Green Bay Packers fans who traveled to see team practice Wednesday were disappointed when the weather forced the Packers’ open practice indoors. Due to limited space at Green Bay’s training facility, practice has been closed to the public, meaning the next opportunity to watch the Packers practice live will be at training camp in well over a month.
Despite the move, the media was still allowed to see practice, which gave us some insight into what happened on day two of the Packers’ minicamp. Here’s what you need to know.
Matt LaFleur speaks to wide receivers
Green Bay head coach Matt LaFleur spent a lot of time in the pre-practice presser and discussed some of his wideouts. First was Sammy Watkins, who was signed by the team this offseason and according to LaFleur “will be a big part of our offense.” Watkins missed the two open OTAs earlier this spring, but LaFleur previously explained that Watkins has been conducting other optional workouts in Green Bay.
LaFleur continued, “I don’t think his game has slowed down at all since 2017. I think a little bit of that was a lack of opportunity.” 2017 was the season that the Los Angeles Rams traded a second-round pick in a package for Watkins from LaFleur under first-year head coach Sean McVay. This season, the former Clemson Tiger recorded 39 receptions for 593 yards and eight touchdowns.
Another former Clemson recipient, Amari Rodgers, was described by LaFleur as “in much better shape.” Rodgers had said a similar thing after training yesterday when he claimed he’d lost six pounds since last season.
Rodgers saw intermittent time on the first-team offense today, according to training reports.
Another day, another change at cornerback
As we mentioned earlier, there has been a lot of movement at cornerback in terms of these helmet and shirt drills. At times, Rasul Douglas, Keisean Nixon or Jaire Alexander play the slot with the first-team defense. Due to Eric Stokes’ absence, which is an undisclosed absence at this time, Alexander and Douglas played outside cornerback while Nixon played inside. per Ryan Wood of the Green Bay Press Gazette.
If you read between the lines here, the team’s top four cornerbacks seem pretty settled, with Nixon getting the opportunity whenever a fourth cornerback is needed. What’s interesting is that Nixon has spent most of his NFL career as an outside cornerback, but most of his representatives in the Packers practices have reportedly come in as first-team slotbacks. As we got into the offseason, many thought that Shemar Jean-Charles, a 2021 fifth-round pick, could have potentially earned as Green Bay’s fourth-season cornerback. At this point, however, Nixon appears to be one of the Packers’ fastest-rising signings in terms of first-team Reps on the field.
Familiar faces returning punts
Corresponding the athleteis Matt Schneidman, the three players working as punt returns on Wednesday were Amari Rodgers, Randall Cobb and Romeo Doubs. This shouldn’t come as a surprise since Rodgers and Cobb both saw the time returning punts last season. When Doubs was drafted, the staff mentioned his ability to return punts as a positive in his game. Doubs famously gained 80 punt return yards in his first collegiate touch for the Nevada Wolfpack.
The defensive depth chart is beginning to take shape
Aside from Quay Walker edging out Krys Barnes as a first-team centre-back, there are other moves on the defensive side of the ball. Ray Wilborn, who was on the practice team after a strong preseason last season, earns reps as the fourth inside linebacker on defense. per Andy Herman of Packer Report. That would put him ahead of Ty Summers, a key special teamer in the final year of his contract, and Isaiah McDuffie, a 2021 draft pick.
It’s hard to imagine the team keeping six inside linebackers on the roster in 2022. Inside linebacker is also one of the most common positions played on special teams, as linebackers can contribute to kick coverage, punt block coverage, and punt return on the team. It’ll be interesting to see how the numbers play out for Green Bay, which will likely be down to who’s in the first-team special teams unit in the preseason.
Shawn Davis continues to see time as the team’s third safety behind Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage, ahead of the likes of 2020 draft pick Vernon Scott, 2021 Practice Squadder Innis Gaines and 2022 draft pick Tariq Carpenter. In practice, according to Herman, the Packers reverted to their three-collateral dime looks, using Davis and Amos as high collaterals so Savage could play as a second slot defender. Last season, the team used this approach with Herny Black as third safety until the Baltimore Ravens game when the decision was made to play four-cornerback dime, with Kevin King helping as a second slot.