The Green Bay Packers filled Lambeau Field with over 50,000 fans on Friday, as many cheeseheads got their first look at the 2022 squad. The team seemingly avoided a major injury, the best thing that can happen for any August practice, but that doesn’t mean everything was sweet.
Head coach Matt LaFleur was not happy with the team’s conditioning after the practice, claiming that players were “dragging” by the end of it. This led to LaFleur calling an end to practice a few minutes early, doing away with the team’s live-tackling team period.
Still, there were plenty of highlights to come out of Family Night and the regional broadcast meant that fans were actually able to record and distribute these plays, unlike a normal practice. Finally, we got to see the plays that we previously had to imagine through the tweets of beat writers.
There were no changes in the team’s participation leading up to Family Night other than outside linebacker Randy Ramsey being held out. Ramsey just returned from a season-long ankle injury that cost him his 2021 season and put him on the physically unable to perform list to start training camp. Running back Patrick Taylor (groin), running back Kylin Hill (knee), receiver Christian Watson (PUP, knee), receiver Malik Taylor (shoulder), receiver Osirus Mitchell (quad), tight end Robert Tonyan (PUP, knee), tackle David Bakhtiari (PUP, knee), offensive lineman Elgton Jenkins (PUP, knee), offensive lineman Cole Schneider (ankle) and cornerback Keisean Nixon (NFI, groin) remained out for practice.
An opportunity to watch four-time MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers is always an event, but one of the standouts in Family Night was backup quarterback Jordan Love, who is going into his third season with the team. Love started the excitement when he bested Rodgers in throwing at the nets on air.
Love’s connection with seventh-round rookie Samori Toure, who has been working with the backups for the entire offseason, was evident early on. After practice, head coach Matt LaFleur stated, “It’s been pretty impressive what [Love]’s been able to put together the last few practices.” Earlier this week, LaFleur claimed that Love has had the best practice of his Packers career. With the preseason starting next week, Rodgers unlikely to play and there only being one other quarterback on the roster, there are going to be plenty of opportunities for Love to put out some quality film this summer.
With Taylor still out at running back, undrafted rookie BJ Baylor flashed. If Taylor and Hill are still out by Week 1, there’s a good chance the Packers’ final running back spot will come down to either Baylor or Tyler Goodson, players who may have been afterthoughts a week ago but are in serious contention to crack the roster as it stands today.
This offseason, new offensive coordinator Adam Stenavich stated he wanted to get Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon, maybe the team’s two best offensive skill players, on the field together more in 2022. We got a look at this for at least one snap, when Jones ran a jet sweep from an outside receiver alignment while Dillon was his lead blocker on the perimeter from out of the backfield. If the play seems familiar, it’s because the Packers ran it around the same yard mark against the Minnesota Vikings last season.
Romeo Doubs? Yes, Romeo Doubs. He did it again.
The fourth-round wide receiver makes plays every single practice, to the point where he was the first player mentioned during the Family Night broadcast. Everyone is excited about the Nevada product and that’s not changing after his performance tonight.
Doubs, like Allen Lazard, Sammy Watkins and Juwann Winfree, got early looks with “the ones” as an outside receiver. Tight end Isaiah Deguara, along with Lazard, Randall Cobb, Doubs and Amaro Rodgers, got looks early as slot receivers. The broadcast noted that Lazard, listed at 227 pounds, is down to 220 pounds this season.
At tight end, Deguara and Tyler Davis were used as the first-string’s primary pass-catchers, unsurprisingly. Davis and Marcedes Lewis were the team’s primary hand-in-the-dirt inline tight ends while Deguara and Dominique Dafney played off the ball, split out or as fullbacks. It seemed like the team ran more fullback plays in this practice than they usually did in the average game last season.
