Mike McCarthy thought his team's performance in its first full-pads practice was "just OK," but he might be more encouraged when he looks at the tape of one-on-one drills between offensive and defensive linemen.
McCarthy referred to it as a "technique drill," not a drill intended to showcase competition, but it's difficult to downplay what was happening at the south end of Ray Nitschke Field on Saturday morning. A defense that finished last in the league in sacks per pass play in 2011 may have found in this year's draft just what it needed.
"I thought the two young guys, they bring juice, not only in their personality and their attitude but just the way they push and the activity they have in the trenches," McCarthy said of rookie defensive linemen Jerel Worthy and Mike Daniels. "I'm looking forward to watching the tape."
On Friday, it was Worthy that brought the juice to practice. On Saturday, it was Daniels, especially in the pass-rush drill.
Daniels, a short, powerful defensive lineman at 6-0, 294, was a ball of fire, physically and verbally. Against undrafted tackle Mike McCabe, Daniels was overpowering, and it resulted in McCabe sustaining a hip injury that caused him to be carted from the field.
Worthy's best effort was an inside move that left undrafted guard Don Barclay grabbing at air.
It was first-round draft pick Nick Perry, however, that was most impressive. Seventh-round pick Andrew Datko was no match for Perry on either of two tries.
Here's another rookie name: Dezman Moses. The undrafted linebacker from Tulane also flashed in the drill.
The defense traded highlight moments with the offense. Randall Cobb beat Sam Shields deep early in practice, but then Davon House intercepted a pass when Cobb fell to the ground.
Rookie cornerback Casey Hayward impressively knocked away a pass intended for Diondre Borel, but then James Jones went high above Shields and Jarrett Bush to catch a pass from Aaron Rodgers. Jones was one of the stars of Saturday's practice. Hayward also intercepted a Graham Harrell pass and returned it for what would've been a touchdown.
"Some of the drills were sloppy. The third-down work was excellent, the pressure defense was good and the perimeter people really stood out," McCarthy said.
Nearly all of the pass catchers and pass defenders had a moment or two. The Packers' young cornerbacks were especially impressive. The lone knock on the receiving corps is that it dropped passes. Cobb dropped a perfect throw by Harrell in the deep seam.
"We need to handle the football better. We feel clearly that's an area we need to improve," McCarthy said when asked about Cobb's drops. "He's a versatile guy and it's important to create schemes for your people to be able to make plays."
House continues the rise he began in the spring. His coverage skills were undeniable on Saturday. He stripped the ball from Jones' grasp following a reception.
"I definitely see a big improvement from last year. I think it's noticeable what he's done with his body. He needs to stack one good practice on another and keep competing," McCarthy said of House.
When the Packers opened in their base defense on Saturday, the secondary was manned by Bush and Tramon Williams at the corners, Charles Woodson and Morgan Burnett at the safeties, Perry and Clay Matthews at the outside linebacker spots, A.J. Hawk and D.J. Smith inside, and B.J. Raji and C.J. Wilson at the ends and Ryan Pickett at nose tackle.
Greg Jennings sat out practice with a bruised elbow. McCarthy said he's hopeful Jennings will be able to practice on Monday.
Wide receiver Shaky Smithson missed practice with a chest bruise, Jermichael Finley is still recovering from a mild concussion, and undrafted tight end Brandon Bostick was idled by a finger injury.
Travel problems kept defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove from returning to camp after being excused from Friday's work to attend to a personal matter. Related links