Packers Camp Insider: Defense posing some problems for Aaron Rodgers

Tom Silverstein
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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Today's takeaways

» It’s been a long time since the defense has given the offense fits this early in training camp, but that was the case Thursday. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers might have won the two-minute drill with a no-look, across the field touchdown to Geronimo Allison, but for a good part of the day, the defense prevailed. Rodgers is still learning defensive coordinator Mike Pettine’s system and some of the blitzes Pettine brought during one team drill forced Rodgers to dump the ball off in the flat several times. On a fourth-and-3 play, he threw the ball low into the ground about 10 feet in front of tight end Lance Kendricks. On a third-and-11 play, Rodgers had to throw the ball away because no one was open. Pettine said the work against Rodgers has been crucial for the defense. “He’s not going against the same defense that he had gone against and maybe he got used to over years and years and years that he figured out,” Pettine said. “He’s still trying to figure us out, and there’s that element. I just love the competition part of it. It’s great.”

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Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) talks with head coach Mike McCarthy during Green Bay Packers Training Camp Friday, July 27, 2018 at Ray Nitschke Field in Ashwaubenon, Wis

» The Packers might really like their three receiver draft picks, but the reality is they may be counting on them too much. Davante Adams is having a terrific camp, Randall Cobb has been solid and Allison has been consistent. Tight end Jimmy Graham all but counts as a receiver, so you can add him to the group. If injuries strike, they could have a real problem because the rookies just aren’t going to contribute that much. Adams, who is a top-flight pro, caught only 38 passes as a rookie. Cobb caught 25. Jordy Nelson caught 33. All three were second-round picks. J’Mon Moore (fourth), Marquez Valdes-Scantling (sixth) and Equanemious St. Brown (seventh) weren’t deemed that caliber of player. It’s early, but there’s a lot of growth needed before any of them are ready to play. “The volume of the new plays we’re putting in is starting to slow down a little bit, so I think that’ll help these guys as they move forward here,” offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said. “I expect to see some real improvement and some real development here these next couple days.”

» Last year, safety Josh Jones looked lost too often. Right now, he’s a starter opposite Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Jones appears more vocal and in tune with the calls being made on the field, but detail is going to be his challenge. He has a great opportunity to lock down a starting job with Kentrell Brice sidelined with an ankle injury and a lot will come down to how well he absorbs the defense and reads what’s going on in front of him. On one play, Jones drifted too far to the middle of the field and allowed a completion down the sideline. He discussed the play with coaches and players alike, which is a sign he wanted to get it right. The big question is whether in his second year he’ll get it right more often than not.

QB watch

Rodgers got a significant amount of snaps during the 2-hour, 30-minute practice, including every snap in the two-minute drill. It wasn’t his best day aside from the no-look pass he made to Allison for a 26-yard touchdown. DeShone Kizer showed a little more consistency in his limited amount of work and seems to make more plays downfield than Brett Hundley. Fourth-string quarterback Tim Boyle struggled. Cornerback Lenzy Pipkins almost had a pick-6 in an early team drill and cornerback Herb Waters dropped an interception on deep ball to Moore.

Bits and pieces

» Kicker Mason Crosby connected on only 5 of 8 field goals, making him 19 of 24 for camp. He connected from 33, 35, 41, 44, and 52 yards and missed from 39, 47 and 49 yards. Zach Triner was the long snapper on two of the misses and rookie Hunter Bradley was the snapper on the other two. Punter JK Scott has done all the holding.

» Veteran cornerback Tramon Williams starts in the slot in the No. 1 nickel with Davon House and Kevin King outside. But usually, Williams and House come off the field quickly, mostly so that the coaches can get more work for younger players like Jaire Alexander, Josh Jackson, Josh Hawkins, Pipkins and Waters.

» A light mist came down during most of the practice and temperatures were in the 60s.

» UW-Madison basketball coach Greg Gard visited with coach Mike McCarthy after practice. Gard has made the trip up to watch practice and visit with McCarthy the past couple of seasons. McCarthy spoke to the Badgers' basketball team after their loss to Michigan at the Kohl Center in February.

Injury report

» Defensive tackle Mike Daniels (thigh) and offensive lineman Alex Light (ankle) returned to practice but did not do much. Running back Aaron Jones (hamstring), fullback Joe Kerridge (shoulder), linebacker Jake Ryan (knee) and linebacker C.J. Johnson (hamstring) remain out.

Quote of the day

“I know I’m definitely not the type of player to go and do that. I know I’m pretty safe, but overall my biggest thing on the rule is that it’s just going to be how harsh they’re going to enforce it and those type of things, whether it’s maybe a small hit and a guy is all of a sudden ejected.” -- Linebacker Blake Martinez on the NFL’s new use-of-helmet rule.

Practice schedule

The Packers again will practice at 11:15 a.m. Friday.

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