GREEN BAY – With organized team activities concluded, the Green Bay Packers are almost to the point where the non-padded, on-field workouts are complete, much to everyone’s appreciation.
After this week's mandatory minicamp beginning Tuesday, Packers players and coaches will get a six-week summer break before reporting for training camp in late July. Those practices will be much more insightful regarding football evaluations, but the three open OTAs and previous voluntary minicamp gave us our first glimpse of this newly built team on the field.
With that in mind, Packers beat writers Ryan Wood and Jim Owczarski discuss what stood out over the past month:
Owczarski: One of the things I felt was important going into the OTAs was depth-chart positioning. There were some interesting choices out there, but for me the one that popped the most was wide receiver Trevor Davis getting first-team runs with Davante Adams missing some time. New receivers coach Alvis Whitted mentioned Davis without prompting, and he has been a prominent figure with Aaron Rodgers' first-string unit. And obviously we know what he can bring to the return game. It's interesting because perhaps it tells us that a) Davis is healthy and b) this coaching staff is willing to give players a totally clean slate.
I'll throw it back at you, Ryan: Was there something, or someone, that caught your eye out on Clarke Hinkle Field?
Wood: You mean other than the golf cart? Of all the things, the most bizarre was probably Matt LaFleur's ride around the field. It's going to be really interesting to see how LaFleur, an energetic, hands-on coach during practice, is going to handle being limited with what he can physically do in his instruction. The golf cart might not make another appearance after mincamp, with LaFleur able to move around in a walking boot after a few weeks of rest, but he's not going to be 100 percent recovered from his torn Achilles for some time. How he adjusts will be interesting, and it was certainly different to see a golf cart in the middle of a football field.
From a personnel standpoint, I'm really curious to see how much of the depth chart we saw was a rough draft, and how much changes in camp. You mentioned Trevor Davis, and he was certainly one who stood out to me, but safety Raven Greene, inside linebacker James Crawford, tight end Robert Tonyan and offensive lineman Lucas Patrick appear to be in good position to have a chance at winning a roster spot. It was also interesting to see how the coaches divided the rookies, with their top three picks – Rashan Gary, Darnell Savage Jr. and Elgton Jenkins -- spending time with the top group and others, including third-round tight end Jace Sternberger, still with the second group. I imagine that will change as training camp progresses.
Owczarski: Actually, I’m not sure it will. I know we shouldn’t make hard and fast determinations off OTA – especially when it feels like they’re giving veterans like Adams, Bryan Bulaga, Kevin King and Mike Daniels every chance to get to 100% for camp – but I feel like we learned that LaFleur and Mike Pettine aren’t going to necessarily play around with “niceties.” What I mean by that is this: They easily could have put Raven Greene back there with Adrian Amos to “start,” just due to his standing. They could have easily relegated Jake Kumerow to the second unit in favor of J’Mon Moore, just because. I mean, perhaps we should have learned this from Josh Jones’ decision to skip OTA when he wasn’t just handed a starting role, but at least at the outset I feel like we’re learning that LaFleur and his staff are going to give reps to the guys they feel are the best at that moment.
Wood: Along those lines, the guys in those spots obviously need to continue being the best at that moment to retain their standing. That, of course, is the unknown. But from a 30,000-foot perspective, these OTAs – and probably the upcoming minicamp – seemed like a dress rehearsal for the real thing. There’s a feeling-out process, and I think that’s what this spring has been about. The goal, I’m sure, is to hit the ground running when the pads are strapped on early in camp. There’s still a lot of work for this team to do, and the calendar is progressing quickly. But LaFleur said the team was able to get through all their installs during OTAs, allowing them to have a foundation to work on when they go through them a second time during the first part of camp. That should help move the process along.