GREEN BAY, Wis. – Entering training camp, one of the Green Bay Packers’ weakest position groups appeared to be safety. Behind the starting tandem of Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage, not a single player on the rest of the depth chart played a regular-season snap of NFL defense last season.
Fast forward to Wednesday and the 13th practice of training camp, the Packers must be feeling a lot better about the battle.
Vernon Scott, a seventh-round pick in 2020 who played only 17 snaps on special teams in three appearances last season, intercepted Aaron Rodgers to give the defense the “win” in a two-minute drill. Shawn Davis, a fifth-round pick by Indianapolis in 2021 who played nine snaps on special teams in his one game with Green Bay, recorded interceptions against Rodgers and Jordan Love.
Those two, along with Dallin Leavitt, a special-teams ace with the Raiders the past few seasons under coordinator Rich Bisaccia, have helped turn weakness into strength.
As is the case for every player fighting for a role, every opportunity for Scott and Davis is precious. They’ve done a good job of capitalizing on their chances and figure to be the starting tandem when the preseason kicks off at San Francisco on Friday night.
“There’s not four preseason games anymore. There’s no more two-a-day practices,” general manager Brian Gutekunst said before practice. “I think in the past we were able to get through that grind period earlier, and so guys got a little bit more in their comfort zone. But I think Matt (LaFleur) does a really good job, intentionally as we approach these games, to putting guys in position to see what we need to see. But there’s not as many opportunities as we’ve had in the past.”
Player of the Day
Shawn Davis (USA Today Sports Images)
It would be impossible to pick anyone other than safety Shawn Davis.
Early in practice, Jordan Love turned down an easy throw to tight end Sal Canella in favor of a deeper throw to Danny Davis. Shawn Davis made a great read on the pass and zoomed in front of the receiver for the interception.
Later, Aaron Rodgers’ pass to Romeo Doubs was too high and Davis grabbed his second pick of the day.
Davis opened training camp as the No. 3 safety. However, when starter Darnell Savage went down on Family Night, it was Vernon Scott who moved into the starting lineup.
“I feel there’s no pressure between us,” Davis said. “At this point, we’re just playing ball. We’re not letting that get to us. We’re not really worried about who’s going to be the third safety, who’s going to be whatever safety. We’re just playing ball and making plays and doing what we’ve got to do when we called on the field.”
Play of the Day
Vernon Scott (USA Today Sports Images)
While Shawn Davis had the two picks, it was Vernon Scott who made the biggest play of the day.
In a starters vs. starters two-minute drill to end practice, Aaron Rodgers and Co. took over at the 25 with 1:45 on the clock. Two completions to Aaron Jones, including a fourth-down screen, moved the chains. Needing a big play to get the required touchdown, Rodgers went deep to Sammy Watkins, who had gotten beyond his defender. However, Scott ranged from the middle of the field to make a toe-tapping grab along the sideline.
Packers Depth Chart Notes
Amari Rodgers (USA Today Sports Images)
- It will be interesting to see if there’s any shakeups after Friday’s game because little has changed of late.
- Amari Rodgers was last year’s punt returner and is in position to keep the job. While he didn’t field the ball well as a rookie, he was much better late in the season. He had a nice return up the right sideline, with Juwann Winfree making one of the key blocks.
- Once again, the No. 1 offensive line consisted of Yosh Nijman at left tackle, Jon Runyan at left guard, Josh Myers at center, Jake Hanson at right guard and Royce Newman at right tackle. That figures to be the starting line at San Francisco. During every first-unit period, rookie Zach Tom enters at right tackle and Newman moves to guard but it seems the preference is a right side of Hanson and Newman.
- Jonathan Garvin, who spent the first several days of training camp running with the third unit, might be the No. 3 outside linebacker. He got more than a few first-team reps.
- With Jaire Alexander, Eric Stokes and Rasul Douglas among a big group of starters who won’t play against the Niners, the Packers figure to go with Rico Gafford and Shemar Jean-Charles at corner with Keisean Nixon in the slot.
Packers Wednesday Injury Report
David Bakhtiari (USA Today Sports Images)
Returned to practice: QB Aaron Rodgers (rest).
New Injuries: WR Randall Cobb (foot), TE Dominique Dafney (knee), DT Devonte Wyatt (possible concussion).
Old injuries: S Darnell Savage (hamstring), CB Donte Vaughn (hamstring), S Innis Gaines (hamstring), OLB Randy Ramsey (ankle), C Cole Schneider (ankle).
