There’s only one spot that’s unsettled on the Green Bay Packers’ offensive line, and their first-round draft choice is getting his shot at it.
Derek Sherrod, taken 32nd overall in last April’s draft, began his Packers career at left guard with the No. 1 offensive line during Saturday night’s opening practice of training camp at Ray Nitschke Field.
“We’re looking at Derek at left guard,” Head Coach Mike McCarthy said following practice. “It’s really the philosophy of creating competition … to get the best five on the field. We thought we’d give him a chance, and we’ll evaluate him and see how he did.”
The left guard spot is wide open due to the free-agent departure of Daryn Colledge. Sherrod took most of the snaps with the first unit, while third-year pro T.J. Lang was the left guard with the second group.
McCarthy said that when Sherrod, an accomplished left tackle from Mississippi State, was drafted that he would start out on the left side of the line, but he didn’t say Sherrod was exclusively a tackle. An heir apparent to veteran left tackle Chad Clifton, Sherrod could get his NFL baptism at left guard, making him more prepared to slide outside when that time comes.
It won’t be easy for a rookie to win a starting job, though, due to the lockout. Rookies got no mini-camps or OTAs to help learn the playbook and adjust to the pro game, so training camp will be their only preparation for the bright lights of the regular season.
“It is what it is, so you have to make the most of what you’ve got now,” Sherrod said prior to practice on Saturday. “I’m just going to go out there, study hard and get ready.”
As for the practice as a whole, McCarthy complimented the players on their conditioning and felt the team got off to a solid start. The first two practices are not in pads, and the players will don the pads for the first time on Monday night.
“I thought there were some flashes of very good football, but then the reality of the rest of the practice was an example of a team coming together for the first night,” McCarthy said.
“Typical first day of training camp. Nothing special. It was a better practice than I thought it would be. The ball wasn’t on the ground very much, we didn’t have players on the ground very much, and those are the types of things that show up in sloppy practices.”
McCarthy counted seven pre-snap penalties but was otherwise pleased with the volume of plays the team was able to install.
He added that he thought quarterback Aaron Rodgers was “very sharp.” Judging by the velocity on his throws, Rodgers’ arm looked rested and ready, and he nearly connected with receiver Greg Jennings on a monstrous deep throw that elicited some gasps from the packed Nitschke Field bleachers.
The ball bounced between Jennings and safety Anthony Levine momentarily before Levine corralled it for an interception, but it was an impressive toss nonetheless.
“You could see when he was throwing to the receivers he has history with, it was very clean a number of times,” McCarthy said. “Then with some of the rookies, particularly the tight ends, the timing is not there, and that’s to be expected.”
Other observations from the first practice:
Ryan Grant took the first snaps at running back, followed by James Starks.
Frank Zombo was with the No. 1 defense at outside linebacker opposite Clay Matthews. Erik Walden and Brad Jones were with the second unit.
Defensive end C.J. Wilson and safety Charlie Peprah also worked with the ones, though Mike Neal and Morgan Burnett are coming off season-ending injuries and were held out of team drills.
Brandon Underwood, who has played cornerback the bulk of his first two seasons in Green Bay, was playing safety.
Rookie second-round draft pick and receiver Randall Cobb was returning punts along with last year’s returner, cornerback Tramon Williams.
Undrafted rookie receiver Diondre Borel, a converted quarterback from Utah State, made two impressive leaping catches over the middle in team and seven-on-seven drills, but he later dropped one on a crossing route.
Kicker Mason Crosby, receiver Brett Swain and tight end Spencer Havner, who all signed new contracts, didn’t practice and can’t until Thursday, Aug. 4, due to the free-agent rules.
Also not practicing were tight end Andrew Quarless, linebacker Diyral Briggs and defensive end Eli Joseph. McCarthy said the three haven’t passed their physicals. Quarless has a hip flexor injury but McCarthy didn’t have the specifics on the others’ injuries.