GREEN BAY—Whether it was the day off on Sunday or the lights at Ray Nitschke Field that led to such a crisp practice, it’s hard to say.
But Mike McCarthy couldn’t have been happier with how practice went on Monday night. It finished more than 10 minutes ahead of schedule, which McCarthy said has never happened during the installation phase of camp before. He was pleased by the pace.
“Just like I told the team afterwards, I thought the work was outstanding,” McCarthy said. “I thought the energy, the tempo … That’s the kind of practice you’re looking for right there.”
The workout showcased quarterback Aaron Rodgers in regular-season form. Through extensive red-zone sessions, Rodgers completed touchdown passes to at least five different pass-catchers on any number of routes.
For the first time in camp, Rodgers found tight end Andrew Quarless regularly on crosses and drags. Quarless missed all of OTAs and minicamp due to injury and may finally be getting his football legs under him after one week. He highlighted a strong night from the tight ends that also included impressive early grabs by Jake Stoneburner for a TD and Richard Rodgers on a slant.
“A lot of blitzes, a lot of pressure, a lot of different formations, personnel groups, so no one gets stressed more than the tight end position when you play like that,” McCarthy said. “This is great work for them and you’re seeing production. We definitely took a step in the right direction.”
So did a couple of receivers whose opportunities are sure to increase due to Jared Abbrederis’ knee injury. Kevin Dorsey snagged a couple of TD throws from Matt Flynn while newcomer Gerrard Sheppard hauled in two scores from Scott Tolzien.
McCarthy said Tolzien continues to show progress after a solid outing in the Family Night practice. The preseason games will be big for the former Wisconsin signal caller as he tries to either earn a roster spot as the No. 3 or push Flynn for the No. 2 job, and Saturday night in Tennessee will be his Packers preseason debut.
“It’s been great to have an offseason to learn the basics and everything, but with that being said I’ve still got a lot to learn,” Tolzien said. “You’re continually trying to be a sponge and learn as much as you can.
“You get the most out of it when you just focus on getting better each day and not focus on the depth chart.”
Rookie receiver Jeff Janis (illness) practiced for the first time in camp but was limited to non-contact drills. That will be the plan for him Tuesday as well, as the coaching staff eases him back in.
Regarding injuries from Family Night, rookie tight end Colt Lyerla (knee) will be out multiple weeks, McCarthy said. Running back Michael Hill (concussion) is expected back soon.
Defensively on Monday, linebacker Sam Barrington nearly had an interception of Tolzien, while cornerback Tramon Williams made the play of the night. Williams had blanket coverage on Chris Harper on a deep ball to the end zone and knocked away what would have been a Rodgers TD to a sixth different receiver.
Defensive lineman Josh Boyd and outside linebacker Nate Palmer flashed in the pass rush, with rookie outside linebacker Carl Bradford blowing up a DuJuan Harris run.
The defensive penetration came against reserves, though, and McCarthy had nothing but praise for his No. 1 offensive line through the first week-plus.
“If I was going to jump out there for one position group that’s probably had the most consistent work from practice one through eight, I’d have to say that’s the group,” McCarthy said. “I think they’ve consistently given the running backs pretty good looks in the run game. The protection part of it, we’re further ahead than we were last year.” Additional coverage - Aug. 4