Training Camp 2011 is officially history. The last preseason practice was held this morning and it was a typical 2 days before a game workout. In regular season terms, "a Friday before a Sunday" practice. That means shorter, no pads and plenty of teamwork to polish up the game plan.
The session, however, was unique in a couple of ways. At one point, defensive line coach Mike Trgovac had Clay Matthews instructing his young players, in particular Jarius Wynn, in pass rush technique. Coaches can be control freaks, and not many are willing to allow someone else to take over the classroom, but Trgovac is secure enough and smart enough to do that on occasion. Matthews knows how to get to the quarterback, and who better to learn from than a guy who's been there, done that, and continues to do it successfully.
The other thing couldn't have been much of a confidence boost for the defensive backups who will shoulder most of the playing load against the Chiefs. Aaron Rodgers returned to practice and since he and the other offensive starters are scheduled for just a cameo role Thursday night, they served as the scout team for the aforementioned backups. Unfortunately for them, Rodgers was razor sharp and he passed the scout team to several touchdowns. Just blistered the defense during its own drill. Perhaps the game and a quarterback not named Rodgers will be a little easier to deal with.
With camp over, and the preseason games soon to follow, the regular season looms on the very near horizon. Conventional football wisdom says a team never stays the same, it's either getting better or getting worse, so which is it going to be for the Green Bay Packers? They will have a new left guard, as T.J. Lang replaces Daryn Colledge who left via free agency. Lang is the more physical and if the preseason means anything, the more consistent of the two. He has the potential to be an upgrade. So does Morgan Burnett at one of the starting safety spots. After his season-ending knee injury last year, Charlie Peprah did a wonderful job replacing him, but there's a reason Burnett reclaimed his job on day 1 of camp. He's got more play-making ability. Burnett has shown that throughout the preseason and he's picked up his play considerably when it comes to the rough stuff. Burnett has come back a much more physical player in this, his second season.
Those changes could be for the better, but the Packers still haven't shown they've got the Cullen Jenkins problem solved. He's one of the league's better inside rushers, and it would be unrealistic to think you're going to get an apple for an apple when replacing him. Those guys just don't come along all that often. However, Mike Neal showed promise in the early going, both rushing the passer and defending the run, but after just 1 preseason game, he went on the shelf with a knee injury and hasn't played since. Neal says he'll be ready for the Saints and that he'll be able to pick up right where he left off, but what's he going to say? A less partial party may have his doubts. We're not talking about a 5 or 6 six year vet, we're talking about a guy, albeit talented, with 2 regular season games on his resume. After him there's Wynn, C.J. Wilson and Howard Green, but when it comes to potential impact, Neal easily brings the most to the party.
A couple reasons to believe, a problematic position, sounds like SOP around the NFL. At the end of the football day, yours truly thinks the Packers have the talent to repeat. They're really good. It wouldn't surprise me in the least if, on a down-to-down basis, they're a better team than they were a season ago. But will they deal with the inevitable injuries as well? Will they play their best ball when it counts the most? Will they enjoy another season of outstanding chemistry? Will their star players have star player seasons? That's all yet to be determined and that's why they play the games.
The end of training camp also brings our Training Camp Report to an end. Thanks for reading.