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Packers' run stopper Tyler Lancaster showing signs of enhanced pass-rush prowess

GREEN BAY - Tyler Lancaster knows the Green Bay Packers pay him to stop the run. That doesn’t mean the young defensive tackle is willing to settle. 

Lancaster, who naturally plays most of his snaps on run downs, is built to fill gaps and consume blockers. His production has followed that in his first two seasons. Lancaster had no sacks as an undrafted rookie in 2018. He had a modest 1.5 sacks last season. 

“I know my downfalls,” he said, “and I know what I’m good at and what I need to work on. Every offseason, when I talk to my trainers, I tell them, ‘Hey, I feel strong enough. If we could prioritize my speed over my strength, let’s do that.’” 

That’s what Lancaster did this offseason. He focused on his cardio, his stamina, hoping it would help him be quicker getting off the line of scrimmage. 

Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Tyler Lancaster (95) blocks against the Detroit Lions center Graham Glasgow (60) at Lambeau Field on Sunday, Dec. 30, 2018, in Green Bay, Wis.

It’s much too early to know whether that focus will pay off this fall, but Lancaster had a promising sign during Sunday’s lengthy scrimmage inside Lambeau Field. On one rep, Lancaster broke through the line of scrimmage. He met face to face with quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who, of course, was wearing a red, no-touch jersey. 

That’s the difficulty in evaluating pass rush during practice. The officials inside Lambeau Field allowed the play to continue, leaving ambiguity to whether it was a sack. Rodgers later approached Lancaster on the sideline, and asked him what he thought. 

Lancaster’s answer, naturally, left no doubt. 

“I told him, yeah,” Lancaster said. “I said, ‘That was definitely a sack.'"

Lancaster hopes there are more to follow. 

“I definitely have steps that I still have to take,” he said, “but being able to trust myself, know when it’s a pass and transition to pass rush. We’ve got some fantastic pass rushers in our room, so it’s breaking that barrier and being available when my name is called on. And I feel like that’s sort of been my game since I’ve been here.

"So definitely something I’ve been focused on in the offseason was that quick twitch."

Noise adjustments

Early in the season, adjusting to the piped-in noise teams are allowed to use in place of fans might be a work in progress. 

The Packers again used piped-in noise during their practice inside Lambeau Field on Sunday. Coach Matt LaFleur said the league hasn’t informed him of what the maximum decibel level will be this season, so the noise was set to the same decibel level as a prior practice at Lambeau Field.  

This time, however, it sounded much louder. 

“It sounded like twice as loud as the other day,” LaFleur said, “so we had to taper it back a little bit. That’s something we’re going to have to work through.” 

Even with the Packers transitioning to more of a regular-season practice schedule, LaFleur said he might take his team inside Lambeau Field for another practice to get adjusted to the sound.

Packers shift to regular-season schedule

Training camp, such as it was, formally ended for the Packers on Sunday and now the team switches into regular-season prep mode Monday. LaFleur said the team will meet and review Sunday’s film and have an off-field workout plan inside the facility. Tuesday will be an off day, just like in the regular season.

The team will then practice for three straight days to serve as the final roster evaluation before general manager Brian Gutekunst trims the roster from 80 to 53 by 3 p.m. CDT on Saturday.

King, Alexander in form

Fourth-year cornerback Kevin King and third-year corner Jaire Alexander ended the training camp portion of practices seemingly healthy and in regular-season form Sunday, with Alexander coming up with a smooth interception of Aaron Rodgers in a one-on-one with Allen Lazard. Alexander anticipated the route and broke before Lazard did, leading to a relatively easy-looking turnover. King was solid in the team sessions with a couple of well-timed pass deflections and providing a physical presence on run plays.

Three full practices remain before the Packers in for Week 1 preparation for Minnesota, but it is an encouraging sign for the team that their top cornerback combination looks to be ready to go.

Last season King missed much of camp with a hamstring injury before playing in a career-high 15 games. In 2017 and 2018 he missed time in camp due to shoulder injuries. In 2018 Alexander missed camp practices with a groin injury but played in every game a year ago.