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Position battles heat up as Packers enter final stretch of camp

What's the difference between a first- and second-year player?


Patrick from Ashland, WI

On the roster on the website, some 2015 draft picks are listed with one year experience, while others are listed with two. How does that work?

A first-year player is someone who no longer is a rookie, but doesn't have an accredited NFL season. For example, 2015 sixth-round pick Christian Ringo is labeled as a first-year defensive lineman because he spent all of last season on the practice squad. A second-year player is someone who met the minimum requirement of games played to have at least one accrued season under his belt. Good question.

Don from Aurora, CO

I know the Packers have a loaded and respected coaching staff, but Joe Whitt in particular always jumps out at me. Dude seems like he's got head coach written all over him. What can you tell us about Coach Whitt, and what do you think about his prospects as a coordinator or head coach?

I don't know everything that goes into being a successful head coach or coordinator, but Joe Whitt has all the qualities I would look for. He has an excellent track record for developing cornerbacks regardless of whether it's a first-round pick like Damarious Randall or former undrafted such as free agents Sam Shields and Tramon Williams. It speaks volumes how Whitt also earned the respect and praise of Charles Woodson despite actually being younger than the future Pro Football Hall of Famer. On a personal level, I've always appreciated Whitt's honesty in his evaluations of players.

Zach from Crystal Lake, IL

Gents, do you think McCarthy saying JC has earned the starting job means Linsley's injury might be worse than thought? Not to take away from JC's performance in camp this year, but it has always seemed that Linsley is the more athletic and powerful of the two. I love JC's ability to fill anywhere as a sixth man and his overall intelligence, but I worry that a big zero- or one-technique will overpower him.

After sitting out of the latter half of the offseason program, Linsley told reporters Tuesday that he aggravated the hamstring last month in preparation for training camp. It's a tough break for Linsley. At the same time, the Packers are fortunate to have Tretter in their back pocket. He's been a jack-of-all-trades reserve who could start in a lot of NFL cities. You're right about Linsley being larger, but Tretter is more than capable. He's an intelligent lineman who can hold his own against NFL interior defensive behemoths. He's faced some good ones here in Green Bay this summer in Letroy Guion, Mike Daniels and Kenny Clark.

Caleb from Eau Claire, WI

Guys, are centers typically specialized, or do they train at other positions on the line, as tackles and guards do? Guys like JC Tretter are incredibly valuable, and we can only hope Linsley has similar versatility.

Linsley has worked strictly at center during his three seasons in Green Bay to the best of my knowledge. Off the top of my head, I cannot remember if he worked at guard at all before Tretter's knee injury in 2014. That's not to say he couldn't play there, but there really hasn't been any reason to slide him from center the past two seasons. He needs to get healthy first. Then, we can talk about scenarios.

Richard from De Pere, WI

It seems like every time Crockett plays it is behind the second or third offensive line and he does really well. Why not see what he could do behind the first-string line?

It's a number game. The starting offensive line is only going to play a series or two, so you want those reps to be with Eddie Lacy and James Starks. Barring injury, it's difficult for third-string running backs to get on the field during the regular season. That's why it's critical for Crockett, Brandon Burks and Brandon Ross to show what they can do now behind the reserve offensive line.

Jim from Fargo, ND

As a big Packers fan, as well as a North Dakota State alum, I purchased a John Crockett jersey. To me he's looked great in the preseason games. How has he looked day-to-day in practice? Is my investment safe, or do I own a jersey for someone who might end up as a waiver claim by another team?

It's a close competition, but I really was impressed by what Crockett did in the second half against the Raiders. After having only one carry for minus-1 yard in the first half, Crockett bounced back with five carries for 27 yards with a 10-yard touchdown run after halftime. He plays with a lot of energy. Now, he just needs to put it all together on third down. The battle looks to be going down to the wire.

Chas from Rockford, IL

Hi guys, everybody talks about the logjam at WR. I believe there is a bigger jam at LB. There looks to be 11 or 12 guys that can make the team at LB? Your thoughts?

The linebacker competition has been very competitive, particularly inside with Carl Bradford and Joe Thomas battling for the No. 4 job. Both linebackers have made significant strides this preseason. Bradford, the former fourth-round pick, is playing faster and looks to have his confidence back. The outside is also tight with Jayrone Elliott, Kyler Fackrell and Lerentee McCray competing for playing time behind Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers, Nick Perry and Datone Jones. It's definitely something to watch over the next two weeks.

