The Green Bay Packers held their mandatory minicamp from June 11th to 13th. This is after holding various organized team activities (OTAs) between May 20th and June 6th. While three days will not give us an abundance of information, there are still some important observations that need to be noted. Here are five takeaways from Packers minicamp.
A Moving Offense
In speaking with Michael Silver of NFL.com, Green Bay Head Coach Matt LaFleur revealed what the basis of his offense will look like. “We’re running a system I first picked up while working with Kyle Shanahan in Houston a decade ago, and we’ve never really had a quarterback who’s had complete freedom to change plays at the line, because that’s not really the way the offense is set up,” LaFleur said. “But, I mean, this is Aaron Rodgers. He’s had a lot of freedom to make those calls, and deservedly so. Now, how do we reconcile that, and get to a place where we put him in the best position to succeed?”
That offensive system in question will feature a lot of pre-snap motions, not something that Rodgers has been accustomed to in his NFL career. In Mike McCarthy‘s system, once the offense was lined up, Rodgers had the rest of the play clock to decide whether or not to run the play or change it. He was given full freedom to audible to any play that he felt could exploit a defensive formation or personnel. With the installation of this LaFleur offense, Rodgers will not always get that same time.
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For instance, if the player motions into a fake reverse, it takes time for that player to get across the formation. By the time that happens, Rodgers may not have enough play clock left to change the play as he sees fit.
The key for the Packers will be to find a happy medium between LaFleur’s creativity and Rodgers’ experience. While on the surface, this sets up to be a potential problem, the QB appears to be buying in. “It is fun,” Rodgers told Silver. “It’s a challenge for sure. I ran the same system for so long. There’s a lot of stuff in my mind. Having to relearn certain terms, that’s been the hardest part.”
While the offensive system is going through an overall, Green Bay’s defense will have the advantage of sticking with Mike Pettine as defensive coordinator. For those players returning, that means adding to what they learned last year and not starting from scratch.
However, there are certain things that Pettine does not want to repeat from 2018. “One area where I don’t think we were very good was on first down, especially against play action,” Pettine told PackersWire. In order to accomplish that, Pettine is stressing flexibility in the front seven.
In minicamp, the Packers have employed both 3-man and 4-man fronts. It is not unheard of for a team to use both a 3-4 and 4-3 defense throughout a season. The New England Patriots have utilized both groupings not only within a season but even within the same game. Bill Belichick famously talked about the 3-4 / 4-3 debate being highly overstated by the media.
What does this mean of the Packers? Well, in expected run stopping duties, a 3-man defensive line would likely consist of Kenny Clark, Mike Daniels and Dean Lowry. When the Packers change to a 4-man front in likely passing situations, the line will probably look something like Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith joining Clark and Daniels.
Off the Chart Depth
Most receivers got their chances to work with the 1st-team offense. However, the three primary starters in 11-on-11 drills appear to be Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling on the outside with Geronimo Allison in the slot. Adams’ role is secure while both Allison and Valdes-Scantling have been impressing so far.
However, they are not the only ones. Jake Kumerow caught a couple of touchdown passes. Afterwards, Rodgers had this to say to PackersWire about the receiver: “When he gets a chance to make plays, he makes plays. And he does it in a super classy, understated way. Obviously, I’m a big fan of him.”
Kumerow certainly has a chance to produce if he does make the team. In addition to the aforementioned starters, Equanimeous St. Brown, J’Mon Moore and Trevor Davis have all looked good this spring. Along with Kumerow, that makes seven players at WR. Zack Kruse from PackersWire does project all seven to make the team, but there can always be surprises. Because of Davis’ excellence on Special Teams, his role on the fianl 53 is liekly secure. That means Kumerow will have to beat out St. Brown and Moore to guarentee his spot. There is still alot up in the air for Packers wide receivers.
One position group that appears to be set is RB, at least in terms of who will make the team. Certainly, the release of Kapri Bibbs solidifies rookie Dexter Williams‘ spot on the depth chart. How much playing time he gets in 2019 remains to be seen.
The uncertainty with the RB group is who is first on the depth chart. Right now, there is no clear answer as both Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams appear to be getting time with the starters. That makes sense as LaFleur installs his outside zone-blocking scheme. With Jones’ explosive play ability, one would think that he is the biggest beneficiary of this ofensive system. However, Williams said after one practice that this new blocking scheme has given him “better vision because of [its] complexity.” Williams also expects to be part of the passing game with “choice routes and slants.”
All of this to say, at RB and WR, the Packers are deep.
One aspect that is present in Mike Pettine’s defensive scheme is the need for linebackers to cover. As a former safety, Burks is certainly capable in coverage. He also possesses the athleticism necessary for the NFL. The area where Burks can improve is reading and reacting to offensive plays.
“We’ve been working with him on his sightlines, where to put his eyes, and to move more efficiently,” linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti told PackersWire. “He’s done a very good job with trying to be efficient with his feet, efficient with his angles and putting his eyes in the right spot. When he does that, he can move around and be a pretty good player.”
The goal for any NFL player is to accomplish any task needed as efficiently as possible. Thinking of the perfect move or place to go is not usually a luxury afforded in this league. Defenders need to react on instinct in order to properly time any play. Burks will need to step up in a hurry because there are several talented running backs and offensive lines among Packers’ opponents this season.
It has been an acrimonious spring for the Packers with regard to defensive back Josh Jones. He has started his desire to leave Green Bay, even though he is still under contract for the next two seasons. Jones skipped OTAs (organized team activities) but was present throughout mandatory minicamp. He did not, however, participate on the field in minicamp as he dealt with an apparent hamstring injury.
Regardless, the Packers appear to have the pieces in place to thrive with or without Jones. Both Adrian Amos and Darnel Savage have solidified themselves as the two starting safeties. During OTAs, we saw that Green Bay’s intention is to use both players in versatile manners. Behind them, Natrell Jamerson is making a case to be a key part of this defense. So far in spring practices, he has seen snaps at safety and as a slot corner. While he will unlikely start games, having a versatile depth piece like Jamerson is key for any secondary. Strictly as a safety, he is behind Amos, Savage and Raven Greene in the pecking order. But slot corner has been a struggle recently for the Packers and he may help shore that up.
Thank you for reading. Full Press Coverage has plenty of NFL offseason news so stay tuned throughout the summer.