly impressive is making catches in traffic, he plays much bigger then his 5'10, 191 pound frame and seems to come down with every football thrown in his direction regardless of the defense around him.
It's these two skills combined with the professional, un-rookie-like approach he takes to every practice that has caught the teams attention and seems to have ensured him at least a spot on the team's practice squad. He seems like a natural for the slot, similar in size and skill-set to the likes of the Broncos Wes Welker and the Seahawks Doug Baldwin, a pair of players who also entered the league as undersized undrafted free agents.
Just as Baldwin did a couple season's ago with Seattle, Walker has taken advantage of the added opportunities he's been afforded due to the injuries suffered by veteran's Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson, as well as fellow rookies Charles Johnson and Kevin Dorsey, two receivers the club drafted in the seventh round but have yet to see in preseason action due to injuries suffered during the first week of training camp. Jarrett Boykin made the club against all odds last year by catching seemingly every pass thrown in his direction, leading the team in receiving during the preseason en route to beating out the likes of Tori Gurley and Diondre Borel for the fifth and final spot on the Packers receiving corps.
Walker seems to be following suit in 2013, and while he may not have the size and strength of Boykin, he does seem to have the same sure hands, awareness for finding open space in zone coverage, and knack for coming down with the football in traffic. At this point in camp, it seems difficult to imagine the team letting him go as he's outperformed just about every receiver in camp, rookies and veterans alike, one thing seems for certain, if the Packers do elect to cut him loose, Walker shouldn't stay unemployed for very long, he's proven beyond much doubt that he has the tools to succeed as third or fourth receiver in the National Football League.
Don Barclay, OL- At the outset of camp it appeared like the team was grooming Barclay to be their sixth offensive lineman, working him extensively at center to ensure that he would be ready to play any position along the line if/when an injury occurred. It now appears though that Barclay has a very real chance to beat out Marshall Newhouse for the starting job at right tackle.
The coaching staff seems enamored with Barclay's nasty approach as well as his ability to finish his blocks, two areas where Newhouse has consistently been found wanting. Newhouse is probably the better technician, and after two years starting on the left side he certainly has more game experience then Barclay, but Barclay has clearly outperformed Newhouse throughout camp and has made it at least a dead heat going into the final two weeks of training camp.
Newhouse has begun to see more reps on the left side after the Rams game, which could be an indication they are preparing him to be the team's third offensive tackle, and could also be an indication that they are unsatisfied with the performance of rookie David Bakhtiari who's replacing the injured Bryan Bulaga on Aaron Rodgers' blindside. Whatever the case, it can't be anything but good news for the second year lineman Barclay, who was battling for a roster spot only one year ago, and now appears likely to be a starter only one year later.
Johnny Jolly, DL- It may be a bit of an odd "feel good" story when your discussing Johnny Jolly, after all we're talking about a guy who had all the opportunities in the world a few years ago only to throw it all away to drug abuse which landed him on the suspended list and ultimately prison. But Jolly appears to have turned his life around, and on Saturday night, he appeared to be the player Packers fans and coaches remember, displaying a rare nose for the football for a defensive lineman by batting down one pass and intercepting another in the end zone while supplying consistent pressure up the middle during his two and a half quarters of work in a performance that most believe moved him off the roster bubble and all but ensured him a spot in the Packers 53 man roster to start the 2013 season.
Rob Francois, LB- It appears like Brad Jones is a lock to start alongside A.J. Hawk at inside linebacker when the season begins in San Francisco, but a case could be made that Francois has not only outplayed him, he's outplayed every inside 'backer on the roster. Nowhere was that more evident then in St Louis Saturday night where Francois was seemingly always around the football, and making crisp, sure tackles when he got there. Francois may not have the speed of some of his teammates in linebacker meeting room, but he seems to get to the football faster then his more athletically gifted teammates, rarely taking false steps or hardly ever being caught out of position.
Throughout camp Francois has been a presence on the field, he's big, he's strong and he's serious minded when he goes about his business. Francois was arguably the team's best special teams performer in 2012, but if he continues to perform the way he has in this camp, that won't be the extent of his contributions to this football team in the future.
