Insider: Richardson stands out, Tretter struggles
The Packers drafted first-round pick Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and slid Micah Hyde to safety this offseason as one way of improving a back end that lacked playmakers in 2013.
Although it likely will be one or the other starting next to Morgan Burnett once the regular season arrives, don't make the mistake of overlooking third-year safety Sean Richardson. The former undrafted free agent made the play of day on the second play of the third-down blitz period when he picked off an Aaron Rodgers pass intended for Jordy Nelson off a crossing pattern.
Richardson missed last year's camp while rehabbing from neck surgery but was the only player activated off the team's physically unable to perform list to make any on-field contributions last season. He made 13 tackles in six games working mostly on special teams.
In camp, he's been splitting reps with Chris Banjo working next to Clinton-Dix on the second-team defense. Hyde's dual role in the secondary could mean Richardson, Banjo and undrafted rookies Charles Clay and Tanner Miller are vying for one roster spot.
If so, consider Richardson's pick of the typically flawless Rodgers a step in the right direction.
It's only one padded practice, but nose tackle B.J. Raji took starting center JC Tretter to the cleaners twice during the first one-on-one linemen drills.
Maybe that's a good sign for Raji, who is playing over the ball for the first time since the 2011 season, but it surely wasn't the start the Packers would prefer for their new center. The Packers allowed veteran Evan Dietrich-Smith to walk in free agency because they felt Tretter could do the job.
A converted tackle from Cornell, Tretter didn't play in a game during his rookie season because of a broken ankle, so the transition is still ongoing.
They drafted Ohio State's Corey Linsley in the fifth round of May's draft as an insurance policy, but Tretter has taken every rep there in camp. Linsley, who has overtaken Garth Gerhart for second-team reps, won his encounters with rookie Mike Pennel and Josh Boyd. Raji is the team's starting nose tackle, so Tretter getting beat shouldn't be too alarming.
However, coach Mike McCarthy has high hopes for this year's offensive line and center is the only spot without a proven body.
"For JC, it's just getting in the rhythm of the offense and making sure he's on the same page with everybody," said right tackle Bryan Bulaga over the weekend. "I think we have the potential to be a really good group up front. It starts now."
DID YOU NOTICE?
■ Davon House is off to another strong start to training camp. After notching a few pass deflections over the weekend, the fourth-year cornerback had a strip-sack of quarterback Matt Flynn and recovered the fumble during the team blitz period.
■ The Packers are taking a long look at DuJuan Harris for the vacant kick returning job. The 5-foot-8 running back has handled the duties at every level of football he's played and might possess the explosiveness the unit has lacked without Randall Cobb back there.
■ Bulaga had a strong day in one-on-one drills, winning a battle against Clay Matthews while lining up at left tackle and then holding his own against Julius Peppers twice from his usual post at right tackle.
■ Defensive lineman Letroy Guion, who has yet to be cleared from a hamstring injury, started practice in pads before being told to switch back into his sweats.
■ It appears rookie Colt Lyerla has fallen behind Justin Perillo in the tight end competition. When practice started, Perillo practiced inside the Hutson Center with the other veteran tight ends, while Lyerla remained outside on the scout team working against the defense.
■ Undrafted rookie safety Tanner Miller made a nice play in an early team period, forcing tight end Ryan Taylor into a drop on a would-be catch across the middle.