Thumbs up: Davon House’s rookie season essentially went to waste last year, with his training camp marred by an ankle injury that put him behind during an already frenzied post-lockout camp. But on Saturday, the Packers second-year cornerback did exactly what a player is supposed to do when trying to make an impression: He got limited opportunities, and made the most of them. After Sam Shields, who is already behind Jarrett Bush in the competition for the third cornerback spot, gave up a few long plays, the coaches inserted House with the No. 1 dime defense as the fourth cornerback. On his very first play, he knocked an Aaron Rodgers pass out of James Jones’ hands; later, when Jones was stripped, House was there to scoop up the fumble. House didn’t do much of note during OTAs or minicamp, but on the first day of full pads, he showed up. “I feel like everyone's good without pads and real men show up when the pads are on,” House said.
“It’s a little early, but I definitely see a big improvement from last year. He’s definitely more comfortable,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “Davon’s actually done an excellent job in the offseason. I think it’s noticeable to everybody what he’s done with his body. His conditioning and strength has really improved and he’s utilizing it on the practice field. I think it’s a perfect example of a young man that needs to stack practices one after another, and keep playing with confidence and keep competing.”
Thumbs down: McCarthy was less than thrilled with the performance of his team in its first practice in pads. The day had been hyped up – not that McCarthy’s much for hype – because it’s as close to “real football” as practice gets, and McCarthy’s lukewarm review after practice quickly got more and more negative. Had Saturday’s practice been a movie, you initially would have considered seeing it in the theater, then not even wanted to put it in your NetFlix queue, and then maybe gone to it at the budget cineplex. “I thought it was just OK,” McCarthy replied when asked how he thought the practice went. “It looked like a group just trying to get used to the pads. I thought our leverage was up and down. The tempo and distortion that you usually have in your first padded practice sometimes, I thought some of the drills were sloppy, so definitely some things we need to clean up. I thought the third-down work was excellent. I thought the pressure defense was very good. I thought the offensive protection really had some really good pickups. The route adjustments from the quarterback throws and catches between the perimeter group I thought really stood out, so a lot of good things. It’s the process of training camp and that’s how it usually goes.”
Play of the day: At the end of the offseason OTAs and minicamp, cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt said of rookie second-round pick Casey Hayward: “The thing that you really notice about him is, he doesn’t give up plays. Now, he hasn’t made any plays, but he hasn’t given up any plays. So I thought he would have his hands on a couple more balls, but he hasn’t given up any plays either.” Well, the cornerback from Vanderbilt has made plays the last two days. On Saturday, he jumped a slant pass from Graham Harrell intended for Diondre Borel and picked it off, his second interception in as many days.
Camp confidential: It’s arguably the most-watched drill (excluding 11-on-11 team periods) of practice: Offensive linemen battling defensive linemen/outside linebackers in 1-on-1 pass blocking/pass rush drills. With the arrival of Saturday’s full pads practice, the stuff got real. It’s certainly a mano-a-mano battle worth watching, and some observers even keep won-lost records for each player. “To me it’s a teaching technique drill,” McCarthy said. “I know historically from your standpoint (as reporters), some people like to look at it as a competitive drill, I don’t view it that way. It’s a technique and teaching drill. ... It’s great teaching tape, it’s great tape for the individuals to focus on their footwork, hand placement, triple extension and things that are all necessary in pass blocking and the other side of it with the pass rush.” One player who usually fares well in the W-L columns is outside linebacker Clay Matthews, but he echoed McCarthy, saying, “The first thing you have to understand is it’s a teaching (drill). For me personally, I’m not worried about the wins and losses. I’m more so worried about my technique and things to get better at. I might go in there and go 0 for 10 one day but I might pick something up and learn something that’s going to help me out. It is one on ones so you’re going to be competitive, yet at the same time you need to individually take something away from it.”
Injury report: In the first significant injury to occur during a practice, rookie tackle Mike McCabe, an undrafted free agent from Holy Cross, suffered what McCarthy said was a hip injury during 1-on-1 pass-blocking drills. He had to be carted from the field. Sitting out for the first time were WR Greg Jennings (elbow bruise), WR/KR Shaky Smithson (chest bruise) and TE Brandon Bostick (finger), all of whom were apparently injured in practice Friday. TE Jermichael Finley (concussion) was still going through the requisite testing protocols and did not practice. DE Anthony Hargrove (personal matter) ran into travel problems Friday night but was in the locker room after practice. The seven players who failed their physicals remained sidelined: ILB Desmond Bishop (calf), G Jaymes Brooks (hamstring), DE Johnny Jones (knee), FB John Kuhn (knee), TE Andrew Quarless (knee), OT Derek Sherrod (leg) and OLB Frank Zombo (hamstring).
Practice schedule: The Packers are off Sunday. They’ll return to practice in full pads on Monday at 8:15 a.m. at Ray Nitschke Field, weather permitting.
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