Corey Linsley looks like a better player than last year, and that’s saying something. As a fifth-round draft pick in 2014, Linsley unexpectedly proved to be a ready-made replacement when the presumptive starting center, JC Tretter, sustained a knee injury in the third preseason game.
Now with a year as the starter in the books, Linsley in his second training camp is off to a strong start. Going into camp, right tackle Bryan Bulaga would have rated as the Packers’ best run blocker. But in in the first camp practice in pads Saturday, Linsley started making his pitch for that honor.
In the physical half-line inside-run drill, he pancaked defensive lineman Khyri Thornton on one play, and in that period as well as team drills he showed his athleticism in getting out quickly to the linebacker level. Also, he was sound as ever as a pass blocker, winning reps in one-on-one drills against B.J. Raji and Letroy Guion. In the matchup against Guion, Linsley showed the balance and strength that sets apart the better pass blockers in the NFL.
Guion’s initial move knocked Linsley off kilter, and against many players that would have been enough for Guion to win the matchup. But Linsley instantly recovered his balance, stood up Guion and won the rep. The center position appears to be in good hands.
Of the two young players the Packers have moved from outside linebacker to inside linebacker in the past year, Carl Bradford is having the tougher time. The 2014 fourth-round draft pick moved inside the final week of training camp last year, but after practicing there all last regular season and a full offseason this year, he opened camp behind Nate Palmer for the No. 3 job inside. Palmer had made the same position switch late in camp last year but missed the regular season because of a knee injury.
Then on Saturday, fourth-round pick Jake Ryan appeared to have moved ahead of Bradford as well in the playing rotation, at least in some defensive packages. Bradford has the size (6-1, 248) to be a thumper inside, but in the first day of pads Saturday he still looked a little unnatural at the position and had difficulty getting over reach blocks in position and full team drills.
Bradford is playing on either the first or second team of the four cover and return units on special teams, so he can help his chances of making the roster in that phase of the game. He also has plenty of camp left to adjust to his new position with the pads on and jobs at stake. But the Packers were hoping he might give them another option for regular playing time inside, and there are no early signs that’s happening.
Did you notice?
■ The Packers appear to be looking for ways to get No. 3 safety Sean Richardson onto the field after signing him to a one-year, $2.55 million contract in the offseason. Richardson won’t get much time at safety as long as starters Morgan Burnett and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix are healthy, but on Saturday he worked a few snaps at nickel cornerback with the No. 1 defense. Richardson is big for a safety (6-2, 216) and doesn’t have the cover skills to be a regular at nickel corner, but defensive coordinator Dom Capers could include him there occasionally in his wide mix of packages for specific downs-and-distances and matchups. “Sean, he’s come into his own,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “I thought he really had an excellent year last year with the opportunities that he had. We’re looking for ways to have him more involved defensively.”
■ Since last year McCarthy has structured his practices to end with a jog-through teaching period, usually about 20 minutes. He canceled that portion of practice Saturday, though. The team had a long (21/2-hour) practice in its first day in pads, and he said he added time to the final full-speed team drill of the day, so he eliminated the jog-through period that was to follow.
■ During a kickoff return period Saturday, only three players worked as the return man: Micah Hyde, Ty Montgomery and Raijon Neal.
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