GREEN BAY – Jason Spriggs got his first taste of one-on-one drills on Thursday when Nick Perry came barreling into the Packers’ rookie tackle.
Perry, who’s known for his power, knocked the 6-foot-6, 301-pound Spriggs back on his heels momentarily with a bull rush in the team’s first padded practice of training camp.
Instead of continuing backward, the second-round pick out of Indiana kept his composure, re-established his footing and managed to keep the fifth-year linebacker in front of him.
It was a teaching moment for Spriggs and a reminder of the precise pad level that’s required to absorb the power of NFL pass-rushers.
At the same time, Spriggs showed resiliency in standing up to Perry, which was reflected shortly after the rep when fellow rookie Lucas Patrick extended his arm for a fist-bump.
“He knocked me back a little bit. It just shows what I need to work on,” Spriggs said. “It’s one of those things where I could drop my hips and get under him. The goal is not to have to recover.”
Each year, the first few padded practices are a litmus test for the Packers’ incoming rookie class. Through two workouts, the team’s two highest draft picks – UCLA defensive lineman Kenny Clark and Spriggs – have been off to a good start.
Training camp in Green Bay offers players on both sides of the ball a unique opportunity to match wits against Pro Bowl-level competition. For Spriggs, he’s getting a chance to test his skill set against Perry, Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers.
Sure, there have been ups and downs. On Thursday, Spriggs was beaten on one particular rep against Peppers, but brushed it off to finish the team period strong.
When Spriggs matched up again with Perry in one-on-ones Saturday, he used his hands to combat the former first-round pick’s initial move and then washed him away from the pocket.
Spriggs has used the opening week of camp to watch starting left tackle David Bakhtiari closely and focus on getting lower in his pass set to better counter power moves.
“You’re going against guys like Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers who in the blink of an eye can get under you and blast you back,” Spriggs said. “It just gets exposed quicker because they know what they’re doing and they’re that good.”
Clark, the Packers’ first-round pick, has used the one-on-one drills to test out his pass-rush moves. Clark (6-3, 314) was drafted to be a nose tackle but doesn’t want that classification to disqualify him from also getting after the quarterback.
Going into his junior year, Clark put an emphasis on improving his pass-rushing ability and being more explosive in his hips. In return, six of Clark’s seven career sacks at UCLA came in his final season.
Clark has made a few changes since arriving in the NFL. He’s modified his stance and concentrated on developing his pass-rush technique. It’s resulted in some competitive reps against veteran JC Tretter this week.
“I think I can pass rush and I’m getting better at it day by day,” Clark said. “I can feel it. At UCLA, I was more in a frog (crouched four-point) stance. Now, I changed up my stance. I feel a lot better. I feel like I can explode out a lot more.”
The first chance to put on the pads and collide with players on the opposite side of the ball provides valuable reps for rookie linemen and a vital part of the learning process.
It’s the same trial by fire all of the Packers’ veterans went through in previous years.
“It’s really just the speed,” Spriggs said. “When you put pads on, everybody can go full-go. When you don’t have pads, nobody wants to get hurt. Nobody wants to go too hard. Once you put the pads on, you can really open it up.”
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