PACKERS NOTEBOOK: House returns to practice
The Sports Xchange
GREEN BAY — The Green Bay Packers got a huge lift Tuesday when cornerback Davon House returned to practice.
House was a free-agent acquisition this offseason expected to challenge for Green Bay’s No. 1 cornerback job. But House injured his hamstring on Aug. 5 and has been out ever since.
“He looked good. He looked good,” Packers cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt said of House. “I was pleased with what he did.”
House played in Green Bay from 2011-14, so he has tremendous familiarity with the defense and the coaching staff. Third-year players Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins are trying to rebound from brutal 2016 seasons and rookie second-round draft pick Kevin King has had an up-and-down summer.
So, the Packers are clearly looking for House to provide some stability to an otherwise uncertain positional group.
“There’s naturally going to be some rust, being away for however many weeks he was and not being in football-type shape,” Whitt said. “Hopefully, we have enough time to knock all of that off and get him ready for when games matter.”
* Green Bay is dangerously thin at outside linebacker, and had former San Francisco 49ers Pro Bowler Ahmad Brooks in for a visit Tuesday.
Brooks, 33, isn’t the Pro-Bowl player he once was. But he’s had at least 5.0 sacks for eight straight seasons and has 53.5 career sacks.
“Tough. Tough. Physically imposing,” Packers linebackers coach Winston Moss said of Brooks. “A rusher. Can play very, very well versus the run. Can play stout versus the tight end. He can do everything that we would ask him to do in our scheme.”
The Packers have high-level - and highly compensated - starters in Nick Perry and Clay Matthews. But reserves Jayrone Elliott and Kyler Fackrell have both had disappointing training camps.
In addition, Matthews is battling a groin injury, while Perry suffered an ankle injury in the third preseason game. Both are expected to be ready for the season opener, but each player has extremely long injury histories.
By signing Brooks, the Packers could add a player who is familiar with their base 3-4 defense and provide help immediately.
“He can play to the tight-end side, he can play to the open-end side,” Moss said. “He can play the outside linebacker, he can play the elephant. If he were to be placed on our roster - however that decision goes down - he could come right in and fit right in.”
* Detroit made quarterback Matthew Stafford the highest-paid player in NFL history Monday when they signed him to a five-year, $135 million contract extension. That’s an average of $27 million per season.
One of the great beneficiaries of that deal could be Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers.
Rodgers signed a five-year, $110 million extension in 2013 — an average of $22 million per year. The case can certainly be made that Rodgers is now underpaid, and there’s a chance his next contract could make him the NFL’s first $200 million man.
“I’m happy for Matt. I mean, Matt and I have battled over the years,” Rodgers said. “I really respect him as a player. I love watching him throw. He can do it from a number of different platforms and arm angles. It’s fun to watch.
“I think he’s one of the good guys in the league at quarterback. When it comes to how that affects my own status, nothing’s changed. I have this year and two more years to play, and that stuff takes care of itself.”
* Packers head coach Mike McCarthy has called the plays for the majority of his 11 seasons in Green Bay. But McCarthy lets his offensive coordinator handle play-calling duties in the final preseason game.
That means Edgar Bennett will handle that job Thursday when the Packers host the Los Angeles Rams.
“It’s exciting to get that opportunity, one that I certainly appreciate having that opportunity from coach McCarthy so I’m excited about it,” Bennett said. “Anytime you get an opportunity to get more experience in an area, it’s unique and I’m excited about it.”
* Packers second-year defensive end Dean Lowry hyperextended his knee in Green Bay’s second preseason game and missed nine days. But Lowry was back at practice Tuesday and fully expects to play in the regular-season opener.
“I was engaged with the center on that play and the guard came and hit me in pass protection,” Lowry said. “I tried to plant my left foot and then my knee kind of extended outward. After watching it, I think I dodged a bullet.”
The Packers dodged a bullet, as well.
Green Bay’s depth up front is suspect, as rookie Montravius Adams has been sidelined with a foot injury since the second day of training camp. So, getting Lowry back at full strength is critical.
“I thought Dean was making strides in the right direction,” Packers defensive line coach Mike Trgovac said. “His arrow is pointing up. He hasn’t been out that long, so hopefully he’ll pick right back up where he left off. It’s not like he’s missed a month or whatever.”
* One of the Packers’ most improved players this summer has been second-year wide receiver Trevor Davis.
Davis has four receptions for 51 yards and is averaging 24.4 yards per punt return. Davis has also fumbled away a punt, something that cost him that job in 2016.
“Trevor’s had a fantastic camp for us, a guy who runs an incredible time on the clock, didn’t play maybe as fast last year,” Rodgers said of Davis. “This year he’s playing fast because he’s thinking less, he’s confident, he’s obviously done a great job for us on the punt return team, but he’s become a legitimate receiver.
“So, I’m really happy about the strides he’s made and that’s a prime example of a guy who’s probably a little more focused this year and the mental part has come a lot easier than it did last year, which is natural.”
* Moss admitted that fourth-round outside linebacker Vince Biegel won’t be able to help much for a while. Biegel has been on the PUP list all of training camp with a broken foot, and even if he makes the 53-man roster, it’s doubtful he could contribute much early.
“We’re not going to ask him to do anything that he cannot do before he’s ready to,” Moss said. “We would all love for him be in game-ready, be in season-ready condition, but that’s not the case. But we’ll take it a day at a time, we’ll take it a week at a time, and whatever it takes.
“If he’s on the 53, we’ll work with whatever process and whatever measures it’s going to take for him to evolve into getting into condition, getting into shape, getting his techniques honed down. Or if he’s put on the PUP, then we’ll deal with that as it comes.”
* Packers general manager Ted Thompson makes the final call on the 53-man roster. So, what is Thompson looking for during Thursday’s final preseason game?
“Kind of like it always is with me is, I’m trying to watch the whole thing,” Thompson said. “Sometimes I’m on the field, sometimes I’m up in the booth. In both instances, you’re looking for how they get along, how they meld with everybody else.
“The personalities. I always think that’s important, even though everybody’s got a little different twist on how they’re going to play or react. But we look forward to see them compete and get after it. I’m sure they’re ready to go, too.”
* Packers No. 2 quarterback Brett Hundley has had an impressive summer. Hundley has completed 37-of-55 passes (67.3 percent) for 383 yards, thrown two touchdowns and been intercepted once. That’s a passer rating of 91.7.
With Rodgers entrenched for potentially several more years, Hundley will likely have to go elsewhere for a chance to start. Hundley will enter the final year of his contract in 2018, so the Packers would love to try trading him this offseason.
Hundley’s impressive summer should have helped his stock.
“Brett, when he gets in his rhythm and he’s moving around well he’s really showed a lot,” Rodgers said of Hundley. “He’s just playing really well.”