GREEN BAY, Wis. – The first day of joint practices confirmed just about everything about the identity of the Green Bay Packers. Even on a team quarterbacked by four-time MVP Aaron Rodgers, this will be a team driven – at least for the start of the season – by the defense.
As has been the case for most of the first 15 practices of training camp, the second period of Tuesday’s practice against the New Orleans Saints drove home that point.
For New Orleans, it was Andy Dalton instead of Jameis Winston at quarterback but, really, it didn’t matter. On the first play, Rashan Gary recorded a “sack.” On the next play, cornerback Rasul Douglas broke up a pass to Jarvis Landry. On the third play, Jarran Reed, Kenny Clark and Preston Smith converged for a “sack.” The fourth play was a short completion, followed by another play in coverage by Douglas.
And on it went. The No. 2s entered and outside linebacker Kobe Jones had two “sacks.” When the starters re-entered, Quay Walker blitzed and drew a holding penalty on former Wisconsin star Ryan Ramczyk, star receiver Michael Thomas dropped a pass, Dean Lowry tipped a pass at the line of scrimmage and Douglas prevented another completion. Later, backup safety Shawn Davis had a pick-six.
“Domination. That’s our key,” Douglas said after a day in which he walked the walk and talked the talk. “Everybody gets dominated no matter who you are.”
Meanwhile, Green Bay’s offense wasn’t dominated. Rodgers called it a “stalemate,” which was an improvement over most days of training camp. In the offense’s second period, Rodgers threw a long touchdown pass to Sammy Watkins but also was “sacked” twice and had a deep pass dropped by Romeo Doubs.
Rodgers added a couple touchdown passes in a red-zone period and led the offense to a field-goal in a two-minute drill. An unsightly eight false starts put a damper on the production, though.
“I didn’t think we ran the ball very well, especially outside zone,” Rodgers said. “I thought we threw it pretty good, had some opportunities. A lot of mental errors, a lot of pre-snap penalties. Kind of been the theme of camp. Simple, simple plays we’re messing up. So, it’s good to do it against another team. I like the energy from the first unit, but a lot of mental mistakes.”
Player of the Day
Rasul Douglas (USA Today Sports Images)
Rasul Douglas had zero interceptions in 2019 and 2020 but five upon joining the Packers last season. Was he a one-year wonder? It was a fair question. Douglas has answered that question emphatically. His sensational training camp continued with a dominant performance against the Saints.
Andy Dalton kept throwing it at Douglas. And Douglas kept preventing completions. The more the Saints threw it at Douglas, the more he talked. The more he talked, the better he played.
“We always got something to prove, you know what I’m saying, especially as a defense,” Douglas said. “We say we want to be the best, we get another team to come in here and practice with us, we’ve got to showcase that.”
Play of the Day
Sammy Watkins (USA Today Sports Images)
After trading Davante Adams, Sammy Watkins was the lone veteran addition at receiver. He had been having a quiet training camp but came to life in a big way on Tuesday.
Watkins scored two touchdowns, including on a third-and-3. With Aaron Rodgers drawing the Saints offside, he threw a deep ball up the right sideline. Watkins hadn’t shown much explosiveness this summer. On most of his catches, he simply lets the defense touch him down. This time, Watkins fought through a grab by cornerback Paulson Adebo and chased down Rodgers’ bomb for a touchdown.
“Sammy, I thought, had his best practice,” Rodgers said. “He was making plays. He’s a gamer, one of those veterans that we’ve had here over the years where there are some times when you’re not seeing a bunch of flash plays. And then what happens? We bring another team out here and he makes three or four plays out there and has his best practice at camp. So, I’m really happy for Sammy.”
Packers Depth Chart Notes
- The No. 1 offensive line consisted of left tackle Yosh Nijman, left guard Jon Runyan, center Josh Myers, right guard Jake Hanson and right tackle Royce Newman for most of practice. At times, Zach Tom was inserted at right tackle and Newman moved back to right guard, where he started 16 games as a rookie.
- With starting linebacker Rashan Gary missing the second half of practice, Kobe Jones joined Preston Smith as the starting outside linebackers.
- During the two-minute drills, Kenny Clark and Jarran Reed were the No. 1 pair at defensive tackle and Dean Lowry and Devonte Wyatt were the No. 2 tandem.
- The No. 2 secondary remains unchanged with Shemar Jean-Charles and Rico Gafford at cornerback and Keisean Nixon in the slot. Shawn Davis and Micah Abernathy were the No. 2 safeties. Abernathy, who signed less than a week away, has been forced up the depth chart due to injuries.
Packers Tuesday Injury Report
Christian Watson (USA Today Sports Images)
Star outside linebacker Rashan Gary dropped out with an undisclosed injury, though he watched most of the rest of practice with his helmet – probably a good sign.
Activated off the PUP list on Sunday, receiver Christian Watson, offensive lineman Elgton Jenkins and tight end Robert Tonyan stuck to individual drills.
New injuries: OLB Rashan Gary (undisclosed).
