Green Bay held organized team activities (OTAs) between May 20th and June 6th. Here is a look at three important Packers OTA takeaways from the first two weeks.
The first early takeaway from OTAs is the impact being made by first-year players. Rashan Gary, the Packers initial draft pick from this year, is impressing. He has been used both as an outside pass-rusher as well as inside. Gary’s ability to play both OLB and DE will certainly help Defensive Coordinator Mike Pettine field the ideal personnel on each play.
Speaking of ideal situations, some secondaries designate specific safeties, SS and FS. However, there are other teams (the Patriots come to mind) where both safeties carry both strong and free responsibilities. It appears that the Packers are attempting to emulate New England with new faces. Adrian Amos was brought in as a free agent while Darnell Savage was selected in the first round of the NFL draft. Whether in college or in the NFL both safeties have been used to playing all over the formation. “They’re interchangeable,” Pettine told Joe Kipp from Packers Wire about Amos and Savage. “You want them to major in what they’re best at, but I think both of them can do it all.”
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Having that versatility will be advantageous, especially if the Packers lose another early investment in their secondary. 2017 second-round pick Josh Jones apparently seeking a trade. “I just want to be out there more,” Jones told Brett Christopherson of the Appleton Post-Crescent. “That’s what I’m here for. You ain’t going to (draft) a player in the second round to not contribute to the team. I mean, am I right or am I wrong?” Jones possesses some positional versatility himself, but more of a safety/linebacker hybrid. He could still have a role on this team, even with the additions of Amos and Savage. We shall monitor Jones’ presence and participation in training camp.
Slotting the Receivers
With the departure of Randall Cobb, Green Bay has an opening in their starting lineup. Earlier in the offseason, there was talk that Davante Adams would become the Packers primary slot receiver. While he may see some time on the inside, it appears that one of his teammates might be destined for that role. Geronimo Allison has been getting the most time in the slot with the 1st-team 11-on-11 drills.
“He’s been playing a lot in the slot right now,” Adams told Zach Kruse from Packers Wire. “Him and Cobb have a similar skill set. You haven’t really been able to see it as much because G-Mo played outside for the most part. But this gives him an opportunity to get out there and show what he can do.”
Allison does have some experience as he played 12.6% of the Packers slot receiver snaps last season. If can get the majority of those slot snaps, he may be able to replicate the type of production that Cobb was getting in his prime. The video above, shows Aaron Rodgers scrambling and finding Allison in the endzone. Clearly, Rodgers already trusts Allison as a target and it is very plausible that he is second on the Packers in receptions.
Packers fans know all about the NFL’s emphasis on roughing the passer penalties. In 2018, seemingly every time he touched an opposing quarterback, Clay Matthews was getting flagged. The NFL has emphasized protecting quarterbacks by enforcing roughing the passer penalties. There were 116 such penalties called in 2018, which is certainly a significant increase from even 2 years ago. In 2016, there were only 85 roughing the passer penalties across the league.
As a result, coaches are approaching their pass rushing schemes and techniques in different ways. Take, for instance, this quote from new Packers Outside Linebackers Coach, Mike Smith. “I’m a big believer in it and you’re going to see – in all my drills – stressing get the ball out,” Smith said in January. “With today’s rules, you can’t hit the quarterback low, you can’t hit him high, can’t put your weight on him. It’s tough. So our big thing last year was get the ball out.”
Smith served in that same capacity for the Chiefs last year. Kansas City’s starting pair at outside linebacker, (Dee Ford and Justin Houston) combined for 12 forced fumbles in 2018. The Packers have brought in several players who will see significant time at outside linebacker. For those players creating turnovers will be just as important as putting pressure on quarterbacks.
Thank you for reading. Be sure to check out Full Press Coverage for OTA news from all NFL teams.