Insider: Gillett catching on, Harper off to slow start
Alex Gillett knows he has a lot of receivers to climb over to make the Green Bay Packers' 53-man roster, but days like the one he had Thursday only can help his cause.
The former Eastern Michigan quarterback-turned-receiver had his offense howling after he hauled in a deep sideline pass from quarterback Matt Flynn over rookie cornerback Demetri Goodson, who was positioned for the interception before Gillett snagged it away.
A practice-squad holdover from last season, Gillett had caught everything thrown his way in camp before dropping a pass from Aaron Rodgers on Thursday. A few moments later, the 6-foot-1, 214-pound receiver redeemed himself with the deep connection with Flynn.
"I could've sworn I had a pick right there," Goodson said. "I was like, OK this is going to be a pick, but he made a great play on the ball."
Gillett lost 5 pounds this offseason at the Packers' suggestion and still is relatively new to the position. The first time Gillett played receiver was after being benched as quarterback during his senior year of college.
One year into his conversion, Packers coach Mike McCarthy said he's noticed a difference with Gillett in camp. McCarthy values "big-play production" in his players and the importance of his catch was not lost on Gillett, especially after a drop.
"That's one where you're kind of like, 'I need to make up for it,'" Gillett said. "I saw the ball in the air and I knew I had to make a play on it. It worked out in my favor."
After getting off to a strong start in organized team activities, Chris Harper has yet to recapture that momentum through the first week of training camp.
Harper missed the final portion of the offseason program with a hamstring strain and has been quiet since. The 6-foot-1, 228-pound receiver had a chance at a big play during a pass-under-pressure period, but dropped a near-perfect pass from Flynn deep in the seam.
Unlike Gillett, another big opportunity didn't arise and Harper was mostly the recipient of check-downs underneath for the rest of practice.
The margin for error is small at every position this time of year, but that's especially true at receiver where seven of the 11 players are former draft picks. Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Jarrett Boykin and second-round rookie Davante Adams are locks to make the 53, so the others could be fighting for one, possibly two reserve spots.
Harper isn't an option on returns, so he must make the most of every offensive target going forward.
DID YOU NOTICE?
■ The Packers must see something they like in second-year receiver Kevin Dorsey's blocking ability considering he lined up on the front line of the first-team kickoff return unit. He also fielded kickoffs with the second team.
■ Punt-catching remains an adventure for receiver Myles White, who muffed another one Thursday after dropping three consecutive attempts during Wednesday's practice.
■ Center JC Tretter had a better day in one-on-one drills, stopping defensive lineman B.J. Raji on his first rep and then defeating rookie Carlos Gray. Veteran guard Josh Sitton took his first one-on-one snap, but was beaten by defensive lineman Mike Daniels with a bull rush.
■ T.J. Lang is edging closer to a full-time return from a shoulder injury, but continued to split first-team reps at right guard with Don Barclay.
■ Despite giving up 100 pounds, undrafted inside linebacker Joe Thomas beat Barclay handily in his first one-on-one rep. Thomas is undersized at 6-1, 227, but has been around the ball throughout camp.
■ Undrafted rookie LaDarius Perkins (5-7, 195) is smaller than even DuJuan Harris (5-8, 203), but packs a similar punch. He's shown some burst in the limited team snaps he's received.