Aaron Nagler discusses the Green Bay Packers' first Friday night practice of the season. (Aug. 4, 2017) USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin
If Packers coach Mike McCarthy doesn’t throw the ball to his tight ends inside the red zone this season, he might be charged with high treason. Even with quarterback Aaron Rodgers given the night off, the tight ends feasted on the defense in the red zone, not only beating them for receptions but beating them for touchdowns. It started with BrettHundley lofting a perfect pass into the corner of the end zone for Lance Kendricks, who made a diving grab with safety Jermaine Whitehead tight in coverage. On the very next play, Hundley went to Martellus Bennett in nearly the same place. Bennett just reached up over cornerback Raysean Pringle and plucked the ball out of the air without even leaving his feet. Two plays later, Richard Rodgers got open on a scramble play and caught a 5-yard touchdown from Joe Callahan. He came back a while later and caught a corner route from Callahan for a touchdown. The Packers haven’t had a red-zone-scoring tight end machine since Bubba Franks and now they’ve got the potential to make the red zone a living hell for their opponents. The 275-pound Bennett alone is going to be match-up challenge and with the ability to shift Ty Montgomery out of the backfield to a receiver spot, the Packers should be able to dictate that one of their receivers or tight ends is covered by a smaller or slower player.
In the middle of the week, outside linebackers coach Winston Moss said he was trying to get Kyler Fackrell to be less mechanical and more free-flowing. The 6-5, 245-pound Fackrell put on some solid weight during the offseason and looks more the part of an NFL outside linebacker. But in the one-on-one pass-rush drills he hasn’t won any of his eight attempts, managing only one draw. He failed on two attempts Friday night, losing to tackles Jason Spriggs and Robert Leff. Spriggs is a good pass blocker and Leff has had some very good moments, not to mention it’s harder to judge outside rushers because the drill assumes the quarterback is stable in the pocket, allowing the tackle to guide the linebacker around the corner without worry. But in the 11-on-11s, Fackrell gets pushed around too much and can’t seem to get under the tackle’s pads and drive him backward. Occasionally, he got inside Friday night, but that’s dangerous because he often has contain on that side and can’t let the quarterback scramble around him. Maybe the light will go on at some point for the 2016 third-round pick, but it’s not lit now.
Michael Cohen and Aaron Nagler give their first impressions of the Packers' Friday night training camp practice.
Tight end Beau Sandland (knee), who was hurt in practice Thursday, did not participate and may be out awhile
Bits and pieces
» Cornerback Damarious Randall had a good day in one-on-ones, swallowing up Davante Adams on a go-route and picking off Hundley on a corner route to Randall Cobb.
» In that same drill, 5-10, 189-pound Josh Hawkins stoned 6-6, 217-pound MichaelClark at the line with such an effective one-hand jam that Clark just stopped and received a tongue-lashing from receivers coach Luke Getsy.
» On two plays in the same series, inside linebacker Joe Thomas broke up a pass to Kendricks in the flat and popped running back Kalif Phillips in the hole, causing the defensive players on the sideline to go nuts.
» When the NFL officials decided defensive tackle Izaah Lunsford was drawn offsides, the offensive players booed them loudly.
» After a perfect ball-handling night Thursday from the running backs, rookie AaronJones put the ball on the ground in the combo run drill.
» Aaron Rodgers was the only healthy player not in pads, but McCarthy gave cornerback Davon House the night off and used some of his veteran starters very sparingly.
» The crowd was the biggest the Packers have had in training camp, possibly because many people are in town for the Saturday night practice in the stadium.
Quote of the day
“It’s exactly what you’re looking for, and frankly history will tell you that the quality of the practice reflects that. It’s going to be a humdinger tomorrow night, it always is. There will be a lot of juice in that stadium.” – Coach Mike McCarthy on the Saturday night practice at Lambeau Field
The Packers' sold-out Family Night practice begins at 6:25 p.m. Saturday at Lambeau Field.