Insider: Clinton-Dix grabs another pick
The Packers have to be pleased with how their starting safety competition has turned out compared to the underwhelming battle between M.D. Jennings and Jerron McMillian a year ago.
After a two-interception practice earlier this week, first-round pick Ha Ha Clinton-Dix stood out again during Thursday's 58-minute practice when he picked off an errant throw from Scott Tolzien that sailed over the head of Myles White during a late team period.
Like his previous two interceptions, Tolzien's throw flew right into his hands, but those are the types of plays the Packers need their safeties to make without hesitation. Micah Hyde was still working next to Morgan Burnett with the first-team defense, but Clinton-Dix's recent play is screaming for a defensive role even if Hyde prevails in the competition.
The dime sub-package is one way to do it with Clinton-Dix subbing in when Hyde slides in the slot. The Packers played nearly 75 percent of their defensive snaps in the nickel and dime sub-package last season.
"I think as far as all rookies … Ha Ha has probably for sure been the most impressive," inside linebacker Brad Jones said. "Maybe because I'm watching him more because I'm working a lot with the back end, but he's been good."
For a team that has put so many resources into injury prevention, it seems silly for the defense to be lateraling the football after turnovers in practice.
It happened again when Clinton-Dix and members of the secondary pitched the ball back and forth following his interception off Tolzien. They didn't advance the ball, only falling back another 20 yards among a myriad of whistles.
Was there a certain amount of playfulness involved? Sure, but all it takes is a turned ankle or pulled hamstring to change the tone very quickly.
The Packers placed a heavier emphasis on fumbles and finishing in last year's camp. They finished tied for 11th in recoveries with eight. Maybe there is a benefit to reacting and keeping plays alive, but it just seems like an unnecessary risk, particularly the day before a game and without pads or shells.
The Packers are on track to start the season healthier than they've been in a long time, so why jeopardize that with the on-field follies?
DID YOU NOTICE?
-- The Packers debuted their new format for conducting practice the day before a game with six total periods consisting of warm-ups, ball drills and team exercises. Players practiced without pads or shells. Traditionally, the team has rested 48 hours before game days prior to this season.
-- There was one noticeable difference in the warm-up period with players utilizing exercise balls. They started with a short exercise of bouncing them in short intervals before tossing them forward as they jogged sideline-to-sideline.
-- The practice was brief, but lived up to the billing of being a brisk run-through. The final team session was scheduled for 30 minutes, but finished 8 minutes, 32 seconds early. The Packers ran 36 plays in the period and 54 total, not including game situation.
-- Cornerback Casey Hayward sat out of practice after being limited Tuesday. Packers coach Mike McCarthy said at the time they were holding him out to be mindful of his history of hamstring issues, which resulted in him playing only three games last season. His availability for Oakland isn't known.
-- Mason Crosby had a rough day with last-second field goals during game situation. He went 2-for-4 with misses from 53 yards wide left and 38 wide left. He intertwined those with makes from 33 and 43.
-- Fourth-round rookie Carl Bradford continues to work on the second-team units on special teams, while outside linebacker Andy Mulumba appears to have carved out a spot on the first-team kickoff units. Fellow incumbent Nate Palmer worked on the first-team kickoff coverage team and both punt units.
-- Matt Flynn took snaps ahead of Tolzien, a possible sign he'll get the call against Oakland after Aaron Rodgers exits. Flynn started last season with the Raiders before being released in October.
-- The Packers continue to use Mike Daniels in the posse of the kickoff return team. The third-year defensive lineman has played in that capacity before, but his expanding role on defense doesn't appear to have affected his use on special teams.
-Cornerback Jumal Rolle, a practice-squad holdover, earned some extra reps in the first-team dime defense.
Still out: CB Casey Hayward (hamstring), OL Jordan McCray (shoulder), RB Rajion Neal (knee), LB Joe Thomas (knee), OL Don Barclay (knee), WR Jared Abbrederis (knee), TE Brandon Bostick (lower leg), DL Letroy Guion (hamstring).