Dan from Houston, TX

Thinking about the difference between practice and games, could Bradford's jump be seen earlier in the offseason or is it just noticeable in a real game?

I think we've really seen it come out in the preseason. He's constantly been around the ball and just seems so much more sudden when he closes on the ball carrier. You have to credit the Packers for seeing his development all the way through and Bradford for making the necessary changes in his approach to turn a corner in his game. He's driven to prove that he's worthy of his fourth-round selection two years ago.

Will from Oakland, CA

I'm going to Friday's game at Levi's Stadium. I really want to watch the new developing players' individual performances. Every time I try isolating a player on I wind up gravitating to where the ball is because I'm so conditioned to not wanting to miss the action. It's a very hard habit to break: Do you have any tips for watching individual performances while dealing with fear of missing out on the action? Thanks.

You picked a good game because this probably will be the most (and likely last) work the Packers' veterans get in the preseason. My best advice is to jot down five players on each side of the ball that you want to watch. Everyone wants to follow the football because that's where the action is, but it's sometimes even more rewarding to see the game within the game, especially in the preseason. Enjoy the game.

Juan from San Antonio, TX

This column has always written that players make the largest jump in their game in Year 2. With all the time Jake Ryan has missed this year, what do you feel will be affect most in his development?

Ryan hasn't missed that much time. He sat out about 1½ weeks with the hamstring before returning this week in a limited capacity. Hamstrings are tricky and the Packers want to be smart. Once Ryan is healthy, I am curious how they structure the snaps inside with Blake Martinez handling dime responsibilities at the moment and Sam Barrington now back in the mix in base and nickel.

Joseph from East Moline, IL

Wes, when drafting in fantasy football, are you a BAP drafter or team need drafter?

Best player available and don't draft a defense or kicker until the final two rounds. Ever. I generally prefer to draft young. It leads to some misses, but it also enables you to find the diamonds in the rough (Willie Parker in 2004, Larry Johnson in 2005, Darren McFadden in 2010, Todd Gurley last year, etc.).

Ben from Nampa, ID

Been hearing a great deal about Jared Cook but have not heard much about Richard Rodgers. Is RR being overshadowed?

It's only natural for Cook to grab the early headlines. He's the highest profile offensive free agent the Packers have signed since Jeff Saturday in 2012. Still, I think Rodgers quietly has had a nice camp. He showed a lot of commitment in dropping more than 15 pounds this offseason. So far, you can tell he's more explosive out of his breaks and it should help him in the long run.

Travis from Superior, WI

Hod, who hits harder, the ILBs or the OLBs?

That's hard to say. I guess I'd go with the inside linebackers based on the nature of the position. For example, I wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of one of Sam Barrington's hits. He had one play in practice on Tuesday where he tried to decelerate when closing on Burks in the flat and still wound up knocking him down. He hits hard, but they all do.

Brett from Green Bay, WI

How did Kyle Murphy hold up in his first NFL game?

I thought he performed well considering**he had one day of practice and frequently sparred with Bruce Irvin**. There's a lot of natural ability there. Don't forget he was a blue-chip recruit at Stanford. Pad level can be an issue for 6-foot-6 linemen, but Murphy seems to have good balance and footwork. We'll have to see what happens in the last two preseason games, but I've liked what I've seen so far.

Greg from Danbury, CT

I can think of only one preseason stat that could predict regular-season success: Number of season-ending injuries. It's a negative correlation.


Jordan from Milwaukee, WI

Wes, I tried finding you on Twitter but your last name is too hard to spell. You should probably just change your Twitter name to Biff and make it easier to find.

I'm a man of the people. That's why I try to make it easy for them: @WesHod. Plus, @Biff was already taken.

Matt from East Troy, WI

Insiders, in your opinion, is it better to watch the games on TV with the radio broadcast?

I'm biased, but any excuse to listen to Larry is a good excuse. I sure hope every Packer fan enjoys the Rock while he or she can. He's an absolute legend and tremendous ambassador for the Green Bay Packers. It's an honor to work with him.

Joe from Milwaukee, WI

What do you prefer, a crisp fall afternoon game with a view of all the changing trees, or a winter wonderland game played in December with blanketing snowfall?

No better season than fall in northeast Wisconsin, especially with football on a Sunday afternoon.

Bryden from Centerburg, Ohio

I just have one question, when is Aaron Rodgers going to play?

Get your popcorn ready.

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