Packers mini-camp begins today and with all the installations in the team can begin the process of fine-tuning their roster and developing the 2015 team. So what is the difference between OTA’s and mini-camp? One word…MANDATORY. But that is about the only difference, as there won’t be contact and the players will not be in pads for the three-day camp. So no blocking, no tackling, and no bump-and-run coverage huh…what can a team get out of such activities.
There is one very important thing that teams get out of mandatory mini-camps across the NFL.
The gap between OTA’s and mini-camp gives rookies a little time to get deeper into the playbook and show that they can contribute. These activities (like pre-season games) are very important for the young players who are trying to make the team. Coaches and coordinators will be watching very closely to see if some of the young players they have brought in show flashes of the ability to contribute early and often. For Packernation, there are many young players of note, but here are five that I am interested in.
Is Jared Abbrederis fully recovered?
The wide receiver corps of the Green Bay Packers is an embarrassment of riches. Once again, Ted Thompson brought in another potential weapon for Aaron Rodgers in Ty Montgomery. But where Montgomery is still learning the route tree, Jared Abbrederis has had an entire season and offseason to learn the offense so his route tree should be down-pat. The question will be…is he fully recovered from his torn right ACL? ACL injuries are common in the NFL but at the same time can be hard to come fully back from. The coaches will be keeping a close eye on Abby as a guy that so many in Wisconsin are pulling for and who was making a bid to make the roster when the unfortunate injury occured. If he is healthy, the wide receiver battle in Packer training camp could be epic. But for now let’s just keep an eye on him and our fingers crossed that Jared is a full-go participant and gets a chance to show his stuff against the likes of Montgomery and Jeff Janis.
Will RB John Crockett know the offense?
North Dakota State running back John Crockett didn’t get drafted but got his chance with the Packers as an undrafted free agent. Will Crockett show the world that they shouldn’t have passed him up? Well, that question can’t be answered until another, deeper one is…does Crockett know the offense well enough to be on point, especially when called upon in pass protection? Without pads, it is very difficult to evaluate a player’s actual running ability. Coaches can evaluate Crockett’s decisiveness, the overall shape he is in, and his knowledge of the offense and he will be tested with an expansive playbook coming out of a small program. But the Packers are very good at developing such players and I for one am really excited to see this kid run the ball.
Will one of our drafted cornerbacks compete for a starting spot?
The Packers went after DB’s in the early rounds of this year’s draft, taking Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins in the first and second rounds respectively. The Packers have some depth left at cornerback but it would be a real boon for this year’s defense if one of these draftee’s could prove themselves a replacement for Tramon Williams. I think veteran savvy will win out this year but with two top draft picks in the backfield, one should be able to expect that one of the two could best a current starter or get on the field in the dime package. One thing is certain, the coaches will be keeping a sharp eye on these two young prospects. Rollins showed some things in OTA’s but it will all come down to assignment surety, technique and how he plays when he puts on the pads. This will be one of the premier training camp battles.
Will Jake Ryan “stand out”?
The Packers finally drafted an inside linebacker in the forth round of this year’s draft and if Jake Ryan starts to flash early, it would go a long way to quell fears about the Packers’ defense this year. With Clay Matthews getting a lot of work at ILB, I think we all feel better about the situation than we did the first half of last year, but with AJ Hawk gone…we are walking this tightrope without a net. The current roster has to provide the inside presence that we need. Ryan is out of Michigan which is a big time program and though his physicals are not off the charts, his instincts are. He will have a chance to prove it in one of the most complicated defenses in the league.
Can Brett Hundley absorb the offense?
Brett Hundley was one of the biggest stories in this year’s draft. In my opinion he is in the enviable position of learning under the best quarterback in the league from the best quarterback coaches in the league. Hundley has some serious physical ability, the question will be whether or not he has absorbed enough of the offense to effectively run it. The coaches will push him and protect him at the same time, making sure he bites off plenty but not more than he can chew. And if Hundley shows promise, he may be a nice addition to the Packers even though no one will want him to play.
So those are my mini-camp mentions. While the practices are not exciting, the importance of this camp, for the young players in particular, cannot be overstated. Each opportunity is another chance to implement what they have been repping mentally for some time. Each opportunity is a chance to stand out. Each opportunity is one step closer to preparedness when they pull on those shoulder pads and don that helmet.