For Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy, the rookie minicamp that ended Sunday was a promising prelude.
"As I told the rookies at the end of practice today, I felt it was clearly one of our better rookie camps, if not the best," McCarthy said Sunday. "I'll let this final day of video make that clear. But, I thought the practices increased as far as the production and the efficiency, seeing guys get on the same page. I felt the work was very good."
Fifty-seven players -- a blend of this year's 11 draft picks, nine undrafted signees, 10 first-year players and 27 players brought in on a tryout basis -- participated in the three-day indoctrination. The practice sessions held each day didn't move McCarthy to make any bold proclamations, but some strong first impressions of the rookie class of 2013 arose.
Datone Jones, the team's first-round draft pick from UCLA, settled in at defensive end.
"I'm glad he's here," McCarthy said.
Unlike many of his new teammates whose heads were swimming as they pored over pages and pages of the intricate playbooks, Jones came in ready to jump ahead a few chapters. Jones essentially played in Packers coordinator Dom Capers' enduring brand of a 3-4 defensive system last season, implemented by then-first-year head coach Jim Mora Jr. after his forays in the NFL.
"Datone hit the lottery in a number of different ways. It's the same terminology," McCarthy said. "Lou Spanos, the (UCLA) defensive coordinator, is someone that grew up in the system in Pittsburgh (as an assistant coach with the Steelers) and does a great job. So, the terminology will be pretty seamless for (Jones)."
The rookie camp allowed Capers to take a long look at Jones off the edge in the base schemes and as a situational inside pass rusher, where the Packers hope they can get the most bang for the big bucks that will be invested in him. For his part, the 6-foot-4 Jones is planning to play big.
"Right now, I'm 285 (pounds)," he said during the camp. "I feel like a good playing weight for a defensive end is 285, 290. The weight will help playing against strong offensive tackles in this league, but I feel like I'm pretty athletic, I'm really strong and I can fit anywhere in this defense."
Of the full 11-player lineup of draft choices, only Jones and second-round running back Eddie Lacy are unsigned.
Lacy, like Jones, was a full participant in the rookie camp -- the launching pad for what should be a compelling position battle the next four months. General manager Ted Thompson traded up in the draft to take accomplished Johnathan Franklin from UCLA late in the fourth round.
Lacy and Franklin have become fast friends and are hotel roommates at the outset of their stay in Green Bay. Yet, both players know what's at stake as they vie to become the lead dog lined up behind quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
"Competition is going to bring out the best in you," Franklin said. "We're definitely going to find out what kind of man we are and what kind of athletes we are. So, I'm excited to compete with Eddie and learn from Eddie and get better with him as well."
In the wake of admissions from a couple teams that his injury history soured them on taking Lacy, the bruising back maintained he's of good health.
"I talked about it for months," said Lacy, when asked about the fusion surgery performed on his right big toe in spring 2012. "It is what it is. I don't have a problem with it. I played the whole (college) season with it (last fall), and I'm going to continue to play with it."
Lacy and Franklin might have to be more concerned than pushing just one another for the starting job. Undrafted free agent Angelo Pease from Kansas State caught McCarthy's eye from start to finish in the rookie camp.
"He jumped out there on that run," McCarthy said of a particularly memorable player. "That's a big-time cut. Frankly, I thought it was Eddie Lacy, just the way he dropped his weight and hit the hole."
McCarthy gushed some more about the 5-10, 211-pound Pease two days later after the final practice.
"I thought (he) had a very good weekend," McCarthy said. "He had another run today, geez. I think he's a good young back."