The one-on-one, pass-rush reps that are popular among players and media alike might not be making a return in Green Bay Packers camp.
The Packers haven’t done one-on-one pass rushes since Saturday, the first padded practice in camp. Coach Mike McCarthy said those reps are simulated in the team’s two-minute drill, as well as increased reps in pass under pressure that closes practice.
“Really with the number of reps we get there,” McCarthy said, “it’s higher than we’ve been in the past.”
In its place, the period that otherwise would be devoted to one-on-one pass rushes is now centered on the run game for offensive and defensive linemen. Offensive linemen work on variations of run blocks – from zone reads to combination blocks – against defensive linemen and linebackers. It remains a physical and competitive drill, just with a different focus.
“It can be inside zone, outside zone,” right guard Justin McCray said. “It can be a gap scheme. Those are the variations of the combo drill.”
McCray said he misses the one-on-one pass-rush drill for teaching purposes, but he agreed it can be simulated in team reps. He said he did the drill a lot in college, but it’s been infrequently used with the Packers.
Defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson, who played for new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine with the New York Jets, said Pettine used something similar to the run-blocking drill. He doesn’t think it’s necessarily a Pettine drill because it benefits both sides of the ball, not just the defense.
“For a defensive lineman,” Wilkerson said, “it’s just about getting knocked back, getting separation, and getting off the block. That’s your job as a defensive lineman on a run play, is to get off, knock the man back, get separation and go make a play.”
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» The Packers saw just how light their inside linebacker depth chart is on experience in Friday’s practice. Veteran Blake Martinez had a personal day away from practice and is expected to return soon, but his absence left the position with zero players who have played an NFL snap. Without Martinez, the bulk of first-team reps went to third-round rookie Oren Burks and Ahmad Thomas. Undrafted rookie Greer Martini split his time between the first and second groups. The biggest difference might have been for fellow undrafted rookies Naashon Hughes and Marcus Porter. Reps have been lean for Hughes and Porter in camp, but both got a ton of playing time with the second unit Friday. The practice underscored how badly they need Martinez to stay healthy now that Jake Ryan is done for the rest of 2018. If Martinez also goes down with an injury, there is zero experience behind him.
It appears the Packers are giving undrafted rookie Tim Boyle a chance to impress them. Boyle was the first quarterback to get reps after Aaron Rodgers in the initial team period Friday. Those second-team reps had gone exclusively to Brett Hundley and DeShone Kizer. Boyle clearly needs a lot of development, but he has flashed some potential with a strong arm. He’s almost more content to hang in the pocket as a passer, while Hundley and Kizer have a tendency to quickly tuck and run. None of the three particularly stood out in practice. Hundley had a tough red-zone period at the end. He held the football too long on a free play – it would’ve been a sack if he weren’t wearing a red jersey – before chucking it up for grabs. On the next play, he threw an interception to rookie cornerback Josh Jackson. Kizer also had a deflected interception to Hughes.
Bits and pieces
» Inside linebacker isn’t the only position where the Packers are getting thin. With Aaron Jones already sidelined because of a hamstring injury, second-year running back Devante Mays injured his right hamstring Friday. Mays pulled up after a touchdown run in red zone, grabbing his right hamstring as he walked back to the huddle. He initially tried to stay on the field, but after a few minutes Mays entered the Don Hutson Center with a trainer. Down two tailbacks, the Packers had only three available for the rest of practice: Jamaal Williams, Ty Montgomery and Joel Bouagnon.
» Marquez Valdes-Scantling needs to be more consistent catching the football, but there are times the fifth-round rookie shows he has some serious potential. One example came early in Friday’s practice during a red-zone drill. Valdes-Scantling leaped over safety Marwin Evans in the end zone to catch a good pass from Kizer. It was a difficult play, the kind Valdes-Scantling has made routinely in camp. It’s the simple plays he also needs to make.
» The Packers are hosting NFL referees at practice this weekend, and it’s noticeable. There’s been significantly more yellow on the field than when local officials stand in during practice. Both sides got caught with interference penalties Friday that might not have been called otherwise. Safety Josh Jones thought he had forced an incompletion against tight end Jimmy Graham, getting up and waving his arms dramatically, but then saw the flag. Rookie receiver Equanimeous St. Brown caught a pass on a comeback route against cornerback Demetri Goodson, but was called for a push off. It’s a good chance for all players to get used to how certain plays will be called before they even take preseason snaps.
Receiver Trevor Davis (hamstring) did not practice with a new injury. Defensive tackle Mike Daniels (quad) also did not practice after returning Thursday. Safety Kentrell Brice (ankle), running back Jones (hamstring), fullback Joe Kerridge (shoulder), linebacker Ryan (right ACL), linebacker Martinez (personal day) and linebacker C.J. Johnson (hamstring) remain out. Bryan Bulaga (right ACL) was activated off the physically unable to perform list and practiced in individual drills, but he did not take team reps. Mays (right hamstring) left practice and receiver Randall Cobb (unclear) also left practice. Cobb returned to the field but did not take reps.
Quote of the day
“"I don’t know if the degree of difficulty was super high." – Rodgers on his no-look, cross-field touchdown to receiver Geronimo Allison during Thursday’s practice.
The Packers' sold-out Family Night practice officially begins at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Lambeau Field. Gates open at 5:30 p.m. It will be televised live across Wisconsin: WTMJ4 in Milwaukee, NBC26 in Green Bay, WKOW-TV in Madison, WXOW-TV in La Crosse, WQOW-TV in Eau Claire, WAOW-TV in Wausau, KQDS-TV in Duluth-Superior and WLUC-TV in Escanaba-Marquette.
There will be no practice Sunday, with the next session set for 12:15 p.m. Monday.