Returned to practice: None.
Old injuries: S Dallin Leavitt (shoulder), S Tariq Carpenter (knee), S Darnell Savage (hamstring), S Innis Gaines (hamstring).
Physically unable to perform list: K Mason Crosby (knee), RB Kylin Hill (knee), LT David Bakhtiari (knee).
Isaiah McDuffie, No. 58 (USA Today Sports Images)
- Two-minute drills were the centerpiece of the day. The No. 1 offense drove the winning field goal. After a holding penalty made it second-and-15, Rodgers fired a deep shot up the right sideline to Allen Lazard, who overpowered cornerback C.J. Gardner-Johnson to win a wrestling match for the ball to gain 45 yards. Patrick Taylor burst through a hole to gain 8 on third-and-2 but the drive bogged down and new kicker Ramiz Ahmed made a 42-yard field goal.
The No. 1 defense won in overwhelming fashion. Jarran Reed and Preston Smith had strong rushes on second down and Jaire Alexander broke up a pass to Michael Thomas on third-and-8.
The No. 2 offense went three-and-out but the No. 2 defense got the win. Outside linebacker Tipa Galeai and defensive tackle T.J. Slaton had “sacks” and linebacker Isaiah McDuffie clobbered a Saints player on a screen.
Packers Training Camp Schedule
The Packers and Saints will do it again at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday. It will be the final open training camp of summer.
There were no one-on-one drills on Tuesday. Those could be incorporated on Wednesday, coach Matt LaFleur said.
After a Thursday off-day, the teams will meet in a preseason game at 7 p.m. Friday.
Packers Practice Highlights
Romeo Doubs (USA Today Sports Images)
- One thing that probably will have coach Matt LaFleur fuming were the outlandish number of penalties on his offense. Including a false start on a field goal and a false start during the “young guys” period at the end, there were 13 penalties against the offense. Early in practice, an offensive pass interference penalty wiped out a big completion to Allen Lazard. On the next play, Juwann Winfree was flagged for a ticky-tack hold on a swing pass to Aaron Jones.
- On the first play of the day, Aaron Rodgers booted to his left and fired a pass to rookie Romeo Doubs, who drew an interference penalty on star cornerback Marshon Lattimore.
- Doubs had a big drop on a perfect bomb by Rodgers and Winfree ran a go route while Rodgers threw a back-shoulder.
- Rodgers lamented the blocking on some of the outside-zone runs. On one, Tom was beaten by defensive end Tanoh Kpassagnon and gave up a tackle for loss. Tom got his revenge later, though, driving his man out of the gap to spring Dexter Williams.
- Running back Patrick Taylor showed some really good burst on a run to the left. It appeared linebacker Chase Hanson would get him in the hole but Taylor beat him to the spot.
- Playing to the opposite of his scouting report coming out of Iowa, impressive undrafted running back Tyler Goodson had a really good pass-protection rep on a completion to Tyler Davis but dropped a pass in the flat.
- During a third-down period, Rodgers and the No. 1 offense went 2-of-4, with conversions on a swing pass to Aaron Jones and a strike to Sammy Watkins. Jordan Love and the No. 2 offense also went 2-for-4, with completions to tight end Alize Mack on third-and-11 and a bullet to Ishmael Hyman. Hyman continues to impress.
- During a red-zone period, Rodgers threw back-to-back touchdown passes to Doubs, who made a nice catch along the sideline, and Watkins, who got open on a scramble drill. One play after a holding penalty on Cole Van Lanen erased a touchdown run by Taylor, Love extended the play and worked through his progressions before delivering a tight-window throw to Winfree for the score. It really was an impressive piece of quarterbacking by Love.
- The No. 2 offensive line, which generally consisted of Caleb Jones at left tackle, Tom at left guard, Michal Menet at center, Sean Rhyan at right guard and Cole Van Lanen at right tackle, was worked over for most of the day by the Saints’ deep front. During one 10-play period late in practice, Love was sacked once, Goodson was stopped for losses twice and the offense didn’t appear to gain a single first down.
- Kicker Ramiz Ahmed, who was signed on Sunday, made 6-of-7 field goals, including a 54-yarder with plenty of leg to spare. He made a 61-yarder in the USFL in June. In two days, Ahmed has converted 11-of-13 tries.
Note: Thanks to The Athletic's Matt Schneidman for sharing his views on what happened on the defensive side of the field.
Rodgers Feels Urgency on Offense
Time is of the essence for the team's young players on offense to tighten up their games mentally and physically. If not, the team will mostly move on without them.
“It’s coming up. Yeah, it’s coming up. It really is,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “We’re going to play our best guys when the season starts. And whoever those guys are, those guys are going to get the reps. It’s the guys I trust the most and the guys the coaches trust the most. A lot of it is just the simple responsibility in the offense. Way before body positioning and movement and throw and all that stuff, are you in the right spot at the right time? Are you running the right route? It’s getting close to that time it’s going to count, and I need guys out there I can trust.”