Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy watches Monday's training camp practice inside the Don Hutson Center. / Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette
• Did not practice: Diyral Briggs (hamstring), DE Eli Joseph (hamstring/hip flexor), G Adrian Battles (Achilles), T Chris Campbell (knee), K Mason Crosby (ankle), CB Brandon Underwood (knee), CB Davon House (hamstring), LB Cardia Jackson.
• New injuries: G/T Marshall Newhouse (shoulder), WR Brett Swain (hamstring).
• Returned from injury: LB Clay Matthews, CB Charles Woodson, TE Jermichael Finley, WR Greg Jennings, CB Tramon Williams, DE Lawrence Guy
Mike McCarthy was not a happy coach Monday night. The Packers offense was not impressive during a two-hour, 27-minute practice that featured three fumbles and at least one dropped touchdown pass.
“Ball on the ground, that’s unacceptable,” McCarthy said. “That was not a very good practice at all from a fundamental standpoint. You have some tough looks, especially against our defense.
“But I did not like the fundamentals, particularly the ball security of the offense tonight. It was poor.”
The running backs were the culprits when it came to the fumbles. James Starks put two on the ground, though one came on an awkward exchange from quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Ryan Grant was stripped coming through the hole late in the session.
Another blatant miscue came when Jermichael Finley ran an inside slant deep in the red zone and was wide open when a perfect Rodgers pass smacked off his hands.
All of those instances came during team periods. Alex Green fumbled during a ball-security drill.
McCarthy was asked about the depth of the offense, even on a bad day, during his post-practice meeting with the media.
“We look great on paper,” McCarthy said. “But we’re not close to where we need to be as a football team. … I’m not going to throw out any bouquets tonight.
“Yes, we’re very talented. We’ve got players that have done a lot here in the past. It’s exciting when you can put that many skill position players on the field. But the reality is if you don’t take care of the football, and you don’t take the football away, if you don’t tackle, break tackles, don’t make blocks, don’t get off blocks, don’t handle the adjustments that the defense gives you … it doesn’t make for very fundamental football. We have to step it up in the area of fundamentals.”
An obviously irritated McCarthy wasn’t done. He cut off a question about the running backs that assumed he was mad about the fumbles.
“I’m not mad,” McCarthy said. “It’s just the reality of where we are. It’s about opportunities. Tight ends went through it last week. … We’re not tapping the running back position out as far as the reps, but you’ve got to hold onto the ball. I don’t care who it is. Everybody’s fighting for a job with a lot less opportunities. We don’t have as many practices this year as we’ve had in the past. It’s important for everybody to mentally tighten it down.
“We’ve had more mental errors this year than we’ve had in the past. That’s probably true around the league, but we don’t really care about the league. We have a standard here.”
Time to make a mark
There may not be a better time for T.J. Lang to make an impression on the Green Bay Packers. There’s an open job at left guard with the free agent departure of Daryn Colledge and Lang, arguably, is the best returning interior lineman that didn’t start in 2010.
Lang is competing with first-round draft pick Derek Sherrod and Nick McDonald for the spot. Sherrod was drafted to be the tackle of the future. McDonald is in his second year as an undrafted free agent and was inactive for all 16 games last season. Lang, a third year player, has the most experience of the trio with three starts in 2009 and 12 games played in 2010. He will enter the final year of his contract in 2012 and the next deal could be affected by the impact he has this season.
Lang hadn’t spent much time at left guard before camp, but doesn’t see that as a problem.
“I think I’ve had enough snaps the last two years, I’m comfortable when I go out there,” Lang said. “I don’t feel I’m being thrown into the water like I was a couple games my rookie year.
“When it does come time, I’m poised, I’m ready to take over and I feel comfortable. I’m confident I can get the job done.”
Lang has received most of his practice reps with the second-team offense while Sherrod has been with the 1s. Sherrod has often slid to tackle when Lang comes in as McDonald gets second-team center snaps. Part of that rotation schedule is to get Sherrod caught up after the lockout erased all team-organized summer workouts.
“It’s a short camp this year with the missed OTAs and all that,” Lang said. “You really have to make every rep and every practice count. You can’t have a bad practice. It’ll hurt you too much.
“The big evaluation will be when we start getting into these preseason games. With Cleveland coming up, that’s going to be a huge step for me to take. You can tell a lot by practice, but once you get into the games it’s a whole different atmosphere and environment.”
The first impression is Sherrod leads the competition since he’s taken the No. 1 reps since camp began, but the competition is open. But Lang does think those team reps against the No. 1 defense carries more weight.
“If I’m going against B.J. (Raji) every single snap, that’s definitely going to be a challenge,” Lang said. “Not dissing any of the other guys, but B.J.’s a stud player over there. To get a chance to go against him or Ryan Pickett or Mike Neal … when you go against guys like that there is something in the back of your mind, you do want to prove a point by beating them as well.”
Same goal, different strategy
The Philadelphia Eagles have been anointed the clear-cut winners of the 2011 free agency period with the additions of cornerback Nnamdi Asomouga, defensive end Cullen Jenkins, running back Ronnie Brown and defensive end Jason Babin. The team also traded quarterback Kevin Kolb for cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a second round draft pick.
Several news outlets have labeled the Eagles the NFC favorite to reach the Super Bowl.
The Packers, meanwhile, sat back as defending champs and declined to sign a single free agent outside of their own.
The contrast in philosophies couldn’t be more different. Packers general manager Ted Thompson lives and dies by “draft and develop.” Eagles coach Andy Reid and GM Howie Roseman went the “hired gun” route.
“On paper I guess they’re a dream team,” Packers linebacker Desmond Bishop said. “You definitely have to go out on the field and make it happen. We’ll see. At the end of the day … it’s a total team thing.
“You watch and we want to know where guys are going and who got who. We watch ESPN. It’s interesting to see how everything unfolds. But I think I can speak for everybody in here, the guys we have in here, we wouldn’t trade them for anybody. It is what it is.”
Bishop was asked if all the Eagles and free agency talk lessened some of the pressure on the Packers, who would normally receive a larger share of national attention during their quest to repeat.
“That’s a good observation, I didn’t really think of it like that,” Bishop said. “Anyway you can eliminate distractions … could be a good thing.”
On and on
The competition for the right outside linebacker position continues with Frank Zombo, Erik Walden and Brad Jones in the rotation. They have switched No. 1 reps each day throughout the first seven practices, including Family Night.
There hasn’t been an obvious leader and the coaching staff hasn’t hinted at one.
“It’s definitely great to have competition but I feel at the end of the day the best man will prevail,” Walden said. “I feel like that’s me. I’m just working hard. Just doing what I can do to allow myself to be successful.”
Defensive coordinator Dom Capers said all three will likely play during the season, but that’s not what Walden wants to hear.
“Being the greedy guy I am, I don’t want it like that,” Walden said. “I’m doing everything in my ability to conquer the spot and just allow me to go out and make players.”
Kicker Mason Crosby has an ankle sprain and will be monitored the rest of the week. He dressed, but did not kick. Defensive back Brandon Underwood suffered a knee sprain during the Family Night scrimmage and McCarthy said he will be out a couple weeks.
Guard/tackle Marshall Newhouse suffered a shoulder sprain during practice and receiver Brett Swain left with a hamstring injury.
kcopeland@greenbaypressgazette and follow on Twitter @kareemcopeland