The story from the first night of padded practice was the Packersí top two draft picks: first-rounder Derek Sherrod because of the adjustments he has to make moving from tackle to guard, and second-rounder Randall Cobb and his play-making at receiver in team drills.
Sherrod is working at left guard with the No. 1 offense and looks like a viable starter, but he has to adjust to the speed of the position and looks far more comfortable on his occasional snaps at left tackle.
Sherrod says heís never played guard, and you can see it. He plays high. His bucket step was really big, and heís got to be quicker and have some suddenness. If you watch right guard Josh Sitton, heís more compact and ready to go right now.
The game is quicker in the NFL, thereís no doubt about that. Sherrod got beat a couple times off the outside: Sixth-round pick Ricky Elmore beat him one time at left tackle in one-on-one pass rushing, and nose tackle B.J. Raji pushed him around quite a bit when he was at guard. A couple times against Raji, he stepped back and waited like a tackle would, and Rajiís in his mouth.
The speed of the game is going to come. The other thing, with not having any offseason practices, the rookies have to learn a lot faster. If this were a normal year Sherrod would have had a lot more reps, heíd understand where he needs to be. It looks like theyíre coaching on the fly.
In the running game Sherrod was OK. He wasnít blowing anybody around but I think heís a good option. His long body will help him get to the linebackers and clean up some of that back-side pursuit thatís been kind of their problem over the years. But the initial punch, he didnít look ready. Guards in pass blocking have to really sit down and deliver a blow. He was accepting the blow rather than delivering it. The guy he was going against a lot of the time, Raji, is pretty good, too.
For the long term, Sherrod looks much more like a left tackle. Heís got long arms, long legs, a decent bend in his knees -- but not like a guard needs. At tackle, he looked smoother, his body position was better. When you have those speed rushers, those long arms are key. Once he gets his hand placement down, heíll be OK. On that play Elmore beat him outside, if he got his hands on Elmoreís shoulder and extended his arms, he probably would have been OK. Just the little things he has to improve.
Itís going to be interesting to see how fast he progresses. They say heís a smart kid. His feet look good, he just needs to sit down more, thatís the biggest thing. Let íem come to you when heís playing tackle, and attack more when heís at guard.
As for Cobb, he stood out, flashed playmaking talent. He looks quick, and he can catch the ball and come down on two feet and run instantly. His speed and fluidness are impressive. He ran the 40 in 4.46 seconds at the scouting combine, but he looks faster than that. He didnít drop any passes I saw. I didnít watch every drill, but in team drills he didnít drop anything. He was able to turn and come in and out of breaks fast, which is the most important thing.
Receiver is one of the hardest positions to play coming out of college ó quarterback, offensive line and receiver are the toughest. It will get tougher for Cobb when they start playing games and he has to read safeties and coverages. Heíll probably have to start out as a return guy and go from there.
D.J. Smith a fireplug
Sixth-round pick D.J. Smith physically looked like Sam Mills out there. Mills, who had an outstanding 12-year career in the NFL, was really short for a linebacker at 5-foot-9. Smith isnít quite that small, but heís only 5-10 1/4. Still, he showed a little something.
He ran the 40 in only 4.75 seconds, so heís not fast for a small linebacker, but heís quick, plays very low to the ground. His pads are so low itís hard for a center or guard to get him. He has to be a little more physical and take on blocks so he doesnít overrun plays. There was one play where halfback James Starks ran an outside zone, Smith was there to make the play and he overran it, and he knew it. He just needs to get a little more physical and not run around blocks all the time, or teams are going to wait for him to run around the block and then the back will go behind him. I think heís viable.
Elmore has plenty to learn
Elmoreís transition from college defensive end to 3-4 standup outside linebacker might take a little while. On the line of scrimmage taking on a tight end he does pretty well, because thatís what heís used to. When he plays over space, his hips look a little stiff, and he doesnít look confident going back in pass coverage, just doesnít look very fluid. Brad Jones or Clay Matthews, when they drop in coverage they sink their hips and theyíre going. Elmore looks like heís thinking too much. Rushing the passer, that was his forte in college, and he looks all right there.
Ľ The rookies had no offseason practices because of the NFL lockout, and it shows. Defensive end Lawrence Guy, a seventh-round pick, the poor guy is getting reamed by the coaches the entire practice. Thereís definitely a difference between the guys that have been there and the new guys. The speed theyíre working at is completely different.
Ľ Second-year tackle Marshall Newhouse looks like he has a little mean streak. In one-on-one pass rush drills he has a little something inside that mask, heís a little angry. Didnít expect that, didnít think he was very good last year, but he made some big strides.
Ľ Another rookie that stood out was fifth-round pick D.J. Williams, the tight end from Arkansas. He was catching the ball when they werenít in pads, but you worry a little when they put the pads on because the range of motion changes and theyíre carrying a little extra weight, so coming in and out of cuts can be a little different. But I thought he did a nice job, has some real nice hands.
Green Bay Press-Gazette correspondent Eric Baranczyk played football at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and later served as an assistant coach. He will provide periodic evaluations of the Packers during training camp.