Packers Camp Insider: Jimmy Graham gives glimpse of TD potential
» Jimmy Graham has made plays in seemingly every practice since arriving in Green Bay, but his best catch in a Packers uniform might have come Monday. With safety Marwin Evans covering him in a red-zone drill, Graham reached back with his left arm to catch a one-handed, back-shoulder throw for a touchdown while staying in bounds. The play — a staple throw in quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ expansive arsenal — signified another step in Graham’s growing chemistry with his new quarterback. “We needed something like that,” Rodgers said, “because we’ve been talking a lot about how he wants those types of fade balls thrown. And we’ve talked about a number of different ways we can do that. It was nice to be on the same page.” Graham and Rodgers have yet to connect in a game, but plays like Monday’s red-zone touchdown show a glimpse of how much trouble they might be for opposing defenses. With Rodgers’ pinpoint accuracy and Graham’s combination of size and freakish athletic ability, the touchdown was practically indefensible. If this training camp is any indication, the duo could be one of the top connections in the NFL this season. “He was expecting a ball in that area,” Rodgers said, “and then the athleticism, I have absolutely nothing to do with that. I’m just trying to put it in an area for him. It’s pretty impressive to watch. You guys have been here a long time, as have I. It’s hard to remember, you know, the consistency and the athleticism from a guy that size. We haven’t had that in a while.”
» Nine days after spraining his left ankle, Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari was gearing up to make his preseason debut. Bakhtiari took first-team reps Monday for the first time since exiting the Packers' annual night practice at Lambeau Field early with an ankle injury. He’s expected to play Thursday against the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Rodgers offered one theory for why his All-Pro left tackle is returning to the field so early. “I think he knows I’m playing,” Rodgers said, “so he wants to be out there with me.” Rodgers said it was especially important to him for Bakhtiari to be on the field with him, not surprising considering the sixth-year left tackle protects his blind side. Right tackle Bryan Bulaga also took first-team reps against scouted looks from the Steelers defense, indicating he has a chance to play Thursday. But the Packers will be especially careful with Bulaga’s return from a torn ACL, and it was interesting that Rodgers emphasized Bakhtiari’s importance to being on the field this week but not Bulaga. “I guess there’s always a possibility,” Bulaga said. “… We don’t really have a set preseason game that we feel like we need to have. That’s the indication that I’ve gotten. I’d love to play this game, I’d love to play the next game. That’d be great, but I don’t make those decisions.”
» Geronimo Allison might have given the Packers a scare Monday after stretching out to catch a high pass from Rodgers in the end zone. He was on the ground off to the sideline for a few minutes while trainers evaluated him. Allison said afterward he was fine. “It wasn’t anything that was an injury or anything,” he said. “I just knocked the wind out of myself.” Allison returned to practice and caught a touchdown from Rodgers on a post route during red-zone drills. Much of the attention in this camp has centered on the Packers' new receivers — three rookies drafted this spring and free-agent signing Jake Kumerow — but Allison has quietly established himself as the team’s No. 3 receiver. Even if his name doesn’t generate the same consistent buzz, there are no shortage of examples on the practice field for why the former undrafted receiver has ascended the depth chart. He is always in the right place, and his combination of size (6-3) and sure hands make him a reliable target.
WithRodgers apparently starting Thursday, it will be interesting to see how the Packers accommodate their three backup quarterbacks. Rodgers won’t play long, but coach Mike McCarthy surely wants to see Brett Hundley, DeShone Kizer and Tim Boyle against the Steelers after each of the three impressed in last week’s opener against the Tennessee Titans. There appears to be no shakeup in the depth chart entering their second exhibition. Hundley was again first to take reps behind Rodgers on Monday, meaning he’ll likely enter Thursday’s game before Kizer and Boyle.
Bits and pieces
» Rookie Josh Jackson has struggled at times in one-on-one drills, but he had perhaps his best day. Jackson stayed with Davante Adams on a go route and was able to break up Boyle’s pass. He had another pass breakup in the flat when the offense was running combination routes from a staggered set.
» Cornerback Herb Waters was converted from receiver two years ago in part because the Packers liked his ability to play the football. It’s been a quiet camp for Waters, but on Monday he flashed those ball skills. Receiver Davante Adams beat Waters by a couple steps and appeared to have a deep reception from Rodgers, but Waters’ closing speed quickly erased the gap. He stepped in front of Adams and intercepted Rodgers’ pass in stride, as if he was the intended receiver. It was an eye-popping play from an unexpected source. Now, the key will be making those plays during the preseason.
» Kicker Mason Crosby was 6-for-7 on field goals. His lone miss was wide left from 53 yards, but he followed with a 53-yard kick down the middle. Crosby made a 43-yard kick from the right hash mark after rookie long snapper Hunter Bradley one-hopped the snap. Overall, Crosby is 33-for-39 in camp.
» Safety Jermaine Whitehead (back), receiver Trevor Davis (hamstring) and running back Devante Mays (hamstring) did not practice. Running back Aaron Jones (hamstring), defensive lineman Mike Daniels (quad) and cornerback Kevin King (shoulder) were limited at practice and did not take team reps.
Quote of the day
“It’s no disrespect to any other quarterback I’ve ever worked with, but 12 is my guy. He has faith in me. He’s put his faith in me ever since 2013. So I’ve always wanted to be there for him, no matter if it’s something as little as preseason or the Super Bowl.” —Bakhtiari on why Rodgers starting Thursday against the Steelers increases his own urgency to play
The Packers won't have a public practice either Tuesday or Wednesday. After their exhibition Thursday, their next practice open to the public will be at 12:15 p.m. Monday.