Insider: Nelson, Benson highlight 2012 camp

Aug. 28, 2012

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Green Bay Packers receiver Jordy Nelson makes a touchdown catch against Cleveland Browns defensive back Joe Haden during their Aug. 16 preseason game at Lambeau Field. Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette


Tuesday’s 66-minute nonpadded practice was the last of 21 training camp sessions for the Packers. Here’s a look at the highs and lows from the last month:

Thumbs up

» Jordy Nelson: There wasn’t a better player day in, day out. He looked every bit like the receiver who last season caught 68 passes for 1,263 yards and 15 touchdowns — all career highs. If training camp means anything, Nelson looks to be poised for another big season.

» Tramon Williams: After a so-so 2011 season that was marred by a shoulder injury and nerve damage that limited his ability to play physical, the starting left cornerback looks back on his 2010 form. In the Packers’ Super Bowl season, he emerged as one of the top cover cornerbacks in the league and has played that way again this preseason.

» Dezman Moses: The star of the 2012 undrafted rookie free agent class, the outside linebacker from Tulane passed every test. He can rush the passer, drop into coverage and play the run. Look for him to play in some specialty defensive packages this season. He also has emerged as a capable special teams player.

» Cedric Benson: There may never have been more excitement about a running back who has only six preseason carries to his credit, but the veteran free agent looks like a strong addition to an offense that needed someone who could gain yards between the tackles. With how much the Packers spread out defenses with three and four receivers, there should be room for Benson to run in the middle of the field.

» The pass rush: After a career-low six sacks last season, Clay Matthews looks more active. Perhaps that’s because he has some reinforcements in rookies like Nick Perry, Jerel Worthy, Mike Daniels and Moses in the front seven.

Thumbs down

» Second-string offense: Maybe it’s the fault of an offensive line that, other than reserve center Evan Dietrich-Smith, might not have a capable NFL backup. Or perhaps it’s the limitations of backup quarterback Graham Harrell. It might be some combination of both. Whatever the reason, the second-string offense has been abysmal.

» Injuries: Though there was only one season-ending injury, the torn hamstring sustained by linebacker Desmond Bishop, too many practices were cut short because of a rash of injuries.

» Anthony Hargrove: The Packers were dragged into the Saints bounty-gate scandal by signing DE Hargrove, who was suspended for eight games for his role in it, and then they ended up cutting him anyway after he made little or no impact.

» James Starks: Three years into his pro career, the running back still can’t prove he can stay healthy. Given the first crack at the starting job, he sustained a turf toe injury in the preseason opener against the Chargers and hasn’t returned. Had he stayed healthy, the Packers might not have signed Benson.

» Unsettled secondary: Heading into Thursday’s preseason finale against the Kansas City Chiefs, there are three key jobs in the secondary open. While Jarrett Bush looks like a good bet to start at right cornerback, that spot still could go to Davon House if he can return from a shoulder injury. The strong safety spot in nickel and dime hasn’t been settled either. Rookie Jerron McMillian got his first extended work with the starters this week after M.D. Jennings and Anthony Levine took turns. The fourth cornerback in the dime defense also hasn’t been settled. Sam Shields will get that call against the Chiefs, but Casey Hayward could factor in there. and follow him on Twitter @RobDemovsky.

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If you've ever answered "Who has the ball?" with "It's halftime," you might recognize The Airhead. Check out the characters in our cartoon gallery of oddball fans.

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