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Blackmon gets accelerated tutorial

Discussion in 'Packer Fan Forum' started by PackerLegend, Oct 26, 2006.

  1. PackerLegend

    PackerLegend Cheesehead

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    It took rookie cornerback Will Blackmon five months to recover from a broken foot, but only six practices to prove to the Green Bay Packers that he was ready to play football again.

    It was a remarkable turnaround given Blackmon had played mostly wide receiver his senior season at Boston College and was anything but game-ready. However, the Packers are so high on Blackmon's talents - especially his speed and hand-eye coordination - that they have him driving in the express lane toward a regular role in the defense.

    Unless there's an injury to Al Harris or Charles Woodson, Blackmon won't be a starter this year, but cornerbacks who stand 6 feet tall, weigh 198 pounds, run the 40-yard dash in 4.47 seconds and have a vertical leap of 41 inches find a way on the field. Especially if they have the hands of a receiver, which Blackmon does.

    "At this position, sometimes it's feast or famine," cornerbacks coach Lionel Washington said. "You can do well one play and next play you come back and give up a big play and a touchdown and everyone says, 'He can't do it.' So you have to be patient. You have to give the kid time to develop.

    "But those type of plays (the good ones) are going to come. In this situation we need them to come now."

    It might be wishful thinking on the Packers' part that he'll be able to help this year, but they were willing to blow off the fact Blackmon had only a half-dozen full practices between the time he broke his right foot May 21 in mini-camp and Sunday, when they got a look at him against the Miami Dolphins. The fourth-round pick suffered a setback in his return to the field the first week of the season when his knee became sore because he was overcompensating for the foot. He was forced to sit out the first five games.

    But when he returned to practice Oct. 10, he caught the coaches' eye.

    During one workout, Blackmon was lined up against practice squad receiver Calvin Russell and did what many rookie cornerbacks do: let Russell beat him off the line because of poor bump-and-run technique. Before anyone knew it, however, Blackmon was running stride for stride with Russell down the field.

    "That's the thing we got all excited about," Washington said. "He (missed) his jam but he closed real fast on Calvin Russell and Calvin can run. He was able to go catch up. When he showed that you know his speed is there. Now it's being able to play his technique and playing with consistency. If he can do that, it will really help him as a football player and us as a team."

    After cutting cornerback Ahmad Carroll because of his poor play, the Packers were left with four rookies - Blackmon, Tyrone Culver, Jarrett Bush and Charlie Peprah - to back up their four starters and fill out the nickel and dime packages. Soon Patrick Dendy, a second-year player with four games of experience - very little of it playing in the secondary - was elevated from the practice squad to the active roster.

    Dendy has been serving as the fifth defensive back in the nickel package, filling in at cornerback when Woodson moves into the slot. When opponents go to four-wide receiver sets, the Packers rarely go to six defensive backs because they don't have a fourth cornerback to put on the field.

    In the coming weeks, Blackmon could give a lift to a beleaguered secondary - the Packers rank last in the league in passing yards allowed and tied for 15th in interceptions - either as an upgrade from Dendy in the nickel or a fourth cornerback in the dime package.

    "Usually, I use athleticism to bail me out," Blackmon said after practice Wednesday. "That will work some percentage of the time, but in this league it won't work too often because everyone's a technician. Being my first game, I tried not to get beat deep and I tried to have fun, but today I really honed in on my technique."

    How far Blackmon can go this season will depend on how well he assimilates to the pro game. Extremely smart - he scored a 31 on the 50-question Wonderlic test - Blackmon hasn't had much problem following what the Packers are doing on defense, but learning how to be effective in bump coverage or taking no wasted steps are courses yet to be completed.

    Nearing the end of the second mini-camp, the coaches were extremely excited about Blackmon's potential and were already considering him a candidate for playing time.

    "He was making progress like, wooooo, unbelievable," Washington said of the mini-camp. "He was doing a great job."

    Blackmon played 10 snaps on defense without incident in place of Dendy during the fourth quarter of the Miami game, and it looks as if he'll continue to get work each week to get him caught up with the others. This is the first time he has played cornerback full time since the end of the 2004 season and there are still some who doubt his ability to play there, which explains why he lasted until the fourth round.

