Tight end Jake Stoneburner, left, and linebacker Andy Mulumba go at each other during Sunday's training camp practice. / H. Marc Larson/Press-Gazette Media
The Packers drafted Datone Jones at No. 26 overall in part to improve their inside pass rush, but a returning player on their roster also might help them there. Mike Daniels, a fourth-round draft pick last year, lacks the length (6 feet, 294 pounds) to be more than a backup in the base 3-4 defense, but he flashed some inside pass-rush ability last year and might be one of those players who makes a significant jump in his second NFL season. In the first padded practice of camp Sunday, Daniels started well in one-on-one pass-rushing drills. He won both of his reps, the first when his bull rush quickly pushed starting center Evan Dietrich-Smith back to the quarterback marker, and the second when he crashed past rookie guard Lane Taylor for what would have been a clean shot at the quarterback. In the final, no-huddle period of practice, Daniels paired with Jones as the two inside rushers in the No. 1 nickel defense. B.J. Raji normally is in that role, so the Packers are giving Daniels a good look early in camp. Last year, Daniels’ 225 defensive snaps ranked only sixth among the team’s defensive linemen. He had two sacks and arguably showed more pass-rush ability than second-round pick Jerel Worthy, who had 2½ sacks in twice as many snaps (452). Maybe Daniels will earn himself a bigger role this year.
The first padded practice produced at least three scrums/fights between defensive and offensive players, and coach Mike McCarthy in some ways probably was fine with that. After practicing without pads all offseason and the first two days of camp, many players are bursting to hit, and coaches want a tough, aggressive, mean team. But it can be a fine line. Scrums risk injury and waste time. And if a team regularly has days like Sunday, it probably has a discipline problem that will carry over to game day. Regular observers of Detroit Lions camp in recent years say these types of fights are routine, and while that’s produced an aggressive Lions defense, it’s also led to costly after-whistle penalty problems under coach Jim Schwartz. “I thought the adrenaline was very high and I thought the discipline level was very low,” McCarthy said of practice. “And I think you get into that usually when you put the pads on for the first time. So it was great to get that competitive environment established. I thought they definitely practiced with an edge. We had too much extracurricular activities going on.” McCarthy’s history strongly suggests this won’t be a long-term issue, but Sunday was as hot-blooded a practice as the Packers have had in his eight seasons as coach.
Did you notice?
■ The NFL this season is mandating that players wear knee and thigh pads in games, so McCarthy is forcing his team to practice with them when wearing full pads. Most receivers and defensive backs had stopped using the pads, in large part because of fashion and also because they feel restrictive. Seventh-year pro James Jones hadn’t worn them since he was in college. “You see those pads on your legs, it messes up your uniform a little bit, has you looking like the video game a little bit out there,” Jones said. “This is professional. (Not wearing them) makes you feel a little bit lighter. I don’t know if you are lighter, but it makes you feel lighter with (no pads) in your pants. You go out there, you put your tights on, you feel like you’re running out there in stretch pants.”
■ Rookie receiver Tyrone Walker, signed as a tryout player after the rookie minicamp, followed up a good day Saturday with a rough one Sunday. He won some attention during team drills Saturday by catching three passes in a four-play stretch. But then Sunday he had two big errors on snaps with Aaron Rodgers and the No. 1 offense. The first was a drop of a throw in his chest over the middle, and the second was when he appeared to run the wrong route, which allowed cornerback James Nixon to intercept.
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