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Insider: Thumbs up to first-rounder Jones, down to undrafted guard Taylor

Jul. 30, 2013
 

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Green Bay Packers defensive end Datone Jones goes through drills during Sunday's training camp practice at Ray Nitschke Field. H. Marc Larson/Press-Gazette Media

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Thumbs up

It took only one practice in pads for defensive coordinator Dom Capers to work first-round draft pick Datone Jones with the No. 1 base 3-4 defense — Jones had worked with the starters only in the nickel and dime until Tuesday morning’s second padded practice of camp. Jones also worked with the No. 2 kickoff coverage unit, which though not unheard of for a defensive lineman is rare. “He can run,” coach Mike McCarthy said of why the Packers are teaching Jones to cover kicks. “He’s a major match-up problem. But we’ll work him as a back-up. I don’t see that as a primary role for Datone. But he has a unique skill set.” Jones went on to have another strong practice Tuesday. He had a relatively good day in one-on-one pass rushing — he went 1-1 against starting right guard T.J. Lang, including knocking down Lang on his win, though Jones also lost both his matchups against Garth Gerhart, a deep backup at center. Then in a team red-zone period Jones made the kind of play that’s impossible not to notice. On a zone blitz he dropped into coverage, picked up running back James Starks over the middle and looked almost like a defensive back the way he calmly knocked down the check-down pass from B.J. Coleman. “Consistently in all of our practices, (Jones) shows up in the team drills,” McCarthy said. “And I think that’s a very good indication when you’re doing player evaluations.”

Thumbs down

The Packers paid Oklahoma State guard Lane Taylor the highest bonus ($7,000) of their undrafted rookies this year and liked him enough to work with him with the No. 2 offensive line beginning early in offseason practices. Going into camp, Taylor looked like he might be this year’s Don Barclay — a player who might not impress in non-padded practices but would show when the pads go on. As a senior in college Taylor gave up no sacks in 850 snaps, according to NFLDraftScout.com, so pass protection is a presumed strength. But at least in one-on-one pass blocking he’s struggled in two padded workouts with an unofficial 2-4 record, including 1-2 Tuesday. His competition was tough — his losses Tuesday were to B.J. Raji and Johnny Jolly, and his win came against Mike Daniels, who is one of the more improved players on the roster from last year. But the defeats were decisive. Keep in mind that one-on-ones aren’t the final measure of linemen — what matters is their play in 11-on-11 in practice and games. Former Packers lineman Nick McDonald, for instance, often looked brutal in one-on-ones in his rookie camp in 2010 yet made the final roster because he performed well in preseason games. The door’s open for the thick-built Taylor (6-3, 324) to win a roster spot, especially after fourth-round pick JC Tretter’s broken ankle in the offseason, but Taylor needs to show he can adjust to the speed and power of the NFL game.

Did you notice?

■Running back James Starks is off to a good start in his bid to make the roster for a fourth season after three injury-filled years. In a red-zone period Tuesday he took one toss left for what would have been a nine-yard touchdown and another run that might have gone for a 21-yard touchdown. He also had a goal-line collision that brought to mind a play in camp last year. Early in camp last summer, Starks was about to make it to the pylon when cornerback Jarrett Bush sent him sprawling with a big hit. That prompted Packers scout Alonzo Highsmith, a former NFL running back, to admonish Starks that he has to deliver, not take, that kind of hit against a defensive back. On a similar run to the pylon Tuesday, Starks kept his feet after lowering his pads and crashing through safety M.D. Jennings’ hard hit. “I thought James had probably one of his better days today,” McCarthy said.

■The Packers are giving punter Tim Masthay more work than usual on kickoffs. He worked in a rotation with kickers Mason Crosby and Giorgio Tavecchio during the kickoff-coverage period Tuesday and consistently hit his kickoffs deeper than Tavecchio.

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

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