Green Bay Packers get a first look at rookie class, an opportunity for Jordan Love and looking ahead to London

Kassidy Hill
Packers News
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GREEN BAY - The music was loud, the energy was high and coach Matt LaFleur played quarterback. Such is the nature of rookie camp in the NFL. The Green Bay Packers welcomed 51 players — some new, some familiar faces — to Lambeau Field this past weekend. Between 11 draft picks, 14 undrafted free agents, 18 tryout players and eight rostered players, the Packers got to work on playbook and install. 

"It's always exciting when you get these guys in the building. It's like getting a bunch of new toys,” LaFleur said. “So we'll see how they acclimate themselves and how they can take what they learned in the classroom on the field.” 

Once on the field, the rookies were put through a series of padless workouts and one-on-one drills that tested their minds and retention more than anything. It was more than most had done in a while, though, while preparing for the NFL draft. As such, the second day of rookie camp practice saw a much lighter workload. 

“We had a couple guys come away with a few strains and never want that to happen, especially for a lot of these guys," LaFleur said before Saturday's practice. "It's, you know, they've been making the rounds. They've been going traveling to a lot of different teams, and it's hard for them to get that consistent work. 

“And so it almost feels like they're going from zero to 100 without much of a buildup. So I think we got to be really mindful of that (on day two) and just what we're asking these guys to do. The last thing we want is anybody to come out of this thing injured.” 

Still, these rookies are fighting for a roster spot and the need to impress was high. During one-on-one drills, a few notable plays stood out. 

On defense, first-round pick Quay Walker displayed a litheness and range that will make him an asset at middle linebacker. He picked off one pass over the middle, broke up another and was able to match receivers step for step.

Receiver Christian Watson was drafted in hopes he can provide immediate production. He flashed the quick twitch that aids his precise route running, along with bursts of speed. However, he also had enough drops to be noticeable, something that was a concern during his evaluation process. 

Former Wisconsin receiver Danny Davis extends for the ball during Packers rookie camp.

Fourth-round receiver Romeo Doubs flashed his speed and break off the line, seeming to always have a step on whichever defensive back was tasked with defending him. Wisconsin receiver Danny Davis, in Green Bay as an undrafted free agent, had one of the best catches of the weekend, down the sideline to beat tryout corner Zafir Kelly for the score. 

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Another tryout player, receiver Keke Chism out of Missouri, put his name in the running for a roster spot. At 6-4, 209 pounds, his measurables read smaller than others in the Packers' receiver corps, but he carries himself larger. His length and vertical ability give him an edge over defenders, while his frame allows him to play physical in coverage. 

On Monday, the Packers signed linebacker Kobe Jones, a tryout player from Mississippi State. They also signed Rasheed Walker, a seventh-round draft pick out of Penn State.

When it came to evaluating the tryout players, LaFleur said he and general manager Brian Gutekunst needed to weigh need versus talent. 

“Certainly you want to get the best players but there are some positions where, whether we have guys that are injured or feel like you need more competition there, and that's a discussion that I think me and Gutey will have, sometime (Saturday),” LaFleur said.

The 18 tryout players weren’t the only ones being evaluated, however. LaFleur told his rookies to be aware of eyes every time they’re around. 

“They're always being evaluated, what they do on the field but also how they act off the field, how they treat people within the building, how they handle themselves within the meeting rooms. So we told them everything is under evaluation.” 

Jordan Love getting growth opportunity

Green Bay kept the rookies in town only for a long weekend. They were sent home at the conclusion of camp and won’t return until OTAs begin May 23. 

Between now and then, LaFleur and staff have given them homework. 

“I think each individual position coach kind of lets them know,” said LaFleur of the expected self-work to be done. “The good thing is when they do come back here, there'll be the meetings with the vets. But we'll also have some additional meetings with just rookies to just make sure they're staying up to speed or trying to catch them up as quickly as possible.” 

Not a rookie and not yet a veteran is quarterback Jordan Love. With reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers expected to sit out most of the voluntary work, the Packers will call upon Love (a 2020 first-round pick) to lead practice. With Love now heading into his third season having had little chance to show what he can do, LaFleur wants him to use this time to grow. 

“It’s real work and he needs all the work that he can get. I know he’ll take that,” LaFleur said. "And again, I think it's every opportunity when you're a young quarterback that doesn't have a ton of game experience, and you're not getting the bulk of the reps throughout the course of the season, I think it's so valuable for Jordan.” 

New tricks for special teams 

The Packers' special teams unit was admittedly a weak link in 2021, necessitating lots of change. It started at the top with new special teams coach Rich Bisaccia. The longtime special teams guru has ample experience as an assistant head coach, as well as a 7-5 record as the Las Vegas Raiders interim head coach in 2021. 

That background was evident during rookie camp, with Bisaccia roaming through stretch periods and unit drills, visiting with each player like another head coach. Then during special teams work, Bisaccia revealed a novel twist, having returners catch tennis balls instead of footballs. 

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“I think Rich is super intentional with what he asked the guys to do and you know he's been doing this for a very long time and he's very convicted in what, not only the drill work but what we're gonna do schematically and and how you develop players and I think he does a great job of that,” LaFleur said. 

“You can see his command out there and he loves them tough, no doubt about it. And he gets after them pretty good. But he also puts his arm around them as well.” 

Packers looking forward to London game

The Packers will suit up for an international game, facing the New York Giants in London, England on Oct. 9. While this will be Green Bay’s first time playing in an NFL international game, LaFleur reminded media he has coached in the international game before, as well as other coaches on staff.

They’ll use that experience to prepare the Packers ahead of time. 

“You kind of take it in stride in regards to how you travel and so it's a lot different," LaFleur said. "Typically at least from my own experience, we’ve left on a Thursday evening, you fly through the night and get there on Friday, and you almost go right to work and try to wake these guys up a little bit and you might go on a quick walk but then you kind of get into a Friday walkthrough type practice. And then you tried to keep the guys up at least till like 7 o'clock or so on Friday evening and then go to bed." 

“I think one of the things that's so important for us it's just making sure that we get our plan in to those guys prior to leaving.” 

The Packers do not yet know if they will have a bye the week before the London game, the week after or neither. While teams can submit their schedule requests to the NFL, the league office makes the final call. The full schedule will be released Thursday.

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