PACKERS NOTEBOOK: Rodgers to get increased playing time Saturday
The Sports Xchange
GREEN BAY — Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is expected to get his greatest workload of the preseason Saturday night in Denver. Rodgers has played just one series this preseason, leading a 15-play, 75-yard touchdown drive in Washington last week.
Rodgers has said many times he doesn’t need to play in preseason games to be ready for the regular season. But Rodgers did say his partaking in preseason games can benefit his teammates, especially the Packers’ newcomers.
“The tempo. The cadence is different,” Rodgers said of what’s different when he’s in the game. “I know that trying to imitate some of the stuff, but the cadence is just different - my cadence and the other guys’ cadences.
“And then some of the checks that we have, there’s obviously a little more latitude when I’m out there to add or subtract or change some of the things when the play call comes in and that we’ve talked about — (head coach) Mike (McCarthy) and I, or (quarterbacks coach) Alex (Van Pelt) and Mike and I, or Alex and (offensive coordinator) Edgar (Bennett) and Mike and I — so there’s going to be some different stuff they hear in the huddle. And then the tempo, catching guys with 12 on the field that’s something we’ve done here for a few years now. It’s hard to simulate that in practice.”
** When the Packers selected Jason Spriggs in the second round of the 2016 draft, he was expected to start at one of the tackle spots sooner rather than later. The Packers sent picks No. 57 and 125 to Indianapolis for pick No. 48, then moved up and drafted Spriggs.
But after a disappointing rookie year, Spriggs has struggled throughout this training camp. And in Green Bay’s second preseason game, Spriggs was partially responsible for three sacks.
“I’m not in the position to play ‘who is it on?’“ Spriggs said of the sacks. “If it was on me, it was on me. That’s not my concern. They hit us with a couple of blitzes that we weren’t really expecting. They hit us with a couple of different deals. It wasn’t my best game, but you live and you learn and you move on from there.”
The Packers may be tired of waiting on Spriggs.
During Wednesday’s practice, right tackle Bryan Bulaga left with an ankle injury that will keep him out of this week’s preseason game in Denver. Instead of calling on Spriggs, who was expected to be the top backup at both tackle spots this year, Green Bay inserted Kyle Murphy.
Murphy, a sixth-round draft pick from Stanford in 2016, played in just three games a year ago. But Murphy has improved dramatically and may have passed Spriggs as Green Bay’s swing tackle for 2017.
“I don’t know if there’s anything in particular, really,” Murphy said of his improvement. “In the offseason, I tried to focus on strength and quickness and all that. I think my run blocking, coming from a run-heavy offense at Stanford, I would say my run blocking was always pretty up to par. I’ve been working on my pass protection, trying to stay low, trying to stay explosive. I’ve just been trying to be a better all-around player. I’m feeling good.”
The Packers certainly haven’t given up on Spriggs. Their investment was too great and they hope to get him on track sooner rather than later.
“Certainly, he’ll be the first to tell you he’s got to play better,” Packers offensive line coach James Campen said of Spriggs. “We’ll get those things corrected and I’ll make sure he’s better prepared next time. It’s a combination of things, but certainly though when you get out of your fundamentals early in the game, people take advantage. He’ll work hard on that this week.
“You go through and you have struggles sometimes. Certainly, his hit now. If there’s a place to have it, it’s better in a preseason game than a regular-season game. I’m confident in Jason that he’ll make the corrections necessary and play much better, like he’s supposed to and like he’s capable of, this week.”
** Green Bay’s top four running backs — Ty Montgomery, Jamaal Williams, Aaron Jones and Devante Mays — have combined for just 53 rushing yards on 24 carries (2.2). For comparison’s sake, No. 4 quarterback Taysom Hill has 52 rushing yards himself on eight carries (6.5).
The Packers, who have largely ignored the run game during head coach Mike McCarthy’s first 11 seasons, don’t seem worried, though.
“We do a lot of good things against our run defense,” Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari said. “I think it’s just stacking successes, building upon it not only in practice, but coming out in a game and executing that. I think we’re chipping away, being right where we want to be. The next thing is go out there and prove it on the football field.”
Montgomery, a converted wide receiver, is in his first full season at running back. The other three are rookies.
