The Green Bay Packers lined up Saturday for their fourth practice camp of the 2022 season. I was able to attend, so here are some of my key observations and insights:
Matt LaFleur’s pre-practice press conference
– Aaron Jones was back on Friday, but as LaFleur would tell reporters, it was “just an emergency situation”. Jones also sits on special teams meetings with De’Vondre Campbell.
Bring away: After the playoff loss to San Francisco, LaFleur mentioned that the Packers were looking into using starters more on special teams. Rich Bisaccia also made a similar comment this offseason, noting that he was still a core special teams player towards the end of his career at Ronde Barber. I think we’re going to see more key contributors on special teams than we’ve seen in years past, particularly in the blocking units, but for players like Jones, Campbell and Adrian Amos – who all took on special teams this summer – I expect they will prepared for this scenario just in case, but will not start as preferred starters.
– LaFleur on edge rusher Randy Ramsey via Ryan Wood: “He is one of the guys who will be in the competition. Right now it’s pretty clear who 1 and 2 are, but anyone can guess as to 3 to 5.”
Bring away: Ramsey suffered an ankle injury last summer that sidelined him the entire season. Earlier this offseason, Brian Gutekunst said the team was “excited” to have Ramsey back in the mix. Not only was he battling for game time on defense, but he also finished fourth in special team snaps per PFF in 2020.
– As Matt Schneidman I would like to note that the Packers will be bringing Sammy Watkins back into the mix. He trained alone today and will be back in team practice next week.
Observations and tips from practice ￼
– David Bakhtiari worked with the rehab group, which was the first time during the training camp.
– Zach Tom was back in the left tackle with the starters today and put on an impressive performance. He lacks a bit of length for a duel, but his athleticism is marginal. He finished his Wake Forest career with 1,474 snaps in left tackle, allowing for just four sacks and 23 pressings over those two years, according to the PFF.
– The other starts along the offensive line were Jon Runyan, Josh Myers, Royce Newman and Yosh Nijman from left to right. With versatility being the hallmark of this offensive line unit, as Matt LaFleur said earlier this week, things will be “fluid” as players are moved around in search of the top five.
– The second team’s offensive line consisted of Tom – who got more reps – Michal Menet, Jake Hanson, Sean Rhyan and Cole Van Lanen. To my knowledge, we haven’t seen Rhyan snap at tackle, which is where he spent most of his time at UCLA.
– With a deeper rotation of the center line of defense, there were several snaps with Kenny Clark as a five-tech. Getting Clark to the brink and into space is always a good thing, as it means fewer double teams and more one-on-one opportunities.
– Romeo Doubs just kept playing, including a downfield pass from Jordan Love that let his man hit and another in traffic. Doubs played with the ones, twos and threes on Saturday and was also the first return-man on punts. Doubs averaged over 12 yards per return on 37 touchdown attempts in Nevada.
– There seemed to be an emphasis on running today and the defense were well prepared, flying for the ball and filling in gaps. The defensive front also created some “pressure”.
– The secondary was also very good – sticky in the cover. Rodgers and Love rarely had the opportunity to slide the ball down, often having to go on their second and third reads before finding a target. Overall, the defense won the day – which shouldn’t come as a surprise. Even Rodgers mentioned that there might be some long days during his recent appearance on The Pat McAfee Show:
“It could be a long training camp for the offensive. I like the way our defenses look and play and just on paper it looks like they’re going to be pretty impressive,” Rodgers said of the Pat McAfee show. “So there could be some growing pains going forward, which would be great for us. It would be nice to take our nuggets from time to time and help us get better when we see such a really good defense.”
– Jack Coco was the long snapper with the first team field goal unit. In addition to doubs return punts, we also saw Amari Rodgers and Ish Hyman return.
– La’Darius Hamilton and Tipa Galeai were again the second team’s edge rushers, with Galeai putting together some really good pass rush reps using his speed. After Gary and Smith, third-fifth places in this roster are wide open at this position, but what we do know is that the Packers will need more impact plays from the rotary players in 2022 than they did in 2021.
– Tight end Tyler Davis, who has been the subject of much hype, has held up very well as a blocker today. Despite being a small sample size, he finished 17th among all tight ends in PFF’s run blocking class last season.
– There were several plays where Aaron Jones ranked wide. When we talk about the passing game and questions at receivers, let’s not forget Jones, who has finished second on the team in receptions for three straight seasons.
– In some of those instances where Jones was split, AJ Dillon was in the backfield. Between 2020 and 2021, the Packers went from 16% of the time on two running back sets to just 2%, according to Sharp Football. This is a very small sample size, but as Pete Dougherty would write after the Packers’ late-season win over Minnesota, there were seven games in that game with Jones and Dillon in the backfield, and offense averaged 7.4 yards per game .
– Rashan Gary was incredibly impressive. Whether it was speed or power, he lived in the backcourt and often faced off against Nijman. Again, this was another exercise that neither Rodgers nor Love Jaire tested Alexander.
– Cornerbacks Rico Gafford and Kabion Ento also had very nice days, with Gafford separating three passes and Ento separating two. Gafford recently converted from wide receiver and has a 4.22 speed – which could make him a valuable member of special teams, either as a shooter or a returnee. He also played under Rich Bisaccia in Las Vegas. Ento on the other hand really blitzed last summer but one area where he struggled was with tackling.
– Juwann Winfree, Shemar Jean-Charles, Kingsley Enagbare and Dallin Leavitt all had replays with the starters today. Winfree is fighting for a roster spot that could depend on the Packers retaining a seventh receiver. Jean-Charles could see some playtime in the slot this season depending on the matchup, while Leavitt brings special team experience from his days under Bisaccia in Las Vegas, while Enagbare is looking to take on a rotating role at Pass Rush Downs.
– In addition to struggling to move the ball, it was a sloppy day for the offense with two fumbles and two false starts.
– Last preseason, LaFleur mentioned that he wanted to see Jordan Love “let it rip.” There were a few instances of that today where he made nice, crucial readings and got the ball out quickly and on target. Hopefully this means that his confidence in the system will grow.
– The starting defense needed some replays as a field goal block team. Perhaps this is a way of putting each player in a specific position – just in case it’s needed at some point this season.