Red zone success is mostly attributable to an offense’s ability to strike in the middle of the field, where ideally the safeties have been spread out and a receiver or tight end has a chance to win a one-on-one. But when a defense plays the way the Packers did during multiple red-zone drills Wednesday night, the middle of the field is a dead zone. Several times quarterback Aaron Rodgers had to sail balls high over his receivers’ heads just to have a chance for a completion. On the very first play, tight end Richard Rodgers got a hand on the ball, but deflected it right to safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Another time, receiver Randall Cobb got inside of cornerback Sam Shields, but Rodgers had to get the throw over underneath coverage and sailed it. And another time, rookie receiver Trevor Davis either ran his in-route too deep into the middle or Rodgers saw coverage approaching and threw it behind him. Eventually, the offense had some success working the corners and some goal-line crossing plays, but if the starting defense can coordinate the underneath coverage of linebackers Blake Martinez or Joe Thomas and the safety coverage of Clinton-Dix and Morgan Burnett the way it did in practice, the red zone will be protected much better.
On a night when rookie free agent Geronimo Allison continued to impress with his precise routes and soft hands, third-year pro Jeff Janis was digging himself deeper into a hole. Janis has not had a good start to camp and his opportunities seem to be shrinking. It’s a rare night when he gets so open that you actually notice it and when his hands fail him as they did Wednesday night, his prospects fade even further. Maybe Janis will turn it on in the games, which was sort of the case last year, but for someone in his third season he can’t keep having so many negative plays. The worst of his efforts was on a goal-line route in which Rodgers put the ball right into his arms. But as he went to the ground, he let the ball slip through his arms, negating what should have been a short touchdown catch. Janis wasn’t the only one dropping balls – Davante Adams had a bad one over the middle in the red zone – but at least Adams has been making plays. Janis just can’t seem to win enough routes in practice and is putting immense pressure on himself to be great in the games. His special teams play will make it hard to cut him, but if he can’t contribute as a receiver, the Packers are going to have a difficult choice to make.
In addition to QB Brett Hundley (ankle), seven players missed practice. Sitting out were LB Jake Ryan (hamstring), DE Mike Daniels (personal), RT Bryan Bulaga (rest), CB Makinton Dorleant (hamstring), TE Mitchell Henry (groin), OT Josh James (hamstring) and OT Kyle Murphy (concussion).
Running back Eddie Lacy stopped working in team drills, but was still on the field when practice ended. It was unclear if he was injured.
Returning to practice was RB James Starks, CB Warren Gatewood and S Jermaine Whitehead.
Bits and pieces
» Punters Tim Masthay and Peter Mortell faced off on pooch punts. Masthay landed his at the 7, 10, 15 and 5. Mortell landed his at the 8, 1 and 1.
» Kicker Mason Crosby remained hot, hitting 6 of 6 of his attempts with Masthay holding three and Mortell three. Crosby hit from 33, 39, 42, 45, 48 and 50 yards.
» Guard T.J. Lang saw his first action in team drills since coming off the PUP on Monday night. Lane Taylor saw most of the action with the No. 1s. Rookie Jason Spriggs replaced Bulaga in the starting lineup.
» TE Jared Cook (foot) and WR Ty Montgomery (ankle) were running full-speed routes as part of their rehab. LB Sam Barrington (ankle) was also doing cutting as part of his drills conducted on Clarke Hinkle Field. WR Jordy Nelson (knee) was doing foot drills on the side.
» Receiver Randall Cobb spun CB Roberston Daniel like a top during a one-on-one drill, leaving him in the dust on a double move, but on his next turn, Cobb caught a tightly contested ball from CB Damarious Randall and let Randall knock the ball loose.
» With Clay Matthews lined up inside and Julius Peppers next to him outside, it appeared a stunt was coming. But Taylor read the rush beautifully and stymied Matthews, allowing Rodgers to hit Cobb for a touchdown in a red zone drill.
» Coach Mike McCarthy knocked about a half hour off of practice, skipping several periods near the end. It could have been related to not wanting to overwork Rodgers and Joe Callahan with Hundley sitting out.
Last open practice of the week is scheduled for 6:15 p.m. Thursday.