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Highlights From Practice 9 of Packers Training Camp

The Packers are searching for a defensive star. Plus, Jordan Love, injury updates, practice video and a lot more in our quick-hitting review of Monday's practice.
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – One of the most talked about positions in new coordinator Joe Barry’s defense is the star. Really, though, the star is nothing more than a fancy term for the slot/nickel position. There’s nothing unusual about that position. Last year’s slot defender, Chandon Sullivan, played 71 percent of the defensive snaps.

Sullivan has taken the overwhelming majority of the snaps there through the first nine practices of Green Bay Packers training camp. Jaire Alexander has gotten some looks. Shemar Jean-Charles was drafted in the fifth round this year with that position in mind. Safety Darnell Savage has been “begging” defensive backs coach Jerry Gray to give him a shot.

But, based on the division of practice reps, there’s little reason to believe anyone other than Sullivan will get the nod for Week 1 at New Orleans.

“It’s still the nickel position, there’s just a lot more communication, different techniques than in the past, so it’s a very complicated position, but I’m pretty comfortable in it so far,” Sullivan said after Monday’s practice, which was closed to fans but open to reporters. “It allows me to show my versatility. I can play zone, I can play man, blitz a little bit. I’m just excited to see what this season holds.”

One thing that could boot Sullivan out of the lineup is the eventual return of veteran Kevin King. If King is healthy and returns to his 2019 form, and if first-round pick Eric Stokes settles in after a rocky first week-plus of camp, then perhaps they could man the outside positions and Alexander could take slot reps.

That decision would be matchup-based, though, and Barry wouldn’t blindly put Alexander inside against Random Slot Receiver. A case in point is New Orleans receiver Michael Thomas. Thomas won’t play in Week 1 following foot surgery. But, if he were healthy, his history suggests he would have lined up frequently in the slot. Alexander could have followed Thomas but, again, that depends on the other defensive backs.

“Here’s the deal,” Gray said, “when you put him out at nickel, you better have someone to play corner. So, hopefully with the guys that we have, that will allow us to put Ja inside. Every place that I’ve been before here, my top corner played nickel. If they’re going to put their best receiver in there, I’m going to put my best corner. I think it kind of gives us some luxury. Now we can put our guys inside to try and match up against their players and they can’t just move around and get away from where we put our best football players.”

Love on the Ground, Not the Air

Not surprisingly, coach Matt LaFleur said “select” starters won’t play in Saturday’s preseason opener against the Houston Texans. That means No. 2 quarterback Jordan Love, who endured a tough Family Night, will get a lot of action. LaFleur is expecting a sharper performance, and the early forecast suggests the weather won’t be a factor.

“There were some really good things and then there’s some things we’ve got to clean up,” LaFleur said. “Certainly, we can’t have the ball on the ground. We had a couple fumbled exchanges. I know he hasn’t necessarily gotten a ton of work with (center Jacob) Capra but he’s going to have to potentially in the preseason. We’ve just got to clean up some of those things. He had the one play where he scrambled out and had one hand on the ball when he’s moving up in the pocket and hit his thigh pad and he fumbled that one. I think ultimately we’ve just got to make sure he’s doing a great job of taking care of that football. That’s what typically is the biggest indicator in wins and losses. He’s touching the ball every snap, so he’s got to be great with it, and he knows that.”

Perhaps his best throw of the night came late in practice, a deep ball that sailed just over Reggie Begelton. Begelton appeared to slow down a bit as the ball spiraled through the showers, leading to the incompletion.

“There was a lot of good,” LaFleur said. “I think more than anything else, the one thing that we’ll make sure to keep pressing on to him is the tempo in and out of the huddle, up to the line of scrimmage, making sure the communication’s on point. There were a couple times where he may have gotten a bad play call in there in terms of how we set the formations and he’s got to be able to figure that out and get everybody lined up so we can go out there and execute.”

