GREEN BAY, Wis. – It’s perhaps a good thing that Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers have mended fences.
Jordan Love, who was thought to be general manager Brian Gutekunst’s hand-picked successor to Rodgers when Gutekunst traded up to select him in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft, wasn’t exactly fantastic during Day 1 of the team’s mandatory minicamp on Tuesday.
Early in practice, Love’s out to Josiah Deguara was thrown well behind the tight end and intercepted and taken back for a touchdown by safety Vernon Scott.
Later, Love directed the No. 1 offense on a two-minute drill. Having advanced from the offense’s 30-yard line to the defense’s 42, Love faced a second-and-5. His pass hit linebacker De’Vondre Campbell right between the ‘5’ and the ‘9’ on his jersey for what should have been an interception. Instead, the ball popped in the air and was caught by receiver Sammy Watkins for a first down.
A couple plays later, on a first down from the 31 with 27 seconds remaining, Love aired it out and hit receiver Juwann Winfree for a touchdown against Jaire Alexander. Love’s throw was a bit of a wobbler but Winfree made an excellent play against the All-Pro cornerback for a tumbling catch in the end zone.
Rodgers didn’t take any “live” snaps but threw the ball with his typical zing during individual drills and 7-on-7. During some half-speed 11-on-11 plays, Rodgers found Watkins for a couple lengthy completions.
Rodgers said he will practice during this week’s minicamp but skip next week’s OTAs. That will mean three more practices for Love directing the starters.
“I think that’s the biggest grind the last few offseasons – I’ve been pretty healthy – it’s just mentally being able to recenter and to refocus and to clear all the energy from the past season (and) start fresh every year,” Rodgers said. “It’s a process to do that. It's been a nice offseason this year to get to this point where I feel really focused and really clear mentally, being able to come back here and lead the way I want to lead.”
Playing the Slots
For the first time, defensive coordinator Joe Barry and passing-game coordinator Jerry Gray had the team’s premier trio of cornerbacks on the field. Jaire Alexander, Rasul Douglas and Eric Stokes rank among the NFL’s top perimeter corners, but who would man the slot?
On Tuesday, it was Douglas.
That’s noteworthy because it’s novel. According to Pro Football Focus, Douglas played merely four snaps in the slot last season and 79 snaps in five NFL seasons. So, it’s not a position in which he has a wealth of experience.
Barry mixed and matched his personnel throughout the day, so chances are nothing is set in stone. Cornerback Keisean Nixon saw plenty of first-team reps, as well, with all of those snaps coming in the slot. Shawn Davis got some first-team reps at safety, sometimes for Adrian Amos and other times for Darnell Savage.
As has been the case all spring, the No. 1 line had Yosh Nijman at left tackle, Jon Runyan at left guard, Josh Myers at center, Royce Newman at right guard and Cole Van Lanen at right tackle. In a wrinkle, Newman bounced out for some snaps at right tackle with Jake Hanson moving in at guard.
During the two-minute drill, the receivers were Sammy Watkins, Christian Watson and Randall Cobb. Josiah Deguara as the tight end and AJ Dillon the running back.
At linebacker, De’Vondre Campbell and Krys Barnes remain the No. 1 tandem, though first-round pick Quay Walker got some No. 1 reps.
Every player under contract was on the field. That includes receiver Sammy Watkins, cornerback Jaire Alexander and outside linebacker Rashan Gary, all of whom were absent from the OTA practices that were open to reporters the previous two weeks.
Running back Kylin Hill (knee), outside linebacker Randy Ramsey (ankle), offensive lineman Elgton Jenkins (knee), left tackle David Bakhtiari (knee), tight end Robert Tonyan (knee) and defensive linemen Dean Lowry (unknown) and Hauati Pututau (unknown) were present but didn’t practice.
Receiver Allen Lazard, who has not signed his restricted free agent tender, was the only player not with the team.
- On the first “live” play of the day, Jordan Love went deep to Christian Watson. Cornerback Jaire Alexander was in the best position to make a play, so Watson gave Alexander a forceful two-hand shove to the back. The ball fell incomplete, though it was obvious pass interference. Watson and Alexander slapped hands after the play but you’d assume Watson will be pulled aside for a discussion about the perils of delivering an unnecessary shove to the highest-paid cornerback in the NFL.
- Sammy Watkins made a superb one-handed grab against Alexander. The pass, a slant from Love, was thrown behind Watkins but he corralled the ball with his right hand.
- Receivers Romeo Doubs and Amari Rodgers had drops.
- Dominik Eberle appeared to make 5-of-6 field-goals during special teams periods. His last kick was wide left from 51 yards.
- Safety Innis Gaines made two impact plays. On the first, he ranged over from center field to knock away a deep shot from Danny Etling to Samori Toure. Later, during a two-minute drill featuring the reserves, he once again erased a deep shot to Toure, this one thrown by Kurt Benkert. That play came on third-and-13; La’Darius Hamilton had a second-down “sack.”
- Minicamp will continue on Wednesday and Thursday. The practice on Wednesday, which will start at 11:20 p.m. and migrate outdoors around 11:40 p.m., will be open to fans.