Insider: Thumbs up to Rolle, down to young receivers
Play-making came easy to Jumal Rolle at Catawba (N.C.) College. He started in all but one game in his four years and had six forced fumbles, two recoveries and 16 interceptions.
However, the NFL is an entirely different animal than NCAA Division II. To make it, the 6-foot, 188-pound cornerback must keep the plays coming.
A practice-squad holdover at arguably the Green Bay Packers' deepest position, Rolle is off to a strong start to camp. He had a strip sack of Tennessee quarterback Zach Mettenberger in Saturday's 20-16 loss and built off that Monday when he picked off Packers quarterback Chase Rettig on a sideline go-route for Myles White.
"It was definitely a great experience," Rolle said of Saturday night. "Playing with the Packers for my first preseason game, it was a good feeling to be out there again (Monday). I'm just waiting to see what's next."
The Packers returned all of their cornerbacks from last year's roster and drafted Baylor's Demetri Goodson in the sixth round of May's draft. Rolle has good size for the position and his ability to go after the ball reminds cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt of Miami cornerback Brent Grimes, a former undrafted cornerback who Whitt coached in Atlanta. Rolle spent time with both Buffalo and New Orleans before signing onto the Packers' practice squad Oct. 8.
Jordy Nelson makes his job look easy at times, but his chemistry with Aaron Rodgers takes years to master. With Nelson nursing a hamstring injury, the Packers young receivers struggled to get into a comfortable rhythm with Rodgers and the other Packers' quarterbacks early in practice.
Behind Randall Cobb, rookie Jeff Janis was the only youngster to stand out. Days after a phenomenal red-zone catch over Sam Shields, Janis made a brilliant adjustment on a go-route to catch a deep pass over Casey Hayward in single coverage.
"I think one of my best attributes is being able to stretch the field and have the quarterback throw the ball downfield and make a play on the ball," Janis said. "That's what I'm trying to get done." Janis said he doesn't feel he's that far behind the other receivers despite missing the first 1-1/2 weeks of training camp due to a bout with shingles, and he's probably right.
While Kevin Dorsey, Myles White and Chris Harper have each had their moments in camp, drops and inconsistency have quelled their momentum. Dorsey dropped another pass Monday and White allowed a touchdown pass to sneak through his mitts in the final 2-minute session. The Packers have a fifth spot open in their receiving corps and the 6-foot-3, 219-pound Janis is closing. He hopes to play in Saturday's preseason game in St. Louis.
Did you notice?
■ The Packers closed practice to the public Monday, but allowed the media to attend so long as they didn't report on specific scheme and personnel activities during the 1-hour, 50-minute session. "It was exactly what we wanted," coach Mike McCarthy said. "That's an in-season Wednesday practice for us, and I thought it was a very good practice. I think the film's going to be good."
■ At least four different scuffles broke out during Monday's practice. It started with center Garth Gerhart and defensive lineman Mike Pennel getting in each other's faces. Two snaps later, rookie linebacker Adrian Hubbard mixed it up with tight end Ryan Taylor, who tossed a few haymakers. Myles White also engaged in two scuffles, including one with cornerback Tramon Williams during a 7-on-7 period.
■ Backup quarterbacks Matt Flynn and Scott Tolzien alternated as the No. 2 quarterback in team periods, though Flynn was called up in the final 2-minute drill. Aaron Rodgers led a seven-play, 65-yard drive with the first-team offense, which included three completions to tight end Brandon Bostick.
■ Left guard Josh Sitton took his first one-on-one rep since July 31 and blocked rookie Carlos Gray. Veteran Julius Peppers also made a rare appearance, winning his battle with starting left tackle David Bakhtiari.