Ryan Wood and Aaron Nagler discuss the Packers' most intriguing position battles heading into the team's final preseason game on Thursday night at Lambeau Field.
Michael Clark has been one of the surprises of camp. The undrafted rookie receiver played only one year of college football (at Marshall) after abandoning a Division I basketball scholarship at St. Francis. He’s raw but has tremendous height (6-feet-6) and a 33-inch vertical jump, and from early in camp has flashed an eye-catching ability to catch jump balls. For most of camp he's looked like the ideal practice-squad candidate, a guy who needs a year to learn his new craft. And that’s still likely how things will go. But if he flashes in Thursday's preseason finale like he's flashed in camp — on Tuesday he made two more impressive leaping catches — you wonder if the Packers will have to worry at least a little about another team claiming him on waivers based on his long-term potential. Both catches Tuesday came against cornerback Davon House. The first was a back-shoulder throw in which he undercut and jumped over House for a nice gain down the sideline. On the second, he leaped way over House on a fade route and plucked the ball out of the air for about a 20-yard touchdown. “The beginning part is easy,” House said of covering Clark on a fade. “It’s just trying to out-jump him. It’s almost impossible. I don’t think anyone has won a jump ball with him this year so far.” Clark redshirted one season at Marshall, then caught 37 passes for a 17.1-yard average last year. His decision to enter the draft was stunning because another season in college almost surely would have gotten him drafted. But he says his decision to come out was “instinct.” He wanted to play against the best and not risk a major injury in college. “At the moment it seemed radical from the outside, but I always had a plan in my head when I quit basketball,” he said. “I gave up a full (basketball) scholarship and I was a walk-on (in football), and it was kind of, ‘what is he doing?’ Then I leave early, ‘what is he doing?’ Then the stuff I’m doing now, it’s, ‘OK, maybe he does know what he’s doing.’”
Tuesday was a rough day for the Packers’ outside linebackers. With Clay Matthews (groin tightness), Nick Perry (ankle) and Jayrone Elliott (back) not practicing because of injuries, the Packers had only four healthy outside linebackers: Kyler Fackrell, Reggie Gilbert,Johnathan Calvin and Josh Letuligasenoa. They had a long day. In one-on-one pass rushing, they went a combined 1-8 as outside rushers, with Gilbert getting the only win, against tackle Jason Spriggs. Calvin also won his rep as an inside rusher against guard Geoff Gray. The four then had to handle the entire practice in team drills, taking snap after snap, first with the defense going against scout-team offense, then vice versa. That’s a lot of work with the final preseason game only two days away. “It can’t do anything but help my game,” Gilbert said. “The coaches do a good job of helping us get our legs back. I should be all right. I’m might go hop in the cold tub right now.”
New players who missed practice were safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (knee), Matthews (groin tightness), Perry (ankle) and guard-center Lucas Patrick (concussion).
Receiver Geronimo Allison left practice after taking a hard fall on his back, but returned.
Two players returned from injury: House (hamstring) and defensive lineman Dean Lowry (knee).
Bits and Pieces
» With Tuesday’s practice being the final of camp open to the public, receivers Jordy Nelson and Jeff Janis decided to have some fun with fans, so they switched jerseys, with Janis wearing Nelson’s 87, and Nelson wearing Janis’ 83. “I wanted to raise my awareness (rating) level on ‘Madden,’ so I decided to switch jerseys and wear Jordy’s,” Janis joked. “He wanted to raise his speed level up a little bit, so he wore my jersey.”
» Undrafted rookie Adam Pankey has been playing tackle all camp but worked extensively at guard Tuesday. He played guard at West Virginia as a junior before moving to left tackle as a senior. Injuries to Don Barclay and Patrick opened some snaps at guard, plus the Packers still are looking for their No. 3 at that position. Pankey looked natural in his two one-on-one reps at guard, where he beat Ricky Jean Francois and then Kenny Clark.
Quote of the day
Coach Mike McCarthy, on the competitiveness of the receiver position in training camp: “We (coaches) judge ourselves by how our young players play, it's not how your veteran players play. It's about developing the young player here. That's been the case here for 12 years, so you have to get those young players, particularly the first-year players, ready to contribute. History will tell you, November, December, most likely those guys are playing in the games, and obviously we understand the importance of games in November and December.”
Tuesday was the final practice of camp open to the public.