Matt LaFleur wants Packers to 'not think too much' during short week
GREEN BAY - Coach Matt LaFleur amended the short work week for his Green Bay Packers team, which included no traditional practices Monday and Tuesday in advance of Thursday night’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
“I looked at a lot of schedules from previous stops and just kind of took what I felt worked best for us as a football team and I do know the priority is, again, making sure our players are well-rested and making sure that they have a plan that allows them to go out there and play fast and not think a lot,” LaFleur said.
So as for game-planning for the Eagles, an uncommon opponent, the first-year head coach said he and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett will have a focused approach to the play sheet.
“It’s more or less your best hits,” LaFleur said. “Just stuff that you know and you’re confident they’re going to be able to go out and execute and not think too much.”
Za’Darius Smith limited; Graham upgraded
The Packers did not practice Tuesday, but they did have to provide an estimated injury report as if they did. Outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith showed up on the report Tuesday as “limited” with a knee issue. He was not listed on the Monday report.
Packers tight end Jimmy Graham would have practiced on a limited basis with groin and quad injuries, which was an upgrade from Monday’s estimation that he would not have practiced.
Also being upgraded on the estimated injury report for the Packers were running back Jamaal Williams (neck), cornerback Kevin King (chest/illness), running back Aaron Jones (shoulder) and linebacker Rashan Gary (calf), who were moved from limited to full.
For the Eagles, wide receiver Alshon Jeffery would have participated fully, as would have tight end Dallas Goedert. Wisconsin alumnus Corey Clement (shoulder) would have been a limited participant. Wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside also would have been a full participant.
The Eagles' offense has struggled the last two weeks, so the idea that quarterback Carson Wentz might get a couple of targets back would be an important development.
“He was limited (Monday) and hopefully he can go be full (Tuesday) and be ready to go,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said of Jeffery. “Dallas Goedert, who was up last week and inactive another week of preparation and healing with him, I think, again, optimistic that he’ll be ready to go.”
Valdes-Scantling turns the page
Sunday's win over the Broncos proved to be one of the best games of Marquez Valdes-Scantling’s young career, as the second-year wideout caught six balls on 10 targets — numbers just one off matching individual career highs. He had 99 receiving yards, the third-most yards he’s had in a game. He also caught just the third touchdown pass of his career.
But he’s not looking at it as a jumping-off point to suddenly having that type of workload every week going forward.
“I wouldn’t say that, necessarily,” Valdes-Scantling said. “I think it’s just more about the opportunity you get in the game. And every week is different. One week you might go for 100 yards and the next week you might go for 20 yards. It’s just about how can we operate and be efficient and make the best throws and the best plays. I wouldn’t say it’s oh, we gotta get me the ball more to make this offense go. I think it’s just about how can we be productive and efficient, whatever that is.
“I can care less about how many catches I have and how many yards I put up. I just want to go out and be 4-0 next week.”
Change of plans
At the end of the first half Sunday, the Packers held a 17-10 lead and forced the Broncos to punt from their own 31 with 73 seconds before halftime. Punt returner Darrius Shepherd set up at about his own 20, but Colby Wadman’s punt hit the turf at about the 25. Shepherd elected to let it bounce. It rolled out at the Packers’ 10-yard line and Aaron Rodgers and the offense took over with one timeout and 63 seconds on the clock.
After two run plays — the second of which incurred a holding penalty on Corey Linsley — Rodgers knelt down and the Packers trotted into the locker room.
LaFleur broke down his decision-making process for the end of half scenario:
“I was anticipating getting the ball somewhere around the 20-yard line. We didn’t field the punt and it rolled back. I thought with the conditions and where the game was going, we had the lead, just felt like it was best to go into the half or see if we could spring a run. If we would’ve got a decent run, like a 10-yard run or whatever, we would have jumped the ball and gone for it.”
Taylor likely lost for season
Packers left guard Lane Taylor suffered a torn biceps muscle in practice Wednesday and will need surgery to return to full strength.
Taylor was put on injured reserve Saturday and would be eligible to return in eight weeks under NFL rules, but the fact surgery is necessary makes it unlikely he will be able to return this season.
Healing time can take two to three months depending on the severity of the tear and where it occurred, but to get back in playing condition, Taylor would probably need more time than that. The fact the Packers put him on injured reserve right away is a pretty good indicator that they know it is likely season-ending.
The Packers have several young interior linemen they want to develop, including rookie Elgton Jenkins, who started his first game in place of Taylor on Sunday against Denver. In addition, 2018 fifth-round pick Cole Madison and former practice squad player and recently added Adam Pankey have been groomed to play guard.
Taylor has one more year on his contract. He is earning a base salary of $2.6 million this year but will miss out on most of his $500,000 per game roster bonus.