Micah Hyde, CB- Hyde seems to be just the player he was advertised to be when the Packers drafted him this past April out of the University of Iowa. He's instinctive, aggressive, and always seems to be around the football. The one issue for Hyde is his long speed, or lack-thereof., he's a liability in man to man coverage which was plain to see on the deep ball he was beaten on by Rams receiver Chris Givens in the first quarter of Saturday's game. It's for this reason that many are surprised the team hasn't worked him in at safety, especially when you consider the team's severe lack of depth at that position. Hyde would seem to be a natural in that role, he may not have ideal size, but he's a hard hitter, a sure tackler and has a nose for the football. It will be interesting to see how the coaches utilize Hyde in the final weeks of camp, especially when Casey Hayward and Tramon Williams return from injury.
Who Had a Not-So-Good Week:
Vince Young, QB- Young hasn't necessarily played poorly, but he simply hasn't done much of anything to win the job from the incumbent Graham Harrell, who's done little himself to prove himself worthy of holding on to the job, but if all things are equal, the team will likely go with the player who's not only younger, but also spent more time in Mike McCarthy's offense, despite the fact that Young has started 50 games in the NFL to Harrell's zero. Young has shown some flashes of the speed and athleticism that made him a legend at the University of Texas as well as the NFL's Rookie of the Year back in 2006.
On Saturday, he also showed some of the issues that forced him out of the league in 2012, including missing a wide open Myles White in the middle of the field for what would have been an easy 30 yard touchdown pass, overthrowing the rookie by a good five yards, and then a couple plays later he was late throwing the ball to White in the back corner of the end zone for what also could have been six points. Young carries himself like a professional, and seems to have a presence when he's on the field. He's managed to somehow carve out a 31-19 record in 50 NFL starts, but indecisiveness and inaccuracy have plagued him his entire career, if he fails to make the Packers final 53 man roster, those will be two of the biggest reasons why, and it will likely spell the end of his career in the National Football League.
James Starks, RB- Starks began training camp as the talk of the team, appearing to be in the best physical condition since his arrival in the NFL back in 2010 and outperforming every other back in camp rookie and veteran alike and appearing determined to prove all those wrong who called him the odd man out in the Packers crowded 2013 backfield. In the last week however, Starks performance seems to have leveled off capped by a short and forgettable performance Saturday night in which he fumbled on his third carry of the game and didn't see another snap the rest of the way.
It's common knowledge that the easiest way to find yourself in Mike McCarthy's doghouse is to turn the football over, and in a competition as close as the Packer running back derby is, mistakes like that can be fatal, especially for a player who has as many things working against him in this competition such as an injury prone past and work habits in practice during the season that have been called into question by McCarthy in the past. Time will tell if Starks can work his way out of McCarthy's doghouse enough to make the 53 man roster, but it's all but a certainty that his performance this past week has all but taken him out of consideration for the starting nod when the season opens September the 8th.
Jeremy Ross, WR/RS- Ross has been unable to take advantage of the added opportunities he's been afforded in camp with the injuries to Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. It was the staff's hope that Ross would take the fifth receiver spot and main return job and make them his during this training camp so that Cobb could focus exclusively on his expanded role in the offense and not be left vulnerable to injury, but it hasn't quite worked out that way so far. Ross has been just another body in camp, he's failed to do anything during the first three weeks to "wow" the coaching staff like they were expecting out of a player with his rare combination of size and explosiveness.
Ross is built more like a running back then a receiver at 6'0, 215 pounds, and he appeared more like a running back with the ball in his hands on kickoff and punt returns late last season, but that explosiveness has yet to be seen during practices or the two preseason games. So instead of being assured a role on this football team like the coaches expected from Ross at this point in camp, the former Cal wide-out finds himself firmly on the bubble, opening the door for youngsters such as Tyrone Walker and Myles White as well as rookies Charles Johnson and Kevin Dorsey, once they are able to return from injury. There's still plenty of time for Ross to shine, especially in the return game since nobody else, including rookie running back Johnathan Franklin has done much to impress the coaches in that department either, but Ross will need to do something in the next couple weeks to earn his place on the 53 man roster, or the team may elect to look outside the organization for a return specialist once the rest of the league makes their final cuts to 53 on August the 31st.