Ben Sirmans, Green Bay’s running backs coach, has some advice for his young group.
“You’ve got to be very careful with what you say to running backs, because you want them to react instinctively as opposed to thinking,” Sirmans said. “As a coach once told me, ‘If you think, you stink.’”
** Green Bay’s battle for the No. 3 quarterback job is hot and heavy.
Joe Callahan, an undrafted free agent out of Wesley College, won the job last year and was on the 53-man roster for eight games. But Callahan is being challenged by Hill, an undrafted free agent from BYU who has shined throughout the summer.
Hill has a passer rating of 105.7 this preseason and also leads the Packers in rushing. Callahan, one of the Packers’ stars of training camp in 2016, has just a 72.9 passer rating.
“Well, you’re just looking for somebody that you think has the skill set to develop into something down the road, I think is the big thing,” Packers quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt said of what he looks for in a No. 3 quarterback. “That’s what you’re looking for as a coach. And I think (Hill) or Joe have not hit that ceiling yet, so there’s still room for growth in both of those guys. But you obviously want somebody that you feel can continue to grow and continue to get better within your system.”
** Packers third-year cornerback Damarious Randall suffered a concussion in the first preseason game when he took a blind-side hit from Philadelphia’s Bryce Treggs. Treggs was fined $25,000 for the hit, then posted the following tweet: “I made league minimum last year and I just got fined 25K. I’m starting a gofundme to pay it.”
Randall felt Treggs’ initial hit was dirty and he took offense to the tweet. Randall responded by tweeting: “Yo broke ass shouldn’t play dirty then.”
Later in the week, Randall elaborated.
“I just felt like it was a very, very dirty hit,” Randall said. “And him just crying about the fine that made me feel like that was very, very disrespectful.”
** Packers second-year punt returner Trevor Davis has been the ultimate boom or bust player. But that’s the last thing any team wants from that position.
Davis lost his job last year after fumbling a punt in Tennessee in Week 10. Davis returned a punt for a touchdown against Philadelphia in Week 1 of the preseason, then fumbled away a punt in Washington just nine days later.
“If anything, don’t take chances,” Packers special teams coach Ron Zook said. “Catch the football and then - I respect the guy because he wants to make a play. But, you know, he’s got to be smart, too. Once again, he started to run before he tucked the football. That’s probably a young guy experience thing, and he’ll learn from it.”
** Packers fourth-year wideout Jeff Janis was considered by many to be on the bubble when this camp opened. But Janis has been one of Green Bay’s top players all summer and could see his role with the team increase.
Janis has four receptions for 83 yards (20.8) and a touchdown. Janis has also been one of Green Bay’s best players on special teams.
“Jeff’s a really good football player, and in the preseason he gets a lot more opportunities to make those plays,” Packers wide receivers coach Luke Getsy said. “The difference is, when we get into the season maybe he doesn’t have as many opportunities or at-bats at those opportunities. At the same time, you talk about two years ago in the playoffs he got opportunities and he made the best of them too.
“The consistency when we get to the season has got to show up too. Last year he didn’t have that many opportunities, and he had one early in the year and it kind of didn’t go the way it’s been going in this training camp. I’m excited to see where he’s at because he has worked his tail off. I’m moving him all over the field, he’s doing a bunch of different things and he’s had a lot of success this training camp. So, I’m really happy with his progress.”
NOTES: Cornerback Davon House, expected to be Green Bay’s No. 1 cornerback this season, remains out with a hamstring injury. House suffered the injury on Aug. 5 during the Packers’ Family Night Scrimmage and hasn’t been back since. ... Outside linebacker Vince Biegel, a fourth-round draft pick in April, underwent foot surgery in mid-May and still hasn’t returned. Biegel, expected to provide depth for Green Bay’s paper-thin outside linebacking core, is in danger of missing the season opener. ... Six Packers that didn’t play in the second preseason game were back at practice this week. That list includes running back Ty Montgomery (lower leg), cornerback Damarious Randall (concussion), wideout Malachi Dupre (concussion), safety Josh Jones (leg), tight end Aaron Peck (neck) and receiver Colby Pearson (ankle).