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Our Rookies

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 13, 2005 8:54 pm    Post subject: Our Rookies Reply with quote

WR Murphy leads group of rookies

By Rob Demovsky

The real test won’t come until training camp and preseason games, but the Green Bay Packers believe they might have found another playmaking receiver.

Rookie Terrence Murphy, a second-round pick in April’s draft, had perhaps the strongest showing of the 11 recent draft picks during the Packers’ minicamp that concluded on Thursday. While quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the Packers’ first-round pick, struggled at times, the 6-foot-1, 196-pound receiver from Texas A&M displayed enough ability to leave the coaches thinking they will use Murphy in some capacity right away.

“He learns quickly,” offensive coordinator Tom Rossley said of Murphy. “He’s going to be able to help us the first year. He’s strong, has good hands, strong hands and a strong run after the catch. There’s little nuances he’s still got to learn with every play (and) every route.”

Murphy rarely dropped anything that was catchable during minicamp and made several big plays down the field. He also came up with several difficult sideline catches.

“He looked pretty strong,” said Reggie McKenzie, the Packers’ director of pro personnel. “He’s a worker. He’s got good hands. The speed is good and size is good. He’s a total-package guy. He’s just going to have to be productive in the preseason. When the ball is thrown to him, let’s see him catch and see what he can do afterward.”

Murphy also will be in the mix for the kickoff-return job and may even take a crack at returning punts in training camp.

“We’re hoping he can compete (as a returner),” McKenzie said.

Here’s a look at how the rest of the draft picks stand heading into next month’s training camp.

Nick Collins, S (second round): Collins missed significant time during the final minicamp because of a foot injury. He had a sore arch that became aggravated after someone stepped on his foot. Collins had been working mostly at free safety, although the safety positions are interchangeable in coordinator Jim Bates’ defense.

It’s not out of the question that Collins could compete for a starting job in training camp. Veteran Arturo Freeman, who played for Bates in Miami, has the inside track on one of the safety spots.

Before Collins’ foot problem flared up, he showed the physical tools the Packers liked when they drafted him No. 51 overall out of Division I-AA Bethune-Cookman, but the 5-11, 200-pound Collins is still raw in terms of football knowledge and understanding the Packers’ system.

“There’s going to be some growing pains,” McKenzie said. “You’ll see that probably for at least the first two weeks of the preseason.”

Marviel Underwood, S (fourth round): Underwood is perhaps more polished than Collins but not the physical specimen. In part because of Collins’ injury, Underwood saw significant playing time during the minicamp.

However, McKenzie said that doesn’t necessarily mean the 5-10, 197-pound Underwood is ahead of Collins on the depth chart.

“I wouldn’t say that,” McKenzie said. “They’re hitting the ground running pretty evenly.”

In all likelihood, the other starting safety spot will come down to a battle between Collins, Underwood and veterans Earl Little and Mark Roman. But Underwood did nothing to hurt his chances in the minicamp.

Brady Poppinga, LB (fourth round): Bates lined up Poppinga exclusively at the strong-side spot during the minicamp.

Though he probably won’t be in the mix for a starting job unless there’s an injury or two at linebacker, Poppinga looks like a good bet for special teams. He’s an athletic, high-energy guy who can run well for someone who’s 6-3 and 245 pounds.

“He can run,” McKenzie said. “There’s no question about that.”

It would be an upset if Poppinga didn’t make the opening-day roster. Poppinga has a cockiness and confidence about him that the coaching staff likes.

Junius Coston, C/G (fifth round): Offensive line coach Larry Beightol looks for versatility in his backups, and Coston appears to fit that mold.

Beightol said he felt confident that — with time — the 6-3, 317-pound Coston could play any of the three interior positions on the line. He worked mostly at left guard during the minicamp but is probably equally comfortable at either guard spot.

“We think he’s going to be a heck of a guard,” McKenzie said. “Either side. The versatility he has is pretty good.”

Said Beightol: “He could go in and play center, too. He’s a strong guy. He’s very athletic. I’ve been very impressed with him.”

Mike Hawkins, CB (fifth round): After an impressive showing in the post-draft minicamp, Hawkins had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in a knee and didn’t take part in the last minicamp.

His injury raises serious questions about whether he’ll be able to last for a full season. The 6-1, 180-pound Hawkins hasn’t played a full season of football since 2002, which was his only season of college football at Oklahoma.

When healthy, Hawkins looked to be a natural as a cover man and had a nose for the ball. He made two impressive interceptions on consecutive days during team drills in the post-draft minicamp.

“At least we saw a little bit of Hawkins during the first minicamp,” McKenzie said. “We liked what we saw then. We just need him to get healthy.”

Mike Montgomery, DE (sixth round): The Packers liked his pass-rush ability at Texas A&M but don’t know if he can be effective immediately as the edge rusher they so desperately need.

The 6-5, 275-pound Montgomery was slowed by a thumb injury during minicamp. He participated on a limited basis but was wearing a heavy cast.

“You like a guy that has a little length to him,” McKenzie said. “He’s real long. He’s got some pass-rush skills. Hopefully, we can keep him healthy and see him play. He hasn’t done much.”

Craig Bragg, WR (sixth round): A hamstring injury kept him out of the entire minicamp, dropping him well behind Murphy in the battle for the fourth or fifth receiver spot.

The 6-1, 195-pound Bragg will get a chance to win the punt-return job but isn’t considered a candidate to return kickoffs.

“We just don’t know anything more about Bragg,” McKenzie said. “He has a long way to go.”

Kurt Campbell, LB (seventh round): The 6-1, 227-pound Campbell played exclusively at the weak-side linebacker position during minicamp. He’s probably too small to play either of the other two spots. He will be in a battle for the last linebacker spot.

“Like Poppinga, he can run,” McKenzie said. “Hopefully, the preseason shows they both can play.”

Will Whitticker, G/T (seventh round): The 6-5, 338-pound Whitticker looks like a young Kevin Barry. Like Barry, Whitticker can play both right-side positions. He played mostly guard at Michigan State.

“It seems like he’s picking both positions up pretty well,” McKenzie said. “He’s a right guard by trade, but we think he can play right tackle, too. He’s kind of raw there from a technique standpoint with his footwork.”

Beightol said Whitticker has the size and strength to play either spot.

“The only issue with him at tackle is he hasn’t seen the speed that a Kabeer (Gbaja-Biamila) or an Aaron Kampman has,” Beightol said. “But he’ll adjust to that. It just takes a little bit of time.”
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 13, 2005 9:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote


Sounds good to me. If Murphy, Underwood and Collins end up starting, or playing significantly, that will take some of the sting outta the Rodgers pick.

However, the injuries that ocurred must be cause for some concern. But, all in all, it sounds fairly promising.
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 13, 2005 9:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yeah it does. Looks like everybody has a chance at a roster spot. I don't know if Campell or Whitticker will amke it, but it looks like evrybody else will be on the oepning day roster.
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 15, 2005 7:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It would be an upset if Poppinga didn’t make the opening-day roster. Poppinga has a cockiness and confidence about him that the coaching staff likes.
Something the Green Bay defense has been missing for a while!
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