The Packers wrap up their first week of training camp with the annual Family Night Scrimmage at Lambeau Field Saturday night. The question I'm asked nearly every day is..."how are they looking?" Friday marks the 9th of 24 workouts through the pre-season and there are several first impressions to cover.
The offensive line was a train wreck early last season with the sacks piling up leaving Aaron Rodgers to regularly check on his life insurance policy. The group appears far more settled this summer. Mark Tauscher and Chad Clifton look more than ready to squeeze another year out of their veteran bodies. Number one pick Brian Bulaga has the skill and the temprement to step in and play soon. Darryn Colledge is anxious to fend off any challenege for the left guard spot with Scott Wells and Josh Sitton secure in starting roles. Jason Spitz has a lot of rust to knock off after last year's season ending back surgery. There might be a spot for rookie Marshall Newhouse in the rotation.
The punting was a disaster last year with Green Bay giving up on Jeremy Kapinos. Australian Chris Bryan is battling with Tim Masthay for the job. Both have had their moments, capable of booming high spirals, but shanking one now and then. Consistency will win a battle that's close to call early on.
The secondary breakdowns in key games were alarming last season, against Pittsburgh and ultimately with Kurt Warner riddling the Pack in the playoff game in Arizona. This unit is still very unsettled what with Atari Bigby now having a second surgery, Al Harris recovering from his major knee reconstruction and untested youngsters still feeling their way. Pro Bowlers Charles Woodson and Nick Collins are fine, Tramon Williams is dependable but after that, it gets dicey. Third round pick Morgan Burnett has first dibs on the safety job with Bigby out. Charlie Peprah and Will Blackmon will also be in the mix but Blackmon is learning a new position. Pat Lee and Brandon Underwood are the wild cards. Lee made a nice pick in a 2 minute drill on Thursday and Underwood still needs to get stronger.
Finally, the linebacker shuffle is curious. Nick Barnett and A.J. Hawk are working inside while the outside positions are a revolving door right now. Coaches want to see Brandon Chillar as an outside rusher and he's playing the right side, forcing last year's rookie sensation Clay Matthews to the left side, Aaron Kampan's old position. Brad Jones who missed almost all of the first week with a lower back bruise, returned to practice Thursday and also switched sides to the right. Desmond Bishop remains a key backup and the best of the youngsters hoping to stick might be Robert Francois out of Boston College.