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OTAs Will Focus On Schemes, Fundamentals


The Green Bay Packers begin a series of 12 organized team activities (OTAs) on Wednesday, and the coaching staff has primarily two goals in mind during the sessions.

First, the team will install its entire offensive and defensive packages for the 2007 season. Head Coach Mike McCarthy said that two of the nine installations were done during the May 18-20 minicamp, and the OTAs will cover the other seven, as well as include periodic reviews.

Second, the coaches want to see the players focus on individual fundamentals, such as positioning, footwork and reads-and-reactions, so the team has a solid fundamental foundation heading into training camp in late July.

"We have some young guys and good competition at a lot of positions, so the fundamental work is going to be very important," defensive coordinator Bob Sanders said. "That's how we're going to win the games, being sound fundamentally at every single position."

The 12 OTAs are scheduled for May 30-31 and June 4-7, 11-14 and 18-19. Four of them will be open to the public (weather permitting) on Ray Nitschke Field behind the Don Hutson Center. The open workouts are scheduled for May 31 and June 7, 14 and 18.

Unlike minicamp, when the offensive and defensive installations were mostly base packages, the OTAs will include all the situational packages, such as third downs, red zone, two-minute drill and the like.

This year, portions of the installations will be reviews for all the veteran players, who learned the new offensive and defensive schemes during McCarthy's first season. But there have been some alterations after a comprehensive review of 2006, making the OTAs in some ways a trial run with the tweaks and changes before training camp and the preseason games arrive.

"We'll get in everything we plan on using in the fall and get a chance to watch it on film, see how they execute it, see how it fits our players and see if we have to adjust it before training camp," offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said.

{sportsad300}With intense competition expected at several positions, player evaluations will be part of the OTAs as well, though the players will be practicing without pads. Still, there are meaningful elements the coaches look for in the non-padded workouts.

"Mentally you can get a very good handle on the guys," Philbin said. "You can see how good they are at picking up your system, how quick they are to learn. We're going to place them in all the different situations they're going to be in and see how they react under pressure, so that's all good."

Though nothing definitive is decided with the depth chart until the full-contact workouts and preseason games in August, the OTAs do give the coaching staff an idea of what to expect from players when the intensity is cranked up.

"We're looking for guys we can trust, guys that are consistent, guys that are performing at a high level - even though it's without pads - guys that have a good grasp of what we're asking them to do, and doing it on a consistent basis," Philbin said. "As we head into training camp we're going to start earmarking guys for certain personnel packages, or certain parts of our game plan where we want to feature those guys."

Striving for consistency is particularly important for the rookies, who have had just two weekends (rookie orientation and minicamp) as pro football players thus far. One who will be watched closely is running back Brandon Jackson, the second-round pick who missed the minicamp due to a league commitment but will be taking the field with the veterans for the first time.

Fans may also get their first look at first-round pick and defensive tackle Justin Harrell, who has been held out of team (11-on-11) drills thus far as he completes his recovery from a torn bicep but could be cleared for full duty sometime during the next couple of weeks.

"The guys have done a good job studying and looking at their stuff, so they're progressing," Sanders said of the rookies in general. "They understand the faster they can get up to speed and can learn what we're doing, then the better opportunity it gives them to compete. We're pleased with the way the guys have worked and hopefully they will continue that on through OTAs."

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