Physically unable to perform list: K Mason Crosby (knee), WR Christian Watson (knee), RB Kylin Hill (knee), LT David Bakhtiari (knee), OL Elgton Jenkins (knee), TE Robert Tonyan (knee).
Bakhtiari and Jenkins remain out but GM Brian Gutekunst spoke optimistically about contributing early in the season.
Dexter Williams (USA Today Sports Images)
It was a busy day. The Packers:
- Signed running back Dexter Williams, who was a sixth-round pick by the team in 2019. “It’s very awesome, just being back with the guys I started this with, that I came in with,” he said. “It’s just a great feeling being around this high-level competition, going out and competing with the guys. I miss it here. I called this place home when I was first drafted, so I love it here.”
- Signed safety Micah Abernathy, who practiced without having seen the playbook.
- Released Steven Wirtel, making Jack Coco the lone long snapper.
Another busy day is coming, with the roster needing to be trimmed to 85 players on Tuesday.
Packers Training Camp Schedule
AJ Dillon overwhelms another bike (USA Today Sports Images)
The Packers will kick off the preseason at the San Francisco 49ers at 7:30 p.m. Friday. After an off-day on Saturday, they’ll hold closed-to-the-public practices on Sunday and Monday.
Only two more practices will be open to the fans. Those will be the joint practices against the New Orleans Saints on Tuesday and Wednesday. Starting times are TBA. The Packers will host the Saints in their second preseason game at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 19.
Packers Training Camp Highlights
Jaire Alexander (USA Today Sports Images)
- Green Bay’s offensive line still has issues protecting Aaron Rodgers but the run blocking was the best it’s been all summer. On the second play of the day, Aaron Jones took a toss and took advantage of tight end Marcedes Lewis’ block against outside linebacker Preston Smith. AJ Dillon got a hole and, with a head of steam, plowed into cornerback Keisean Nixon, and Patrick Taylor slashed into the open field a couple times.
- On the fourth play of the day, defensive tackle Jack Heflin didn’t let Dillon get out on a screen and Rodgers had to throw the ball into the turf. It was excellent awareness by the second-year player. During the aforementioned starters vs. starters two-minute drill, defensive tackle Jarran Reed almost stopped Jones short of the first-down marker on a fourth-down screen.
- A fake end-around to Amari Rodgers allowed Aaron Rodgers to zip a pass to Juwann Winfree for a gain of about 20.
- Aaron Rodgers coaxed the defense offside and took a free-play shot to Sammy Watkins, but Jaire Alexander made the breakup look effortless.
- Rodgers fired a screen to Watkins. Rasul Douglas saw it coming and attacked but was expertly blocked by Allen Lazard. Rodgers was happy with Lazard for the block and for narrowly beating the heady Douglas.
- Rookie defensive tackle Jonathan Ford, getting some additional snaps with first-rounder Devonte Wyatt out with a potential concussion, delivered line-of-scrimmage tackles against B.J. Baylor and Tyler Goodson.
- Rodgers fired a deep ball up the seam to tight end Josiah Deguara but All-Pro linebacker De’Vondre Campbell was right on Deguara’s hip and broke up the pass.
- Rodgers beat Jaire Alexander on a double-move deep ball to Lazard. Not that Alexander viewed it that way. “I tried out some new cleats today and I slipped. It’s over with for those cleats. But hat’s off to Lazard, he got his first catch on Day 15 of camp.”
- In a backups vs. backups two-minute drill, Jordan Love directed the “winning” drive. Starting at the 40 with 50 seconds and one timeout, Love overcame a drop by Patrick Taylor and converted a third-and-10 with a nice ball to tight end Alize Mack.
After a throwaway, disaster almost struck. Love completed a pass to rookie receiver Samori Toure at the first-down marker. As he was being wrapped up, Toure tried to lateral the ball to a teammate. The offense recovered to keep the drive alive and bail out Toure, who was lectured by a coach.
With a first down at the defense’s 33. Toure made amends by catching a pass at the sideline for a gain of 10 with 8 seconds to go. On the next play, Love dropped back, then pivoted hard to his left to escape pressure. Perhaps he would have been sacked by outside linebackers Tipa Galeai and Randy Ramsey, but the play went on and Love found rookie running back Tyler Goodson in the end zone for the touchdown. It might have been offensive pass interference, Goodson admitted in the locker room. On the two-point play, Baylor plowed up the middle for the “winning” score.