    Blackmon has also been working with the kickoff and punt return units as well as several special teams coverage units. He averaged 24.5 yards a kickoff return at Boston College and fell 222 yards short of tying the all-time NCAA Division I record for kickoff return yards, so he could find himself returning kicks for the Packers soon.

    He feels fortunate that the Packers have been so patient with him and kept him on the active roster despite being shelved for so long.

    "Going back to when they made the final roster they kept me, so obviously they had plans to do something with me," Blackmon said. "They saw something in mini-camp. They saw sparks in me, the ability to play the deep ball. I came here for a reason and I have to prove them right."
     
  2. tromadz

    tromadz Cheesehead

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    IT HAS BEGUN!
     
  3. PackerLegend

    PackerLegend Cheesehead

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    Hopefully he becomes great because it aint bad when you had a wr in college playing CB in the pros because he should catch any ball that comes his way.
     
  4. spardo62

    spardo62 Cheesehead

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    It will be good to see him getting reps in game action this year. One would hope that he can develop into a solid starter for this team. We are getting old and thin at DB and his development would allow high draft focus on another area of the team next year.
     
  5. Bobby Roberts

    Bobby Roberts Cheesehead

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    Wolf once said that you can never have too many good DBs. My guess is that we'll draft a mid to late rounder at least. It would be a good time to bring in a higher pick or two and have the players develop under Harris and Woodson. That's a pretty good couple of players to learn from.
     
  6. Krazygangsta

    Krazygangsta Cheesehead

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    i think we should draft a CB first round and a WR 2nd round ... and then we could get a rb cause its filled with RB this draft but CB is the most imp
     
  7. spardo62

    spardo62 Cheesehead

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    I am not saying that I would not take one or two mid to late. I would not even be opposed to taking one high, as you are correct depth and quality at that position is vital. I was merely saying that if Blackmon does not show signs this year we may be forced to take one high next year. Now with him playing we/they will find out for sure what they have.
     
  8. yooperfan

    yooperfan Cheesehead

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    Blackmon sure sounds good on paper, speed, hands, decent size.
    Lets hope he turns into a future star.
    Sounds like he could be an immediate impact on special teams given a few games to get his legs under him.
     
  9. Yared-Yam

    Yared-Yam Cheesehead

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    He's even better on Madden '06
     
  10. Greg C.

    Greg C. Cheesehead

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    Thanks for the article, although you should let us know where it came from. The writer deserves credit, as does the publication.

    I have high hopes for Blackmon, maybe just because the secondary is so thin right now. What I am most hopeful about is something that is not even mentioned in this article: that the coaches have been impressed with his ability to play a ball that is in the air. That is largely an instinctive talent, and it is a talent that is badly needed by the Packers right now. It is also why Ahmad Carroll, who doesn't have that talent, is unlikely to ever amount to anything in the NFL.
     
  11. jdlax

    jdlax Cheesehead

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    ^ I noticed a few times last game Dendy going to the air to break up a pass. It's just something you do or don't have, I guess, and the former #28, for all his abilities, did not.
     
  12. retiredgrampa

    retiredgrampa Cheesehead

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    Ever since I found out early this year that Blackmon went from DB to WR to help out his team (a move that quite possibly cost him a lot of pro money) I have quietly been rooting for the guy. Sounds high character to me. I believe he did well on the Wonderlik too. So he is smart and works hard. What a great story it would be if he can pick up his CB skills again. Obviously, I'll be pulling for him the rest of the year. Next year he should be super ready.
     
  13. Greg C.

    Greg C. Cheesehead

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    Yes, Dendy seems to have some ability in that department as well. I think it is one of those things like a running back knowing how to hit the hole and make the right cut at the right time. It involves peripheral vision, balance, and coordination--skills which cannot be taught. Speed and strength have nothing to do with it. Further prooof that just because something is difficult (or impossible) to measure, that doesn't mean it's not important.

    Who knows, maybe Blackmon's year of playing wide receiver in college will turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to him. That's got to help enormously with CB skills, and they wouldn't have had him play that position if he couldn't catch the ball.
     

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