Marquand Manuel’s fate with the Green Bay Packers may depend on how some reserves perform Thursday night against the Tennessee Titans. Coach Mike McCarthy said after the team’s final training camp practice of the preseason that Manuel will not play against the Titans at LP Field so the staff can take a look at some younger players.
“We're looking at all of our options,” said McCarthy. “(Manuel) is a veteran player. I haven't done a good enough job of getting the younger guys reps, particularly in the first half. I want to see (Tyrone) Culver play early. I want to see Charlie Peprah play early. That's what we're trying to accomplish. I'm trying to be up front and honest. We're just trying to get as much information as we can about our young players.”
It appears that second-year pro Atari Bigby has unseated Manuel for the starting spot at strong safety next to free safety Nick Collins. Bigby has practiced with the first team defense for the last two weeks and will start against Tennessee.
“Atari needs to show that he can be consistent,” McCarthy said. “That's really the biggest thing I'm looking for. That's why I'm going to play him through the second quarter because I want to see him play. His impact plays, he's shown that ability and it's exciting. But we need it every down in and out, the communication, that's what I'll be watching from him on Thursday night.”
Third-round draft pick Aaron Rouse will not play against the Titans because of a hamstring injury, leaving the Packers with Culver, Peprah, and Alvin Nnabuife, who spent the last eight weeks of the 2006 season on the Packers’ practice squad, as backups. If one of those three play well, it is possible that the Packers will part ways with the higher-priced Manuel and keep either Culver, Peprah or Nnabuife as the fourth safety.
“I know where we are with M&M (Manuel),” McCarthy said. “We have a lot of questions that need to be answered in Thursday night's ballgame.”
Stock is Up
If the regular season began today, Junius Coston would serve as the Packers’ first lineman off the bench in the event of an injury to a starter. Coston has the ability to play all five positions on the line.
Coston is expected to start at right guard for the injured Jason Spitz Thursday night at Tennessee. Last Thursday, when Spitz injured his calf, Coston played in his place. Coston then moved to left tackle with the second-team offensive line.
“If we played a game today I'd be comfortable with ‘Juice’ as a starter even in that sixth slot,” said McCarthy. “I'm very pleased with the way he's matured and come around. In fairness to him, the criticism he gets all the time is his footwork. When you're playing five different positions, that's a little difficult to establish. That's not fair to that guy in the swing position. He's done a lot of good things throughout camp and I'm happy with the progress that he's made.”
Coston missed the early part of last season with a knee injury. He was behind Tony Moll as the team’s swing lineman last year, but Moll has been sidelined for a few weeks in training camp with a pinched nerve in his neck. That injury has allowed Coston to pass Moll up on the depth chart. Moll will not play against the Titans.
Stock is Down
Fullback Brandon Miree may be on the outside looking in after the final cuts are made this weekend, but that could change with a strong performance Thursday night at Tennessee. The Packers have been giving rookie Corey White more reps at fullback this week in practice, which could be a signal that the end is near for Miree, a third-year pro.
Rookie Korey Hall is expected to make the roster as one of the fullbacks, so the Packers will have to decide either Miree, who has experience in the zone blocking system, or White, a rookie who has shown a lot of potential in camp.
Miree missed Green Bay’s first two preseason games after sustaining a neck stinger early in training camp. He returned to play against Jacksonville and says he is back to normal.
“No lingering effects,” said Miree. “It took a while, but we wanted to make sure we played it smart and it won’t come back.
Coach Mike McCarthy said that Miree’s injury has slowed his progress. Hall will start his fourth straight preseason game in place of Miree, who is expected to enter “after the second or third series,” McCarthy said.
“Going into the season, I want to make sure I’m hitting on all cylinders and perform as well as I can,” Miree said.
Play of the Day
Ryan Pickett showed off his hands during an 11-on-11 red zone drill by picking off a pass thrown by Aaron Rodgers from the 3-yard line. Rodgers’ pass was deflected at the line and bounced off a few players before the 322-pound Pickett gathered it in.
He said it
It’s definitely good to have camp over, it’s always a grind. Now it’s time to get some real games in. That’s what we’re all here for, the Sunday afternoons in the NFL and making that chase.”
-- cornerback Charles Woodson
-- Wide receiver Carlyle Holiday took snaps from center Scott Wells after practice today for the first time in training camp. Holiday last played quarterback in 2003 and part of ’04 at Notre Dame.
-- After practice, the Packers dressed up and attended the Green Bay Chamber of Commerce’s 51st annual Welcome Back Luncheon.
-- McCarthy said after practice that Brett Favre will play 2-3 series against the Titans.
-- Cornerback Will Blackmon has a broken left thumb from last Thursday’s game against Jacksonville, and his hand was in a cast today. Blackmon practiced and will play and return at least one punt against Tennessee.
-- Woodson led the Packers with an unofficial seven interceptions during training camp to win a pool established by defensive backs