Packers Insider: Gunter picks good time for strong showing
After two weeks of training camp, cornerback LaDarius Gunter found himself in an interesting predicament. A few months prior, Gunter had ended the 2016 season as the Green Bay Packers’ No. 1 cornerback in a year defined by injury and regression at the cornerback position. By early August, however, Gunter was getting beaten repeatedly on the outside and in real danger of missing the 53-man roster. But then defensive coordinator Dom Capers and cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt Jr. made the decision to move Gunter inside, to the slot, where he played almost exclusively for the final three weeks of the exhibition season. The move served as a successful rebirth, and Gunter picked up his play to the point of battling Josh Hawkins for fifth on the depth chart. Gunter played a terrific game against the Los Angeles Rams on Thursday and likely secured his spot on the 53-man roster. Though he did not start, Gunter played the majority of the first quarter and harassed quarterback Dan Orlovsky throughout. First, Gunter sprinted into the backfield unblocked for a 6-yard sack from the slot position. Later, Gunter flashed his awareness to intercept a pass by Orlovsky that ricocheted off the shoulder pads of the intended receiver. As impressions go, Gunter certainly made a lasting one.
In fairness to viewers, all tickets for the fourth exhibition game should come with a disclaimer that the on-field product will be ugly, sloppy and finish far closer to mess than masterpiece. Such was the case Thursday when the Packers and Rams combined for 13 punts. Three and outs aside, coach Mike McCarthy is certain to be irked by the high volume of penalties his team committed; the flags flew early and often. In total, the Packers were penalized 10 times for 94 yards. The Rams were flagged eight times for 76 yards. There were false starts by offensive tackles Kyle Murphy and Jason Spriggs. There were two penalties on cornerback Josh Hawkins, first for illegal hands to the face and later for pass interference along the sideline. Outside linebacker Kyler Fackrell was called for holding on special teams. Offensive lineman Adam Pankey was guilty of a hold. His running mate, guard Geoff Gray, gave up 15 yards for unnecessary roughness. Outside linebacker Reggie Gilbert also picked up a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness in the final minute. It was the type of sloppiness that drives coaches crazy, even if young players should be expected to make mistakes. There are no excuses for lapses in concentration.
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Wide receiver Geronimo Allison left the game in the second quarter and was evaluated for a concussion. Allison caught a pass near the goal line and was sandwiched by two defenders. He held onto the ball but was quickly taken to the locker room.
Safety Kentrell Brice injured his left shoulder late in the fourth quarter. Brice was part of the punt coverage team and tackled returner Shakeir Ryan for -2 yards. He walked off the field holding his left arm.
The Packers had a number of players who did not dress for Thursday’s game. Rookie cornerback Kevin King (groin) and fullback Joe Kerridge (calf) were the only new injuries announced prior to kickoff.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, wide receiver Davante Adams, wide receiver Randall Cobb, safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, safety Jermaine Whitehead, cornerback Demetri Goodson, safety Morgan Burnett, outside linebacker Vince Biegel, outside linebacker Clay Matthews, outside linebacker Nick Perry, inside linebacker Jordan Tripp, guard Lucas Patrick, guard Don Barclay, left tackle David Bakhtiari, right guard Jahri Evans, left guard Lane Taylor, right tackle Bryan Bulaga, defensive end Mike Daniels, tight end Martellus Bennett, wide receiver Jordy Nelson, running back Ty Montgomery, defensive tackle Montravius Adams, outside linebacker Jayrone Elliott, defensive end Dean Lowry and defensive tackle Kenny Clark all did not dress.
Bits and pieces
» Brett Hundley got the start at quarterback and played the first two quarters, ultimately giving way to Taysom Hill ahead of Joe Callahan. An undrafted rookie, Hill has separated himself from Callahan in recent weeks with his combination of athleticism, poise and decision-making behind weak offensive lines. Thursday was no exception. Hill (4-of-4, 31 yards, 1 TD) made a terrific play to find tight end Aaron Peck for a 25-yard touchdown. He stepped up in the pocket, rolled left and threw sidearm to a wide-open receiver.
» Rookie running back Aaron Jones had a receiving touchdown for the second time in the last three games. Jones stumbled to catch a pass from Hundley late in the first half and rolled into the end zone untouched for a 1-yard score. Jones also carried 8 times for 48 yards, highlighted by a 24-yard run in the fourth quarter.
» With Cobb inactive and Trevor Davis getting the night off from special teams duties, coordinator Ron Zook tabbed cornerback Quinten Rollins as his No. 1 punt returner. Rollins practices fielding punts every day in practice but had not received an opportunity prior to Thursday. He returned one punt for 14 yards.
The Packers have no more public practices this season.