Monday’s practice wasn’t great. He threw six passes in the opening period. The first was a wounded-duck incompletion. The second was broken up by cornerback Kabion Ento and the fourth was an incompletion against tight coverage by Ento. In between, his checkdown to Patrick Taylor was stopped immediately by linebacker De’Jon Harris. The fifth play was a checkdown to Dexter Williams that picked up a big chunk of yards. The sixth was a completion to Devin Funchess, who was stopped immediately by cornerback Stanford Samuels.

Play of the Day

Among the 70 receivers targeted at least 60 times last season, Marquez Valdes-Scantling had the second-highest drop percentage in the NFL. That makes a catch he made on Monday particularly noteworthy. Rodgers threw a fastball to Valdes-Scantling, who made a leaping catch and held onto the ball with cornerback Josh Jackson all over him.

Last week, Valdes-Scantling made a catch at the sideline against Stokes and held onto the ball despite Stokes’ pulling at it for a couple seconds.

Packers Injury Report

New Injuries: RB Aaron Jones (hamstring), OLB Rashan Gary (groin).

Old Injuries: WR Chris Blair (ankle), WR Equanimeous St. Brown (hamstring), OLB Randy Ramsey (ankle), ILB Kamal Martin (knee), WR Juwann Winfree (shoulder), DT Kenny Clark (groin).

Returned to Practice: TE Dominique Dafney (knee), TE Josiah Deguara (knee). This was Dafney’s first practice of training camp, having been activated off the physically unable to perform list. Deguara returned last week but didn’t practice on Family Night.

Non-Football Injury List: CB Kevin King (hamstring), S Will Redmond (foot), OLB Za’Darius Smith (back), LB Isaiah McDuffie (hamstring), DT Kingsley Keke (ankle).

Physically Unable to Perform List: LT David Bakhtiari (knee).

Some Quick Reads

– The merry-go-round continues at guard. In the first series of plays, Jon Runyan was the left guard and Lucas Patrick the right guard. In the second series, it was Runyan at left guard and Ben Braden at right guard. In the third sequence, it again was Runyan and Patrick.

– Every year, it seems one position gets beaten to a pulp by injuries. This year, it’s outside linebacker. With Za’Darius Smith still on the PUP list and Randy Ramsey and potential combo linebacker Kamal Martin out of action, Rashan Gary was out on Monday. That left Preston Smith and Jonathan Garvin as the starting tandem.

– Speaking of outside linebackers, Tipa Galeai got two pressures on Rodgers – one against Billy Turner and the other against Dennis Kelly. Perhaps sensing the golden opportunity on his plate, Galeai has really cranked it up the past few days.

– Last season, Davante Adams dropped one pass. Among the 70 receivers targeted 60-plus times, Adams was tied for the fourth-lowest drop percentage. However, he’s had one drop each of the last four practices. On Family Night, his drop was intercepted by Darnell Savage. On Monday, it was a harmless miscue during individual drills. Adams got back in the lineup, caught the next ball and punted it toward the Hutson Center’s ceiling.

– New tight end Daniel Crawford caught a pass on a bootleg. The loudest voice in the building belonged to position coach Justin Outten, who celebrated with massive fist pumps.

– Rookie running back Kylin Hill caught a short pass near the goal line from Aaron Rodgers and got popped by Josh Jackson. Hill’s helmet popped off but he made the play for a touchdown. Rodgers gave him a high-five.

– On the final 11-on-11 play of the day, Rodgers surveyed the field before flinging a pass into the end zone to Randall Cobb, who made a diving catch. Cobb has struggled a bit upon his return to Green Bay – he’s got an offense to learn on the fly – but the play showed the chemistry between quarterback and receiver is alive and well.

– On the last kick of a field-goal sequence, Mason Crosby drilled a 51-yarder despite a low snap from Hunter Bradley that JK Scott had to pluck off the FieldTurf surface. “JK’s done a lot of really good things. He’s been a great holder for me,” Crosby said.

Packers Training Camp Schedule

The Packers will practice in front of the fans at 10:10 a.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Here is the practice schedule.