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Packers insider: Thumbs up to Barclay; Thumbs down to Johnson, Dorsey

Jul. 27, 2013
 

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Green Bay Packers running back Johnathan Franklin fields a punt during training camp practice Saturday at Ray Nitschke Field / H. Marc Larson/Press-Gazette Media

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Thumbs up

In a rare chance at center with the No. 1 offense in team drills on Saturday, Don Barclay botched the exchange with quarterback Aaron Rodgers on back-to-back snaps. A missed exchange is the most cardinal of sins and a rarity, especially with the starters. Back-to-back is unthinkable. So how can Barclay be the “thumbs up” and not “thumbs down?” Well, for starters, coach Mike McCarthy took much of the responsibility as play scripter. The call, a wide stretch run to the right, is maybe the most difficult play for a center in this offense because he has to reach-block to the far shoulder of the defensive tackle, which requires snapping the ball and jumping to his right in one motion. Barclay began working as a center only this offseason, and McCarthy said he shouldn’t have had him run that play in 11-on-11 on Day 2 of camp. “That particular (move) is something that takes reps,” McCarthy said. Also, Barclay this offseason is making himself into an extremely valuable lineman. He played credibly enough in six starts at right tackle last season to be a strong contender for the starting job at right tackle this year. He showed in camp last season he can play guard, and now he’s getting extensive work at center besides all the regular snaps at right tackle in competition with Marshall Newhouse for the starting job. McCarthy usually suits up only seven offensive linemen on game day, so even if Barclay isn’t the starter at right tackle, he’ll be invaluable on game day if by the end of camp he’s a viable center. Then he can back up at least three positions. “We think Don Barclay’s a heck of a football player,” McCarthy said.

Thumbs down

The Packers spent two seventh-round draft picks on size-speed prospects at receiver, but after three months the team still doesn’t have much idea what it has in either Charles Johnson or Kevin Dorsey. Both sustained injuries in the rookie minicamp — Johnson’s hamstring, Dorsey’s foot — that prevented them from practicing the rest of the offseason. Then on Saturday, the second day of training camp, each sustained an injury of unknown severity that prevented him from returning to practice. Johnson injured his knee and was scheduled for an MRI exam to determine the severity. Dorsey pulled out of practice with a lower leg injury, though it was unclear whether he’d aggravated the offseason foot injury. The two are interesting prospects, especially Johnson, who has a great combination of size (6-2˝, 215 pounds) and athletic ability (a 40 time of between 4.35 and 4.40 seconds, and a 39˝-inch vertical jump). But their chances of being anything more than practice-squad prospects will diminish quickly if they miss too much valuable practice time the first couple weeks of camp.

Did you notice?

■ Tramon Williams made one of Saturday’s most impressive plays when he knocked away an apparent touchdown pass from Rodgers to Jordy Nelson. On a play from the defense’s 31, Rodgers had scrambled to his right, spotted Nelson behind the defense and lofted a throw on the run. But Williams recovered and used his exceptional leaping ability (40˝ inches coming out of college) to knock the ball away. “I actually was in a Cover 2, so I was under the receiver,” Williams said. “Once (Rodgers) kind of breaks the pocket, you try to find a receiver. The safety probably went to find somebody himself, kind of left (Nelson) open back there. I kind of felt it, and I just sunk some back there. When a quarterback throws to the end zone, you want him to go over your head, you don’t want him to go underneath.”

■ Rookie Johnathan Franklin looked fine catching a lone punt in traffic on Friday, but on Saturday he looked shakier catching punt after punt as the lone return man during a punt-coverage drill. Franklin didn’t do any returning in games at UCLA but practiced there regularly. Jeremy Ross is the front-runner for replacing Randall Cobb, whom the Packers would like to take off return duties.

pdougher@pressgazettemedia.com and follow him on Twitter @PeteDougherty.

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