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Insider: Rookie Datko improves after slow start to camp

Aug. 11, 2012
 

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Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers, left, and defensive end Jerel Worthy (99) look on during training camp practice at Ray Nitschke Field on Saturday. Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette

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Andrew Datko might be proving to be the perfect example of why a player shouldn’t be written off early in camp.

After struggling through the first week or so of practice, the rookie seventh-round pick has made significant strides — so much so that the Packers decided to give him some of the left tackle reps with the starting offensive line.

With starter Marshall Newhouse still sidelined because of the concussion he sustained in the Family Night scrimmage on Aug. 3, Datko and Herb Taylor split the starting reps for the first time. Taylor typically took the first two snaps in each period, and then Datko got the next two.

Previously, Taylor had taken all the practice snaps with the No. 1 offense since Newhouse’s injury and also started Thursday’s preseason opener at San Diego. The combination of Taylor’s struggles in the game — he had holding penalty and allowed a sack — and Datko’s rapid improvement probably precipitated the change.

Though it was hard to gauge Datko’s work in 11-on-11 team periods because he was going against the scout team defense, he had one of his best showings in the one-on-one pass blocking/pass rushing drill.

He took two reps against defensive ends Mike Neal and Jarius Wynn and handled them both. Datko got off to a slow start in that drill, losing five of his first eight reps to start camp, but since then he has gone 12-8 to push his training camp record to 15-13.

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With 21 injured players sitting out and another practice just 16 hours away, coach Mike McCarthy put his team through another short practice. He ended the workout after just one hour and 35 minutes of action, making it the shortest practice of camp by nine minutes.

It’s second straight practice he had to go short. The Packers practiced for just one hour and 44 minutes last Tuesday, their final practice before the preseason opener at San Diego. On that night, the Packers had 17 injured players.

On Saturday, the Packers were limited to just two running backs (Alex Green and Marc Tyler), two fullbacks (John Kuhn and Nic Cooper) and four tight ends (Tom Crabtree, D.J. Williams, Brandon Bostick and DeMarco Cosby). Plus, Green was on a rep count while coming back from last season’s reconstructive knee surgery, so the Packers were especially thin at halfback.

“This is probably the highest number of injuries we’ve had in camp, and we’ve just got to be smart with our team, particularly the running back and tight end positions,” coach Mike McCarthy said.

Did you notice?

• Other than seeing who lines up with each unit, little can be gained from the team periods now that the No. 1s don’t face each other anymore. The starting offense goes against a scout-team defense and vice versa. What used to be the most spirited periods of camp are now virtually non-competitive.

• Rookie second-round draft pick Casey Hayward became the third player to work with the No. 1 defense at right cornerback this camp following Jarrett Bush and Davon House. Bush opened camp there but House was probably the favorite for that spot until he injured his left shoulder against the Chargers.

• Recently signed free agent offensive lineman Reggie Wells was not in pads but took some snaps at left tackle during the jog-through period.

• Saturday was the final night practice of training camp. The schedule shifts to 11:15 a.m. practices the rest of this week leading up to the first home preseason game against Cleveland on Thursday.

rdemovsk@greenbaypressgazette.com and follow him on Twitter @RobDemovsky.

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