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House one of stars of spring

Posted Jun 11, 2012


Never draw conclusions from OTAs or minicamp. Repeat that three times before continuing to read.

Now that proper perspective has been achieved, which is to say we will succumb to neither excitement nor worry as we head into this week’s spring-ending, three-day minicamp, let’s make some observations about the “Underwear League,” better known as the spring practice season.

If we were to name an MVP, second-year cornerback Davon House might be that player. House has flashed impressive coverage skills in each of the three OTAs practices that have been open to the media and fans.

A fourth-round pick a year ago, House came to the Packers following a college season that was dogged by a significant ankle injury that kept him in a protective boot each week until game day. Just as he appeared to be making gains in last summer’s training camp, House went down with a significant hamstring injury that pretty much ended whatever chance he had of making a move on playing time.

House dedicated himself to a disciplined conditioning regimen through the winter, and it’s already paying dividends. OTAs, as Mike McCarthy has said, are best for evaluating movement skills, and House’s movement skills are noticeably improved.

His play of the spring is a break-on-the-ball beauty in which he broke up a pass for wide receiver Diondre Borel as Borel worked back toward the quarterback. Forcing a receiver to come back for the ball is victory alone for a defensive back, but House was explosive enough to close on the ball and knock it from Borel’s grasp.

Another memorable play of the spring belongs to third-year cornerback Sam Shields, who ran step for step with Jordy Nelson on a deep ball, and then jumped to intercept the pass at the goal line. That kind of play-the-ball-in-the-air skill isn’t something you can teach. It’s a natural skill that cries out for playing time and continued development.

The defensive backs overall might have been the most impressive group in OTAs. Of course, the “Underwear League” is made for movement players, so it usually follows that the “Boys of Spring” are likely to be wide receivers and defensive backs. This column gives the nod to the DBs.

Second-year safety M.D. Jennings has put himself into position to contend for playing time. In fact, the young defensive backs as a whole have played impressively enough to demand every opportunity to compete for jobs in a secondary that was last in the league last season.

Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers is determined to fix a defensive ranking that is the only stain on his resume, and a decidedly more athletic group of defensive linemen and linebackers, combined with the young defensive backs, offer Capers hope.

Offensively, neither Aaron Rodgers nor his receivers have been at the test this spring. Rodgers and company are the heart and soul of this football team and need to prove nothing.

Graham Harrell has been under the microscope in his quest to establish himself as the Packers’ backup quarterback, and Harrell can take that distinction into training camp with a solid minicamp performance this week. Harrell’s passes have been as sharp as his command of the offense.

The “Underwear League” is not a stage on which linemen star, but the Packers’ cast of young offensive linemen is offering a strong sense of security at a place of traditional worry. You can never have enough big guys, the saying goes. The Packers, however, have several young big guys who have a down-the-road look to them.

Derek Sherrod might hold the key to feeling good about the offensive line. Sherrod was sidelined during OTAs as he continues his recovery from a late-season broken leg, but McCarthy maintains that Sherrod will be ready to go full tilt in training camp and, should that be the case and Sherrod makes a full recovery, depth concerns at tackle will be eased.

T.J. Lang has clearly established himself as a quality starting guard, along with Josh Sitton, and Evan Dietrich-Smith has the look of a guy who wants to push for playing time at one of the three inside spots.

What about running back? That appears to be the question on everybody’s lips. Are the Packers content with what they have, which is to say James Starks, Alex Green and Brandon Saine? McCarthy says he views running back as a position of depth.

Starks has shown flashes of brilliance through the first two years of his career. He needs to stay healthy and develop consistency. Green is recovering from a midseason ACL and hasn’t participated in practices. Will he make it all the way back in training camp? McCarthy referred to Saine as potentially the most consistent of the Packers’ backs. Might Saine, an undrafted player last year, come out of nowhere to seize the starting job?

Never draw conclusions from OTAs or minicamp. Take it all with the proverbial grain of salt.

 
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