Running back John Crockett entered the season as the incumbent at the No. 3 running back spot for the Green Bay Packers. Crockett, who signed with the Packers as an undrafted free agent least season, spent the majority of the year on the practice squad before being elevated to the 53-man roster in December, when Alonzo Harris committed a curfew violation.
But last week, after one exhibition game against the Cleveland Browns, it was not implausible to think Crockett’s stranglehold on the position began to loosen. Brandon Burks, another undrafted rookie, caught the attention of many with nine carries for 45 yards and impressive efficiency in pass protection.
Burks gave the Packers something else to consider.
Then came Thursday and another exhibition game, this time against the Oakland Raiders, and Crockett responded with aplomb. He carried six times for 26 yards. He caught four passes for 27 yards. He scored an impressive touchdown.
And that was through less than two quarters of work.
With the ball on the Oakland 10-yard line, Crockett took a hand-off up the middle and sprinted toward daylight early in the third quarter. He gained five yards through the hole before light turned to darkness, which is when legs started churning.
Crockett powered forward through multiple defenders, moving the pile as he went and finishing the play in the end zone. It gave the Packers a 14-3 lead.
When the Packers traded up to draft left tackle Jason Spriggs, they were thinking more about their future than their present. With David Bakhtiari as a role model, assuming he stayed healthy, Spriggs would have at least one season to develop without being thrown into the fire.
At least that was the plan.
Though Bakhtiari is still healthy, Spriggs drew an extremely difficult assignment in relief duty Thursday night. The Raiders played their starters throughout the first half, which meant Spriggs was asked to block defensive end Khalil Mack, a first-team All-Pro last season.
Spriggs struggled in a performance that surely will be viewed as a learning experience. He allowed Mack to turn the corner on a play that ended with Mack rolling up on quarterback Brett Hundley, who injured his ankle. He allowed Mack to get by him again for a crunching sack on third-string quarterback Joe Callahan.
And finally, on the very next play, Spriggs allowed Mack to pass him once again. Mack raced into the backfield, toward a scrambling Callahan, and forced a penalty for intentional grounding.
By the second half, Oakland pulled its starters and Spriggs’ night became a bit less stressful. But he’s sure to have an interesting film session on Friday.
BITS AND PIECES
» When the Packers traveled to Oakland last season, rookie wide receiver Amari Cooper matched up with rookie cornerback Damarious Randall, a pair of first-round picks. Cooper got the better of Randall and exploded for 120 yards and two touchdowns. But Randall got some revenge Thursday night. He made a leaping interception against quarterback Derek Carr on a deep ball intended for Cooper in the second quarter.
» Rookie wide receiver Trevor Davis, who has faded slightly since the Packers donned pads in training camp, has the potential to be an important special teams player. On Thursday he took reps as a kick returner, which was to be expected, as well as gunner on punt coverage, which was new. Though he lacks the size and strength to match most hold-up men, Davis has the kind of speed that can frustrate an opposing return unit.
» Rookie sixth-round pick Kyle Murphy returned to practice earlier this week after suffering a concussion early in camp. Murphy received plenty of playing time against the Raiders and rotated in as the second-string right tackle. Only starter Bryan Bulaga was ahead of him Thursday night.
» Defensive coordinator Dom Capers entered last season with the goal of finding ways to put safety Sean Richardson on the field. Richardson, who stood 6-2½ and weighed 216 pounds, returned to the Packers when general manager Ted Thompson opted to match the Raiders’ one-year, $2.55 million offer sheet with $2.35 million in guaranteed money. Richardson gave Capers a different body type at the safety position, someone who was tall and sturdy and could, at times, be effective in run support. What followed was a defense the Packers called their Big Okie package, a variation of the base 3-4 defense in which one cornerback leaves the field to be replaced by a third safety. Richardson filled that role before his season-ending neck injury. This season, backup safety Chris Banjo is playing as the third safety in the Big Okie package.
» Inside linebacker Carl Bradford, who performed well in the first exhibition game against the Cleveland Browns, received first-team reps on special teams. Bradford lined up with the starters on kickoff return and kickoff coverage for the first time this year.
The Packers' next public practice is Monday at 12:15 p.m.