Insider: Thumbs up to Walker, down to Thompson
Josh Walker entered training camp as one of those relatively unknown offensive linemen scrapping with a handful of other relatively unknown players for maybe the final spot on the 53-man roster. Through nearly two weeks of camp, though, Walker has been as good as any of the Packers’ backup offensive linemen, and that includes Don Barclay, JC Tretter and Lane Taylor. Walker is legitimately in the battle for one of the eight or nine spots likely to go to offensive linemen. Walker, who spent most of last season on the Packers’ practice squad, is at 328 pounds the heaviest of the offensive linemen. He’s worked all camp as the right guard with the No. 2 offensive line and held up well. He’s also stood out in one-on-one drills, where his record is a stellar 15-2. Those numbers tell only part of the story — Walker often is working against lower depth chart defensive linemen such as Khyri Thornton and rookie Christian Ringo, rather than starters such as B.J. Raji and Mike Daniels. But in Tuesday’s practice, Walker’s 3-0 record in one-on-ones included wins over Datone Jones (twice) and Josh Boyd, who were regular rotational players last season. Walker’s next step is to carry over his play into the preseason games, starting Thursday night at New England. He’s a player to keep an eye on, because through two weeks of practice he’s given himself a legitimate shot at making the final roster.
The Packers already had a spot open on their 90-man roster coming into this week. Then general manager Ted Thompson cut punter Cody Mandell on Monday and injured receiver Ricky Collins on Tuesday. So now Thompson has 87 players on the roster when the NFL allows 90. And it’s hard to understand why he hasn’t filled at least one or two of those spots, if not all three. It can’t be money. The cost of keeping two or three more players in camp is loose change for the Packers. So why not bring in a couple for a look-see? You never know what you might find. Also, counting Collins, whose release wasn’t announced until later in the day, the Packers had 11 injured players sit out practice Tuesday. It wouldn’t hurt to have a couple of extra bodies to take some of the reps off everyone else.
Did you notice
■The intensity level at one of the tackling stations during the daily tackling period got more intense than it’s meant to Tuesday. The drill is to practice form tackling, with a player carrying the ball at a defender at about half speed, and the defender tackling him onto a large landing pad. But on one rep, Julius Peppers, who was the ball carrier, had a sizeable collision with Eddie Lacy, and Lacy celebrated even though Peppers knocked him back and nearly over. Then on the next rep, with the excitement level ratcheted up, linebacker Josh Francis ran hard, lowered his head and had a crackling collision with a tackler. Winston Moss, the Packers’ linebackers coach, immediately stepped in and barked at the players to keep their heads up and the pace down.
■First-round pick Damarious Randall has been working as the sixth defensive back in the dime personnel through most of camp, but with him sidelined because of a groin injury, Quinten Rollins is working in that role.
■Offensive line coach James Campen has missed the last two days of practice for personal reasons. Mike Solari, the former San Francisco 49ers offensive line coach who is Campen’s assistant, has been running the offensive line drills in Campen’s absence. Coaching administrator David Raih stepped in as Solari’s assistant.
■Mitchell Henry, an undrafted rookie, is making a game effort to win a spot on the roster at a skill position despite a hand injury. He’s practicing with his injured hand protected by a padded, mitten-like club. On Tuesday, he caught a pass in team drills.
— firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @PeteDougherty.