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Packers insider: Thumbs up to Kuhn, down to Ross

Aug. 20, 2013
 

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Green Bay Packers fullback John Kuhn is the team's best pass protector among the running backs, and he's a core special teams player. / Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette Media

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Thumbs up

If the Packers were wondering if they might save cap money by cutting 30-year-old John Kuhn ($1.8 million salary) this year, they’re probably wondering no longer. The eighth-year fullback still is too valuable. He’s the team’s best pass protector among the running backs, and he’s a core special teams player who has remained healthy while several tight ends, who can play similar roles on special teams, have missed substantial portions of camp with injuries. “(Kuhn) can make all the calls that the offensive line can make,” said Alex Van Pelt, the Packers’ running backs coach. “He’s in tune with the quarterback, so he brings a lot of value there. And once again, he’s our best third-down protector, he does do a great of that. So he still has a lot of value.” The fullback position at least appears on its way to extinction in the NFL as teams become more willing to use a tight end as a lead blocker in the backfield. But Van Pelt thinks Mike McCarthy’s version of the West Coast offense always will have a place for a traditional fullback in short yardage, on the goal line and when the offense is backed up. “Guys can do both (tight end and fullback),” Van Pelt said, “but having a true fullback is definitely a benefit.”

Thumbs down

Jeremy Ross is the Packers’ best return man to replace Randall Cobb in that role. For the early portion of training camp he looked like a near lock to make the team because of his prominent roles there, as a cover man on special teams and potential as a No. 4 receiver. But with only two preseason games remaining, his job is in jeopardy because he’s been involved in several interceptions and drops as a receiver. Now he has two weeks to show the game isn’t too big for him. When asked what Ross has to do to be the Packers’ returner this year, special teams coach Shawn Slocum said, “Make the 53-man roster. It’s that simple.” The Packers clearly are looking at alternatives in case they don’t keep Ross. In practice Tuesday, running back Johnathan Franklin took the first reps on kickoff returns, and cornerback Micah Hyde took them on punt returns. That suggests both rookies will get a hard look in Friday night’s preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks. Kuhn last week went back to his role as personal protector on punts after Ross held that job the first couple weeks of camp, and Ross hasn’t worked with the starting punt cover team even as a wing blocker this week. The Packers already have a good idea of Ross’ abilities as a returner, so it’s not like he’s out of the running. But if he makes any glaring errors in the return game or at receiver in final two weeks of camp, it won’t matter.

Did you notice?

■ Just as he did Monday, Don Barclay took almost all the snaps at right tackle with the No. 1 offense in practice. Marshall Newhouse worked primarily as the No. 2 at both tackles, so Barclay has become the clear front-runner for the job. “(Barclay) brings toughness and physicality,” said James Campen, the Packers’ offensive line coach. “The fact that we moved him around quite a bit early in camp, he was playing center and guard and tackle and kind of moving his reps around, now he can sit in one spot here. That’s what we’re trying to do, make sure the evaluation between he and (Newhouse) is right for him, and he gets an opportunity to work solely at that position.”

■ There are no signs that tackle Derek Sherrod will begin practicing during training camp, but general manager Ted Thompson said Tuesday he still thinks Sherrod will play this year. If Sherrod still is on the physically unable to perform list when the regular season starts, he’ll be eligible to come back during a six-week window in October and November. He’s been out since December 2011 after breaking both bones in his lower right leg.

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

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