Training camp is finally here. For the Green Bay Packers, this is a very important process, especially after consecutive losing seasons. Veterans reported for the first official day on July 25th. After one week, here are July training camp notes for the Packers.
Perhaps the most pressure is on first-year Head Coach Matt LaFleur. Cheesehead TV writer Andy Herman seems to be very happy with the way practices are organized.
Overall I’ve been really impressed by the first 3 days of practice with Matt LaFleur. Solid pacing, smart transitions, everything had a purpose and you could see improvement over three days. It’s better than I would have ever expected from a rookie head coach in his 1st camp.
— Andy Herman (@AndyHermanNFL) July 27, 2019
Juggling play-design implementation with practice structure is not an easy task, but LaFleur seems to be handling it just fine. Now, let’s look at some remarks about the players.
With the recent release of Mike Daniels, there was some question as to who would replace him in the starting lineup. So far in camp, Montravius Adams as been on the 1st-Team 3-4 base defense next to Kenny Clark and Dean Lowry.
On the opposite side of the ball, no surprises for the starting unit. From left to right David Bakhtiari, Lane Taylor, Corey Linsley, Billy Turner and Bryan Bulaga represent the 1st-Team offensive line. Unlike in previous season, however, there does appear to be some more depth and versatility behind the starting 5. Cole Madison, Justin McCray and Lucas Patrick all saw snaps with the 1st-team offense at the interior line spots. Furthermore, while Jason Spriggs has been the swing tackle in recent seasons, Alex Light filled in for that role nicely so far in camp. He even got some starter reps while Spriggs was nursing a trapezius injury.
Passing the Bar
On the first day of camp, both Aaron Rodgers and DeShone Kizer threw interceptions. However, they quickly rebounded and have made some great plays. Rodgers has demonstrated great timing with both starting and backup receivers. Obviously, the connection exists between him and Davante Adams and it was on full display during this 1-on-1 drill below:
Advantage Davante Adams against Jaire Alexander in 1-on-1 red zone drill. Pass from Rodgers pic.twitter.com/M4jP6pEyFl
— Matt Schneidman (@mattschneidman) July 31, 2019
Adams was not the only one making plays with Rodgers. Both Geronimo Allison and Marquez Valdes-Scantling have essentially cemented their roles as starting wide receivers in the offense. Allison has been making impressive contested catches and Valdez-Scantling even beat top cornerback Jaire Alexander.
For the tight end position, Jimmy Graham and Robert Tonyan have secured the top two spots on the depth chart by catching touchdown passes from Rodgers in red-zone drills. Other receivers who are connecting with Rodgers include Trevor Davis, Jake Kumerow, J’Mon Moore and Darrius Shepherd. The latter surprisingly beat Alexander for a touchdown grab in a recent red-zone drill.
Kizer certainly seems to be the favorite of the backup quarterback job. In camp, he has made big plays throwing to Kumerow and Moore. Most notably, he threw a 70-yard bomb to Equanimeous St. Brown on the second day of camp.
The fours running back roster spots were practically decided before camp even kicked off. Nothing that has occurred so far appears to sway that opinion. Aaron Jones demonstrated receiving chops last season and has continued to expand upon that in camp. He has been used out wide and even caught a 10-yard touchdown in a recent 3rd-and-goal drill.
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Jamaal Williams was also getting some 1st-team reps on the first two days of camp before suffering a hamstring injury. When Jones missed a practice as well, rookie Dexter Williams took the opportunity and impressed as a starter. However, the running back who has been turning the most heads has been full back Danny Vitale. He has been regularly featured as a receiver in camp and at one point was even alone in the backfield next to Rodgers during 3rd-down drills. It appears that the full back will be a big part of the Packers offense in 2019.
Rushing the New Bodies
Moving over to the defensive side of the ball, free-agent signee Za’Darius Smith has been the most impressive pass rusher in camp. At one point, he even beat All-Pro Tackle David Bakhtiari twice in a row, not a common sight in recent seasons. In addition, rookie pass-rushers Rashan Gary and Kingsley Keke have found success so far in camp. One surprise standout in providing pressure was Fadol Brown. Unfortunately, he has been sitting out the last few days with a calf injury. While Keke and Brown should play complementary roles in 2019, much is expected from 12th-overall pick Gary who has not disappointed. Packers beat writer Ryan Wood even compared him to Julius Peppers.
In 11-on-11, Rashan Gary just came free on an inside stunt and, I kid you not, I haven’t seen a guy that big run that fast since Julius Peppers. Shot from a cannon. Would have been an easy sack. My goodness.
— Ryan Wood (@ByRyanWood) July 28, 2019
Back on the Defense
Perhaps the biggest surprise at the start of camp was the return of defensive back Josh Jones. After requesting a trade during the spring, Jones was a camp on the first day and played a key role in sub-packages. Throughout his career, Jones has been a great tackler with coverage issues. That makes for a perfect fit as a nickel linebacker in three safety sets. Both Jones and Raven Greene were seeing time in that role, making for an interesting camp battle.
With 1st-round pick, and likely starting safety, Darnel Savage having missed most of camp so far, Green was seeing an abundance of 1st-team reps alongside Adrian Amos. One of the Packers key free-agent additions, Amos has stepped right in and even broke up a sure completion from Rodgers to Adams.
Elsewhere in the secondary, Jaire Alexander and Kevin King have spent the most time as the starting outside cornerbacks. Meanwhile, veteran Tramon Williams was acting as the nickel corner with the 1st-team defense. Entering camp, the likeliest competitor for a starting cornerback role would have been Josh Jackson. However, so far, he as missed all of training camp with a foot injury. That has given newcomers Ka’Dar Hollman and Natrell Jamerson occasions to get on the field with the 1st-team defense.
It has been a long time since Mason Crosby has seen any real competition for his place kicking job. Unfortunately for him, he has been on the sidelines for all of training camp with a calf injury. That has given Sam Ficken the opportunity to see the filed often and he has done well. During the first week of camp, Ficken went 12 for 15, with a longest make of 50 yards. If Crosby’s injury continues to concern, there may be a new face kicking for the Packers.
Thank you for reading these observations for July training camp in Green Bay. For more NFL news, be sure to check out all of the training camp notes available on Full Press Coverage.