Yosh Nijman, Jon Runyan Jr., Josh Myers, Jake Hanson and Royce Newman (left to right) were the “starting” offensive line unit today. In the second half of practice, fourth-round rookie Zach Tom got looks as a right tackle, which kicked Newman inside to right guard and put Hanson on the second-string line. This is about par for the course, as those two lineups are what the team has been practicing with this week, as second-year tackle Cole Van Lanen appears to be out of the running for the starting right tackle job.
Third-round rookie Sean Rhyan struggled some today with the second-stringers, which might be why the team has him buried in the depth chart. As the second team’s right guard, he gave up multiple pressures and was called for multiple holding calls. In general, the defense got the best of the offensive line, though Nijman and Runyan had nice days.
Defensively, the team lined up in various formations throughout practice. There were the expected 3-4 and nickel sets, but the penny formation looks to be here to stay and the team used a couple of pressure packages that put an inside linebacker on the line of scrimmage.
The team’s starting defensive line in their 3-4 defense was Dean Lowry, Kenny Clark (at nose) and Jarran Reed, with Devonte Wyatt and Clark getting some snaps at end and TJ Slaton getting looks at nose tackle. Clark only saw snaps at end when Slaton was at the nose. When the team was in nickel, Reed, Clark, Lowry and Slaton played inside with “the ones.”
Wyatt had a great day lining up toe-to-toe with fellow rookie Rhyan. Rodgers noted on Wednesday that sometimes when “the lights come on” some players step up to the moment. In front of 50,000-plus fans, the first-round pick had his best practice of the summer, per Packer Report’s Andy Herman.
At outside linebacker, Jonathan Garvin and La’Darius Hamilton saw the most snaps with “the ones” behind starters Rashan Gary and Preston Smith. This is a bit of a change of pace, as Tip Galeai was ahead of Garvin on the depth chart until recently.
Inside linebacker was maybe the most boring position to track from a player participation standpoint, as De’Vondre Campbell and Quay Walker took virtually all the team’s snaps with “the ones.” Campbell was the team’s solo linebacker in penny sets and also played Mike linebacker when Walker walked down to the line of scrimmage in pressure packages. Walker is going to be the big body to open up things for Campbell, not the other way around.
The cornerback position pretty much gave us what we expected. Jaire Alexander and Eric Stokes were the team’s starting outside cornerbacks and Rasul Douglas came off the bench to play the slot in subpackages. Later on in practice, Shemar Jean-Charles got looks both as an outside cornerback and a slotback while Rico Gafford also got the nod as an outside corner.
Keisean Nixon, who was the team’s fourth cornerback in camp until his groin injury, should return to the team soon, which will be a good bar for Jean-Charles and Gafford. The team could keep six cornerbacks on the roster, as Nixon and Gafford figure to contribute significantly on special teams, but that is not a certainty.
The only injury scare today was starting safety Darnell Savage going down. According to ESPN’s Rob Demovsky, Savage had ice wrapped around his right hamstring after he hobbled off of the field. In the post-practice presser, LaFleur said that he didn’t believe that Savage had a serious injury and that Savage “didn’t seem too nervous about it.”
In somewhat of a surprise, former draft pick Vernon Scott replaced Savage. Shawn Davis, who was picked up by the Packers last season, had been getting most of the team’s third-safety looks up to this point in the summer. Like cornerback, the numbers game at safety — four or five — will be important to track in regards to the 53-man roster. Savage, starter Adrian Amos, Scott, Davis, special team signing Dallin Leavitt and special teams draft pick Tariq Carpenter all have a chance to stick on the Week 1 roster.
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The punt team did not look good today. There were more bad snaps and penalties than you’d like to see, even in early August. The team’s top long snapper once again was Jack Coco, an undrafted free agent who was signed after a workout in May. Rookie kicker Gabe Brkic, who is “starting” in place of the injured Crosby, also had a rough showing.
The good news is the returners looked sharp today and fielded most of their returns cleanly. Doubs, Rodgers and Ishmael Hyman got looks as punt returners and Rodgers even had a nice return where he had close in on a ball at full speed to haul it in.