Safety patrol: Packers to get closer look at Richardson, Clinton-Dix
GREEN BAY—Among the seven players who did not be make the trip to Tennessee for the Green Bay Packers' preseason opener Saturday is safety Morgan Burnett.
Sidelined with an oblique strain, Burnett will watch from home.
He should get a pretty good look at first-round pick Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Sean Richardson. Those two safeties are going to get some prime playing time against the Titans.
Micah Hyde will be one of the starting safeties and Clinton-Dix probably will be the other. But the rookie may rotate with Richardson, and when Hyde calls it a night in the first half, the other two are likely to play together quite a bit.
It's obvious why the Packers want to get a look at Clinton-Dix. Richardson deserves attention because he's had a terrific camp so far, one of only two defensive backs with multiple interceptions.
“We need as many guys as possible to get ready,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “This is the first time that Micah has played back there, so this will be great for him to get more reps. You know obviously Ha Ha being a rookie (will play).
“And I tell you what, Sean Richardson's had a hell of a training camp. I mean, I've been impressed with him both defensively and special teams. I mean, he needed to pick it up on special teams and you know Sean's done a lot of good things.”
McCarthy said that Chris Banjo was also doing well and would see time.
Clinton-Dix and Richardson aren't competing for a starting job as much as a complementary role in the nickel or dime package. Hyde, Clinton-Dix and Richardson are all built differently and have different athletic talents, so it's conceivable they can be mixed and matched based on the opponent during the regular season.
At times during camp, Burnett, Hyde and Clinton-Dix have been on the field at the same time with Hyde playing in the slot as the nickel. Richardson could replace one of the three in certain situations or move ahead of Clinton-Dix.
Asked what he needed to show coming off a strong two weeks of camp, Richardson said, “Carry it over to the game. If you can make plays in practice but don't make them in the game, then what good does it do?”
Burnett said the oblique is “involved with every little type of movement you do.” He's being cautious.
Almost every year, the Packers seem to have an undrafted running back make a splash during the preseason and take a solid run at the 53-man roster.
Packers trivia buffs might remember recent names such as Arliss Beach, Kregg Lumpkin, Tyrell Sutton, Dimitri Nance, Brandon Saine and Marc Tyler, all of whom used the preseason to their advantage while trying to win a backup job. Lumpkin ('08), Sutton ('09), Saine ('11) and Tyler ('12) all led the Packers in rushing in the preseason.
Starting running back Eddie Lacy and primary backup James Starks probably won't play much tonight against the Titans.
The Packers need to find out which of a trifecta of undrafted running backs—all of whom appear physically capable of playing in the NFL—can serve them as a third back and potential kickoff returner. That group consists of DuJuan Harris, Rajion Neal and LaDarius Perkins.
"I'm not thinking about it," Harris said of playing in his first game since January of 2013 due to a knee injury. "I'm just going to execute the plays and run to the best of my ability."
In addition to Burnett, those not traveling with the team are: tight end Colt Lyerla (knee), safety Tanner Miller (ankle), defensive end Jerel Worthy (back), nose tackle Letroy Guion (hamstring), receiver Jared Abbrederis (knee) and offensive lineman Don Barclay (knee).
McCarthy did not rule out rookie receiver Jeff Janis, who returned this week after a bout of shingles but took part only in a limited part of practice.
Second-year defensive lineman Josh Boyd didn't become a regular contributor until December. A raw project, he cut his teeth on the scout team, got noticed and earned a role. This season, line coach Mike Trgovac has another such project in Khyri Thornton.
The third-round pick has shown “flashes” early, Trgovac said, though he has a “ways to go.” On the scout team, Thornton could still earn valuable snaps as a rookie and, at some point, get the call up.
“The one thing I always tell them is,” Trgovac said, “on the look team … who watches the tape the most? The head coach.”