GREEN BAY – Nine of the 11 defensive backs on the Green Bay Packers' opening 53-man roster have seen snaps through the first two weeks of the season, with cornerback Jaire Alexander and safeties Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage playing every one of the 138 defensive plays run.
Corners Kevin King (106) and Tramon Williams (94) are next, followed by safety Raven Greene (71) and corner Tony Brown (27).
When Greene was injured Sunday against Minnesota, Will Redmond was the first man off the bench for the Packers and he finished with 12 snaps against the Vikings.
“For me it wasn’t as big because I was prepared for the moment,” Redmond said. “Coach (Mike Pettine) did a good job with me with a lot of reps in the preseason. I get a lot of reps at practice so it wasn’t no fallout in our defense.”
Then there is Josh Jackson, a second-round pick out of Iowa last year who played in all 16 games and started 10 times. Through two weeks this season, he has been on the field for four plays on defense and 20 on special teams. Against the Vikings, Jackson saw just one snap.
As many of his teammates in the secondary had dense half-moons of television cameras and radio microphones around them, Jackson quietly leaned over a clothing bin to assess his season to date.
“Mentally, I’ve been absolutely great,” he said. “As far as playing time, it’s not something I’m concerned about. I’m really just doing what I can to help the team. I think the team is what’s most important right now. I’m not trying to be selfish. If I was selfish right now that would put me in a bad spot mentally and a bad spot as a teammate.
"For now my main focus is really to just to help the team. We’re doing good right now so just trying to build on that momentum, the positivity. So I’m just trying to be a good teammate and when I do get in I want to make sure I’m a positive force on the field and just making sure that I’m doing my job and contributing to the defense like everybody else is.”
Jackson missed the start of training camp after being placed on the non-football injury list and the first injury reports of the season listed him as having an Achilles issue, but it had not impacted his practice time. He maintains he’s healthy and feels good physically.
His first and only action in the preseason came in Winnipeg when he played 24 snaps against Oakland in the third exhibition game.
At 6 feet and 196 pounds, Jackson fits the physical and athletic profile of Greene (5-11, 197) and a converted corner in Redmond (5-11, 186). Jackson’s 3-cone drill time of 6.86 seconds falls between the two, as does his 20-yard shuttle of 4.03 seconds. His 40 time of 4.56 seconds trailed both Greene and Redmond, but Jackson did lift the 225-pound bench press 18 times coming out of Iowa.
If tasked with playing safety, or the hybrid safety-linebacker role Greene occupied, Jackson felt he could do it.
“Yeah, for sure,” he said. “I think I have the versatility to be able to go to any spot, for real. I just gotta make sure I’m learning it all. It’s a lot. It’s a lot of different spots and a lot of different jobs so I just gotta make sure whatever I’m playing I’m up to date on what I’m supposed to be doing and just knowing my assignments.”
When Greene went out against the Vikings, Adrian Amos dropped down in run support as Redmond paired with Savage Jr. on the back end. The Packers claimed cornerback Tremon Smith (5-11, 190 pounds) off waivers from Kansas City on Monday, but it’s likely he’ll contribute more on special teams in the immediate future. Savage is dealing with a shin injury that had him in a walking boot early in the week.
Redmond said going forward, he’s comfortable getting down closer to the line of scrimmage and supporting in run defense if asked.
“Coach kind of prepares all of us to play everything,” Redmond said. “That’s one thing that I can say about all our DB’s is we’re versatile to be able — me, Savage, Raven, anybody — you could be able to play anything. A couple of us can get out there at corner and play. You just gotta be versatile in this defense. Coach does a good job of teaching everybody the scheme so everybody can do that.”
LaFleur amends practice schedule
Coach Matt LaFleur elected to alter his practice schedule this week because the Packers will play three games over a 12-day period, culminating with next Thursday’s game against Philadelphia. Wednesday is normally the first full practice day for the team, but instead they held a walkthrough with an emphasis on mental work.
“You look at what we have coming in front of us with the game,” LaFleur said. “Obviously, this Sunday, then a short turnaround on a Thursday game, we’re a little banged up right now. So I wanted to give our guys the opportunity to try to get their bodies back a little bit.”
LaFleur has had experience with this schedule change in his previous stops and the Packers did the same thing last season during Week 3 after a loss at Washington. In that game Muhammad Wilkerson was lost for the year, Davon House and Justin McCray injured their shoulders, Nick Perry suffered a concussion, Bryan Bulaga injured his back and Aaron Rodgers was just two weeks removed from suffering an MCL sprain and tibial plateau fracture.
LaFleur said that while having a full complement of practices is always ideal in the initial stages of a season and an offensive system, “But at the same time, you have to go in with guys healthy and fresh.”
If the Packers were to have practiced, it was estimated that defensive tackle Montravius Adams (shoulder), tight end Jimmy Graham (groin) and wide receiver Jake Kumerow (shoulder) would not have participated. Linebackers Oren Burks (out since the preseason with a torn pectoral), Kyler Fackrell (shoulder), Blake Martinez (shoulder) and Savage Jr. (shin) would have been limited.
Rookie corner Ka’dar Hollman would have participated fully for the first time since suffering a stinger in the preseason.
On the surface, Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen seems like a level-headed guy, but he had steam coming out of his ears in the second quarter Sunday at Lambeau Field.
At the end of Chad Beebe’s 61-yard catch with under 2 minutes left in the half, Alexander wiped out Thielen with a block just as Beebe was going down. Alexander’s block appeared to be clean and was not flagged, but it could be categorized as not necessary.
Thielen was furious with Alexander, getting up quickly and standing over him. It appeared he was going to kick him, but he stopped short and pushed Alexander from his knees to the ground. All the while, he was yelling at Alexander.
“He was so upset,” Alexander said. “I told him I was trying to hit him into the runner. If you watch the film, he went flying a long way and I ended up on the pile of the ball carrier. He was saying, ‘Why would you do that? Why would you do that?’
“And I said, ‘So, that’s how you want to play?’ and he said, ‘You started it.’”
Alexander said Thielen later apologized for coming at him and he didn’t think there were any hard feelings left over.
Both players got hit with unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.
Nose tackle Kenny Clark said he’s worried he’s going to get a reputation for holding offensive linemen after drawing penalties in each of the first two games.
Clark said the one against the Chicago Bears in Week 1 was perplexing to him because he didn’t see a way it could be construed as holding. The second call he understands because it looked like he might have tugged the jersey, but he said he was moving his feet with the offensive lineman and wasn’t pulling him in any direction.
Clark is worried that officials are going to pay extra attention to him because he’s been flagged twice, but he said he can’t change.
“I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing,” Clark said. “I just don’t want to make it a reputation thing. That’s what I told the ref, ‘I’m not out here trying to be cheap.’”