Packers coach Matt LaFleur counting on young veterans to lead the wide receiver group

Ryan Wood
Green Bay Press-Gazette
View Comments

GREEN BAY – At the moment, the Green Bay Packers don’t seem inclined to add a veteran wide receiver to their young depth chart.

The most experienced receivers around new starting quarterback Jordan Love are Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs. Packers coach Matt LaFleur said both, along with 2022 seventh-round pick Samori Toure, will be counted on for leadership roles in their second NFL seasons.

“I think they kind of do that naturally,” LaFleur said after Saturday's second day of rookie minicamp. “Especially, Rome just got back here this week. Christian has been around the first couple weeks (of the Packers’ offseason program). It’s fun to watch the jump that a lot of these guys make from Year 1 to Year 2 in terms of just how they mature as men. So they are going to be two of the guys that we’re going to be leaning on, especially in that room. I think Samori is another one who knows the standards and expectations in that position room.

“I’ve said it prior to this, in terms of what the guys who had been here before kind of set those standards and expectations. All three of those guys are really smart dudes, and they understand what it takes. They’re going to have to take on a larger leadership role whether they care to or not.”

Wide receiver Jayden Reed practices in the Don Hutson Center during rookie minicamp.

The Packers currently have 10 receivers on their roster. They’re likely to keep between five and seven on their 53-man roster after training camp.

A year after drafting three receivers, general manager Brian Gutekunst drafted three more this spring: second-rounder Jayden Reed, fifth-rounder Dontayvion Wicks and seventh-rounder Grant DuBose. Gutekunst has said earlier this offseason adding a veteran was a possibility, but LaFleur lauded the youth at that position.

“I think time will tell,” LaFleur said, “but it’s certainly a very talented room. It’s going to be a hell of a competition in terms of who’s getting the snaps, because just at first glimpse at some of these young guys who were in here, there are some talented guys. So they’re going to be exciting to work with. I’m sure it’s going to be a very fluid situation in terms of just how much we throw at them and, if need be, I know Gutey is going to do whatever we can to help us field the best possible team.

“If need be, I think we would turn that way, but right now I think we’re just going to let those guys compete.”

Retaining quarterbacks coach Tom Clements a ‘no-brainer’

When longtime Packers quarterbacks coach Tom Clements returned from retirement last year, he made clear it was for an opportunity to coach Aaron Rodgers once more.

Their reunion lasted only a year, but Clements isn’t finished with developing quarterbacks. His next project is Love, who LaFleur said grew tremendously last season in his first experience with Clements.

After the season, LaFleur said he discussed Clements’ coaching with Love. LaFleur was already interested in retaining Clements because of how important the quarterbacks coach was to Rodgers’ development. He left that conversation with Love believing it was an obvious choice for Clements to stay on his staff, even if Rodgers is no longer the Packers quarterback.

“Just watching him last year,” LaFleur said, “I think Jordan has made some huge strides. I really do. I think a lot of it is a credit to Tom, and he knows how to train these guys, he knows how to grow them. He’s very, very consistent. He doesn’t sugarcoat anything. He’s just matter-of-fact. I think there’s no doubt, I asked Jordan after the season how he felt about him, and he said he loved Tom and did a hell of a job helping him develop over the course of the year.

“For me, it was a no-brainer. It was just a matter of whether Tom wanted to come back. So I’m happy he wanted to be here, and we’re lucky to have him.”

Re-signing veteran tight end Marcedes Lewis would be ‘beneficial’

The Packers’ youth movement extends to their tight end position. It appears unlikely they will re-sign veteran tight end Marcedes Lewis, who spent the past five seasons in Green Bay.

LaFleur suggested there would be value in bringing back the 39-year-old veteran to a room that includes second-round rookie Luke Musgrave and third-round rookie Tucker Kraft.

“He’s a pro’s pro,” LaFleur said. “You guys know how I feel about Marcedes. I think they could all definitely learn. A lot of times, these guys learn more from sometimes some of the players than they do from us as coaches, because they can give them little nuggets. They’ve been in the fire. I always think that, I’ve said it to our guys, I think player-led teams are more powerful than coach-led teams. We’ve got a lot of young guys, which is really exciting, too, but I think anytime you have a veteran guy like that who’s played for as long as he’s played at such a high level, I think it’d be beneficial for everybody.”

Matt LaFleur misses rookie minicamp's first practice to support Greg Gard's charity event

LaFleur returned to the Packers practice facility Saturday after missing the first day of rookie minicamp to attend Wisconsin basketball coach Greg Gard’s seventh-annual Garding Against Cancer charity event.

LaFleur had a seasoned assistant replace him on the first day of rookie orientation. Special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia, a former interim head coach with the Las Vegas Raiders, conducted Friday’s practice.

“It was a cool event,” LaFleur said. “It was my first time meeting Coach Gard. What a down-to-earth, humble, class act he is, and what a great cause. I think all of us have been affected in some way or form, and it all hits us a little bit differently. I just thought it was one of those things that I didn’t want to pass up the opportunity.

“I think we have an unbelievable platform in what we do to raise money for such a great cause, and a nasty illness, it was a no-brainer. I thought Rich would do a great job holding down the fort, which he did, and so did our other staff members. We have a great staff, and I feel confident with those guys, and I thought missing one rookie practice wasn’t going to be the end of the world.”

LaFleur was able to watch film of Friday’s practice before returning to conduct Saturday’s session. For both, he said the emphasis was teaching the Packers’ class of 13 rookie draft picks how to practice with NFL-level intensity. LaFleur emphasized practicing the right way so there is a foundation established before playbook installations.

In the periods open to media, rookies were taught how to run individual drills that are staples of Packers practices, including how to finish reps with urgency.

“We had a couple periods of 11-on-11,” LaFleur said. “Two periods each day that I thought were very beneficial. These guys have to learn how to practice without pads, how to stay on their feet. We didn’t have too many guys on the ground, which is always one of the things that you’re a little bit concerned about.”

Dougherty:Young Packers could be in for an interesting but rough ride with Jordan Love at the helm

More:What does the NFL flex proposal mean for Packers ticket holders? Nothing good, according to fans

View Comments