GREEN BAY—In what is developing into a wide-open battle for a starting job, the Packers have been rotating daily which tight ends take the snaps with the first-team offense.
Brandon Bostick took advantage of his turn on Wednesday at Ray Nitschke Field.
The converted small-college wide receiver snagged a touchdown catch on a quick flip from quarterback Aaron Rodgers in a red-zone period, and then he ended the competitive portion of practice with another TD grab on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line.
The final score capped a 12-play, 60-yard drive in the two-minute drill that was well-executed by Rodgers. Bostick had a 5-yard grab early in the drive, but on the play before the touchdown, he said he ran the wrong route and was corrected by Rodgers after the pass fell incomplete in the end zone.
The quarterback went right back to Bostick on the very next snap, though, a certain boost of confidence for the young tight end.
“He’s a great teammate, a great leader,” Bostick said of Rodgers. “He gave me another chance and I made the play. It definitely felt good.”
Being able to practice every day has felt pretty good, too. Needing surgery on his injured foot in the offseason, Bostick missed most of OTAs in the spring but returned to the field before workouts wrapped up.
That brief spring cameo eased any worries he had about his foot, and he was able to avoid coming into training camp cold.
“It was definitely important for me,” he said. “Every day I was pushing the trainers to get back out there, and they finally let me go.”
All signs are positive on the medical front thus far after the foot injury derailed what had been a good run of production in the second half of last season. In his first NFL action after spending his rookie 2012 season on the practice squad, Bostick caught seven passes for 120 yards and a TD, all in a span of four games.
“He needs to stay healthy. That’s kind of what’s gotten in Bo’s way,” Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. “We’ve always been excited about his progress, and he’s just had some setbacks. Had a great catch out there today, and he needs to get after the run blocking because he has that ability to play on the line. He can run, stretch you vertically.”
Bostick isn’t the only young tight end off to a decent start in camp. Rookie third-round draft pick Richard Rodgers also caught a TD pass on Wednesday from his namesake in a red-zone period, a 4-yard completion amidst end-zone traffic.
Both Bostick and Rodgers noted that blocking remains their main area of focus given their college receiving background. It’s the toughest skill for them to develop consistency in right now, but it’s coming along.
Veteran Andrew Quarless entered camp as the de facto No. 1 tight end, but he missed all of the offseason program due to an undisclosed injury. The door is open.
“It’s up for grabs,” Bostick said. “Every day, we go out there, we’re competing for a spot, and competing for that spot to be No. 1. I definitely think the best guy will win.”
Plenty of competition continues in the defensive backfield as well. Safety Morgan Burnett tweaked an ankle in practice, which produced some shuffling of safety pairs the rest of the morning.
Micah Hyde and first-round draft pick Ha Ha Clinton-Dix worked together with the first unit, while Clinton-Dix also took reps with Sean Richardson when Hyde moved to a nickel or dime role.
Cornerback Davon House grabbed some attention, too. Two plays before Bostick’s fourth-down TD in two-minute, he blanketed receiver Jordy Nelson on a back-shoulder throw in the end zone to prevent a touchdown catch. It was the type of play House was making in camp two years ago, before a shoulder injury in the preseason opener at San Diego halted his ascent.
Now entering his fourth season, House says he’s more confident and “playing with a lot more swag.” Between OTAs and training camp, he worked out in Arizona with a defensive back specialist who has trained a handful of other pros as well, including former All-Pro Darrelle Revis.
“I think he was a very young, raw corner when he came here, and you’re seeing the natural progression,” McCarthy said of House.
The receivers are seeing it, too. Before the back-shoulder play, Nelson already had a big day in the books, with three TD passes from Rodgers during red-zone work, one a classic toe-tap in the back of the end zone off a rollout throw.
But House got the best of him on one of the toughest plays for a corner to defend.
“He’s always given me fits,” Nelson said. “He’s long, he’s fast, he’s physical. He’s someone figuring out how he needs to play.” Additional coverage - July 30