Marshall Newhouse, OT- The coaches continue to be frustrated by Newhouse's lack of nastiness and his inability to finish blocks both in the run game and in pass protection as well. Offensive line coach James Campen has become much more publicly critical of Newhouse in recent weeks, culminating in Don Barclay getting the starting nod in St Louis on Saturday night over the fourth year veteran. Newhouse has begun to see reps at left tackle, which best case scenario could mean the team is contemplating returning him to that role over the rookie David Bakhtiari, and worse case scenario could mean the team now views Newhouse as their third offensive tackle and wants him to be acclimated to both sides. The right tackle competiton is far from decided, but at this point it appears that all the momentum is clearly on the side of Barclay, Newhouse will need to step up his intensity and overall play in a big way over these next couple weeks if he wants to retain his spot on the starting offensive line.
Dezman Moses, OLB- At this time last year, Moses was one of the talks of camp, an undrafted rookie who appeared to have beaten the odds and made the team's 53 man roster as a backup outside linebacker. Oh what a difference a year can make. Moses does not appear to have progressed at all from year one to year two, and if anything he seems to playing with less effort and intensity. He looked foolish on Saturday night missing what appeared to be an easy tackle on a swing pass in the flat to Isaiah Pead, and provided little or no pass rush during his time on the field, while undrafted rookie Andy Mulumba stood out by displaying excellent speed off the edge and a relentless motor rushing the passer.
Mulumba is still raw, but he appears to have outstanding potential as a pass rusher, he's bigger, faster and stronger then Moses, and thus far in camp he's clearly outplayed the veteran. With Mulumba in the mix, and the team's commitment to moving Mike Neal from defensive end to outside 'backer, Moses will need to get it turned around in a hurry if he wants to remain a Green Bay Packer in 2013. The team appears to be enamored with their group of inside linebackers, and may end up keeping all six of them, Jamari Lattimore and Rob Francois have been outstanding on special teams, Terrell Manning is a gifted athlete who was highly productive at NC State only a couple of years ago, and rookie Sam Barrington out of South Florida has arguably outplayed all of them and appears to be a real find as a seventh round selection. This could mean that Mulumba, Moses, and rookie sixth round pick Nate Palmer could be competing for only one roster spot. Palmer hasn't been all that impressive and would likely pass through waivers, meaning the team could stash him on their practice squad if they still see potential in their sixth round pick.
Passing Mulumba through waivers is a different story. In a league that's constantly on the lookout for young players to rush the passer, a 6'3 260 pound athlete like Mulumba would be a difficult one to sneak past the other 31 teams in the league, meaning that if the Packers want to keep him in the organization, they'll likely have to keep him on the 53 man roster. If the team elects to go that route, it would likely spell the end of Dezman Moses' days in a Packer uniform.
Giorgio Tavecchio, K- He's fallen behind Mason Crosby in a kicking derby the team wanted him to lose in the first place. He's a nice story, but he simply doesn't appear to have the consistency needed to be an NFL kicker at this point. The team would be better served letting him go now and bring in a veteran such as Dan Carpenter who was recently cut by the Dolphins, or Rian Lindell who was released by the Bills. Both are proven, NFL caliber kickers and both would provide a true test for Mason Crosby. If Crosby were able to beat out one of these two proven NFL kickers, it could be the boost of confidence he needs going into the season to get his head screwed on right, if he wasn't able to beat them out, the Packers would know they have the best kicker available to them instead of simply flying blind into the season with a kicker who's been inconsistent at best over the past 12 months. Carpenter was perfect last season in kicks under 50 yards and has at least as strong a leg as Crosby if not a little stronger. Lindell meanwhile lacks the range the team might prefer, but he's consistent inside of 50 yards and he's kicked in Buffalo over the past 12 seasons, so you know he can handle the conditions come winter time at Lambeau Field.