Mike Neal’s ongoing recovery from hernia surgery has opened up practice snaps for several young outside linebackers, and of that group Andy Mulumba has had the best start to training camp. Mulumba, a third-year pro, is coming off knee-reconstruction surgery after sustaining a torn ACL in Week 2 last season, and in the first three days of padded practice he’s rushed the passer better than Jayrone Elliott and Adrian Hubbard.
They’re going for the No. 4 spot at outside linebacker behind Julius Peppers, Nick Perry and the injured Neal — that’s counting Clay Matthews as primarily an inside ’backer. Mulumba hasn’t done his best work in one-on-one pass-rush drills — he’s 1-5 there — but in team periods he’s had several good rushes a day.
On Tuesday in a pass-under-pressure period, he probably would have sacked Scott Tolzien on one third down and rookie Brett Hundley on another — quarterbacks can’t be hit in practice. And later in a blitz period, Mulumba was one of a couple of players who had a shot at possibly sacking Aaron Rodgers on a third-and-11.
“I tell ya, he looks good,” coach Mike McCarthy said of Mulumba. “He looks like he’s come all the way back.”
With Matthews primarily on the inside, the majority of snaps at outside linebacker probably will be divvied up among Peppers, Perry and Neal. But the No. 4 could work into the rotation based on performance in preseason games. And if Neal remains out much longer, that could open snaps early in the regular season.
Regardless, Mulumba is a noticeably better player than he was as a rookie who was forced onto the field (265 snaps) late in the season two years ago because of an injury epidemic at outside linebacker.
Davante Adams was one of the stars of the offseason practices and coming into training camp appeared ready for a much bigger role in the offense as the No. 3 receiver in his second NFL season. There’s still no reason not to think so.
But considering the accolades from McCarthy and Rodgers when the team took its final offseason break in June, Adams has had a relatively quiet start to training camp.
Part of the perception probably is skewed by expectations, but it’s hard not to conclude that third-round draft pick Ty Montgomery has been the better playmaker early in camp. And one play involving Adams on Tuesday was a little jarring: cornerback Sam Shields’ leaping interception of a Rodgers throw on a go route.
Shields made an exceptional play, but one of Adams’ assets is his physical strength going after those kind of throws. On that play, he didn’t attack the ball like you’d expect and thus never had a shot at the catch or at least pass breakup.
The smart money says Adams will be the player the Packers were so excited about in June — he’s a highly confident receiver whom Rodgers lauds for already carrying himself like a star. But he’s due for a banner day on the practice field.
Did you notice?
■ Tight end Richard Rodgers made one of the highlight catches of training camp Tuesday with a diving one-handed snag of a Tolzien pass on an out pattern that converted a third down. “I had a feeling he was going to throw it to me, and the ball was going to come out quick,” Rodgers said. “I just came out of (the break), and I knew I could make a play on it once I saw it in the air.”
■ Undrafted rookie LaDarius Gunter has passed Demetri Goodson for the No. 6 spot on the depth chart at cornerback, but Goodson helped himself Tuesday by making good plays on back-to-back snaps. On the first, Goodson knocked away a pass to tight end Justin Perillo on in inside route, and on the second he ran shoulder to shoulder with receiver Larry Pinkard on a go route to help cause an incompletion. The latter play drew an excited congratulatory hand slap from cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt.
■ Lane Taylor, the No. 1 backup at left guard, lost his first one-on-one rep of camp when Mike Daniels beat him on their first rep. Taylor was 7-0 going into Tuesday. He won his other one-on-one snap of the day, against rookie Lavon Hooks.
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