Packers Camp Insider: Byron Bell making noise for backup berth

Tom Silverstein
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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Green Bay Packers offensive tackle Byron Bell (74) walks onto the field during training camp practice at Ray Nitschke Field on Monday, August 20, 2018 in Ashwaubenon, Wis.

Tuesday's takeaways

» Sometimes you must read between the lines a little bit when assessing the depth chart, but the coaches’ decision to shift veteran Byron Bell to right guard and start him in place of injured Justin McCray this week wasn’t hard to decipher. First, Bell, who has been playing right tackle almost all of camp, is in the running for a roster spot. They wouldn’t work him at two positions and with the No. 1s if they weren’t strongly considering him for a backup job. Secondly, and maybe not as clear-cut, is that they aren’t seeing enough from second-year pro Adam Pankey to feel good about him being a top backup. They may still view him as a developing player or they may feel he’s not going to make the roster. More than likely, they’re happy with the 29-year-old Bell but need to put him under the microscope and see whether he’s up to the challenge physically. The eighth-year veteran has started 74 games in his career, so there isn’t any worry about him handling any position mentally. With McCray a starter they’re in need of someone they can plug into multiple positions and still function offensively.

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» In each of the past two years the Packers had at least nine injuries that caused players to miss the final practice before the third exhibition game, including those who were on PUP. On Tuesday, the last practice before the Packers play game No. 3 at Oakland, they were missing just three players. Two others took part in a limited portion of practice (no team drills), but it’s quite a difference from previous years under coach Mike McCarthy. The dearth of injuries has allowed McCarthy to conduct long practices with a dozen or more periods throughout camp. Practice lasted 2 hours and 13 minutes, which is far from the record this summer, but nothing had to be scaled back to account for injury. The only position that has been affected is running back and finding guys on the street who can carry the ball is a lot easier than finding guys who can cover or block. McCarthy has been able to stick to his No. 1s vs. No. 1s emphasis because there haven’t been that many injuries to his starters.

» Just because a guy is on fire in practice doesn’t mean he can’t be humbled. Outside linebacker Clay Matthews was playing with his pants on fire during the 11-on-11 drills. He destroyed right tackle Bryan Bulaga with an inside move that would have resulted in a sack and laid a big hit on running back Ty Montgomery. Then, in the final team drill, Matthews beat left tackle Alex Light, but some of the offensive linemen on the sideline preferred not to see it that way. “We were kind of messing with him,” tackle Jason Spriggs said. “We told (Light) before the next play, ‘Buckle up, because Clay is coming.’” With steam coming out of his ears, Matthews shot out of his stance, intent on bull-rushing Light into the Resch Center across the street. But just as he reached Light, he slipped and landed flat on his knees, drawing hoots and hollers from the offensive linemen on the sideline. Matthews stayed down for a while, took his punishment and then returned to the huddle.

QB watch

Aaron Rodgers played scout team quarterback against the No. 1 defense and found himself getting blitzed from every direction during the last couple of team drills. In at least two cases, an unblocked blitzer was in his face before he had a chance to set up in the pocket and would have sacked him were hits on the quarterback allowed. Rodgers got a little bit of revenge with a touchdown to tight end Jimmy Graham and a nice flip to receiver Geronimo Allison in the corner of the end zone. Brett Hundley and DeShone Kizer continue to split snaps. Hundley seems more at ease with the offense and should be considered slightly ahead of Kizer with two games to go.

Bits and pieces

» Safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix from the sideline ordered fellow safety Raven Greene not to move an inch from where he was stationed. Hundley never saw him and Greene should have had an interception, but dropped the ball.

» Kicker Mason Crosby was 6 for 6 on field goal attempts, hitting from 33, 40, 42, 44, 48 and 50 yards.

» Defensive tackle Mike Daniels was on a tear in 1-on-1 pass rush drills. Not only did he win all three of his attempts – against Lane Taylor, Adam Pankey and Lucas Patrick – he won them decisively. Last summer, Taylor dominated him in that drill.

» Rookie receiver Marquez Valdez-Scantling has been quiet since his big night against Tennessee, but he had a very good practice, the highlight of which was a third-and-10 catch from Rodgers in which he leaped high and speared the ball out of the air while keeping his momentum moving downfield.

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» Outside linebacker Vince Biegel jumped offsides on the second-to-last play of the day, giving the offense a free play inside the 5-yard line. Biegel has done that several times during practice and remains mostly invisible.

» Cornerback Josh Hawkins got left in the dust on a Valdes-Scantling move in which he got Hawkins running full speed down the sideline and then stopped. Hawkins went flying by him, leaving the rookie wide open.

» If inside linebacker Greer Martini wants to make the team, he must take advantage of interception opportunities like the one he had when Kizer tried to check down to running back Aaron Jones and practically threw it in Martini’s hands.

Injury report

Cornerback Davon House (hamstring) and McCray (calf) both took part in individual drills as part of their rehab, but they sat out team drills. It has been standard practice this camp for players to gradually increase their work before returning from injury. Both probably have a good shot to be back next week.

Receiver Jake Kumerow (shoulder/chest), running back Devante Mays (hamstring) and receiver Trevor Davis (hamstring) were the only three players to miss all of practice.

Quote of the day

“I come from a school where quarterback is pretty important and if you have guys that can play, you want to try to keep as many as you can and continue to develop them.” – GM Brian Gutekunst when asked about the possibility of keeping three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster.

Practice schedule

The Packers' last practice open to the public will be at 11:45 a.m. Monday.


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