What we've learned: Packers' defense

July, 29, 2013
7/29/13
1:30
PM ET
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Not surprisingly, for a team that gave up 579 yards of total offense in the 45-31 playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers last season, the Green Bay Packers have more questions than answers about their defense three days into training camp.

But here’s what we’ve learned about the defense so far:

[+] EnlargeDatone Jones
AP Photo/Morry GashDatone Jones is expected to give the Packers' pass rush a boost this season.
Jones looks the part: When the pads went on for the first time Sunday morning, first-round draft pick Datone Jones’ game went to another level. The defensive end from UCLA eventually will be a three-down player, but for now, at the very least, he looks like the most likely candidate to pair with B.J. Raji as the two linemen in defensive coordinator Dom Capers’ nickel and dime packages. “He’s a guy who can rush the quarterback; I can rush the quarterback,” Jones said of Raji. “So I feel like we can get after it a little bit.” The 6-foot-4, 295-pound Jones, who was the 26th overall pick, showed his speed and quickness in the first one-on-one pass-rushing drill of camp.

Jolly’s first step back: There’s no template for a return to the NFL after missing three full seasons because of a suspension, jail time and drug addiction. And after three practices, including just one in pads, it would be foolish to make any definitive evaluation of Johnny Jolly, the once-troubled defensive end who is attempting a heretofore unimaginable comeback. But Jolly, who last played in the NFL in January 2010, has gotten himself back into shape after ballooning to nearly 400 pounds (he’s listed at 325, and he would only say that both he and the coaches are happy with his weight). He was able to at least exert some force and move around blockers in the early practices. If he can do that -- and a little more -- perhaps there’s a spot for him on a defense that could use help up the middle. “With Johnny, that’s where he always thrived, as an inside player and his ability to get off blocks, his instincts,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “He just needs as much [work] as he can, but we also have him on a rep count, too, because we have to be realistic about where he is.”

Cornerback concerns: The Packers still think veteran CB Tramon Williams can return to his 2010 form, when he was one of the key defensive players during the run to Super Bowl XLV, but after two subpar seasons and a $5.9 million base salary in 2013, Williams needs a bounce-back performance. He dropped out halfway through Sunday’s practice because of a knee injury that isn’t believed to be serious, but this position has been hit hard by injuries. Casey Hayward, who led all rookies last season with six interceptions, is expected to miss the first two weeks of camp because of a hamstring injury he sustained while working out on his own. Davon House, who was a strong contender for a starting job last year at this time before he sustained a shoulder injury in the preseason opener, hasn’t practiced yet, either. On the bright side, rookie Micah Hyde, a fifth-round pick from Iowa, has been one of the early surprises of camp, earning praise from McCarthy after the first practice. “If you had asked me who was the one player that jumped out to me today, I’d say it was Micah,” McCarthy said.

Rob Demovsky

ESPN Green Bay Packers reporter

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