Ahead of the Green Bay Packers Preseason Week 2 match-up against the New Orleans Saints, the two teams went head to head this week for two days of practice. Joint practices are great opportunities for teams and coaches to replicate very niche drills and situations while allowing veteran players to line up against an opposing team instead of seeing some preseason action. Tuesday and Wednesday’s practice had its fair share of challenges and opportunities with tempers flaring on both sides each day. Now that it’s over let’s take a look at some of the main takeaways after the Packers/Saints joint practice.
Wide Receivers Need to Show Consistency
The Packers’ wide receiver room should expect to see some road bumps this season, especially the younger players on the roster who are just now getting experience in the NFL. While the young guys are attempting to piece their way together throughout training camp, issues are still frequently occurring with the season rapidly approaching. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has noticed these issues first-hand and voiced his frustrations on Tuesday while aiming to hold his teammates accountable.
“A lot of drops, a lot of bad route decisions, running the wrong route,” Rodgers said. “We’ve got to get better in that area. We’re going to play our best guys when the season starts. And whoever those guys are, those guys are going to get the reps. It’s the guys I trust the most and the guys the coaches trust the most.”
Rodgers again this week reiterated his preferred starting targets in Week 1 to consist of the three veteran receivers in Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb, and Sammy Watkins. The main criticism Rodgers shared seemed to be aimed at the younger players. As ESPN’s Rob Demovsky reported on Wednesday, the Packers young receivers met with Rodgers and members of the offensive coaching staff before to the start of practice to address these concerns head-on.
“It was just really giving us advice,” rookie receiver Samori Toure said. “Basically, letting us know that the Green Bay receiving corps has always been held to a super-high standard. All the legends who have been through here. It’s just about us carrying on that standard and stepping up.”
While the concerns at practice and an immediate meeting sound troublesome, this, by all means, should be seen as a positive in Green Bay. The Packers sooner or later will be forced to rely on their young receivers at some point this season and holding them accountable now can help the entire offense get on the same page in the long run. Rodgers, a true leader on the offense, sometimes needs to have these tough conversations with the younger players on the roster.
Cornerback Trio Gets an Early Challenge
On a more positive note, this week’s joint practice in Green Bay gave us a first look at the promising and healthy cornerback trio in Jaire Alexander, Rasul Douglas, and Eric Stokes. Widely touted this offseason as potentially being the top trio in the league, the three Packers stars got to face up against a stout Saints receiving core over the two days of practice.
At Tuesday’s practice, Douglas came away looking like the player of the day registering a few pass deflections while making sure the Saints quarterbacks knew not to throw his way.
“Domination. That’s our key,” Douglas said after practice. “Everybody gets dominated no matter who you are.”
While the Packers’ defense continued to “talk their talk” throughout the first day of practice, on the second day the unit was faced with some adversity from the Saints’ offense. Rookie first-round receiver Chris Olave had a big day against the Packers defense on Wednesday making splash plays against Alexander as well as Douglas.
Then things started to get ugly on the practice field as tempers flared between the two units. It was reported from camp that on the fourth play of practice, Saints wide receiver Jarvis Landry went after Stokes leading to a brawl that ended with Landry being sent back inside for the day. It’s great to see the Packers’ defense play with some ferocity this week while showing that they’re not going to be the ones to back down from a little adversity.
“I feel like defense, we’ve already got that competitive nature to where we don’t let up anything,” Stokes said. “We came out [Tuesday] a little slow but picked it up and showed everything. And [Wednesday] we just came out at go. We already knew what was up.”
Edge Rusher Depth Impresses
After the last two days of joint practices, the Packers have to be relieved after what they saw off the edge against the Saints. The starting jobs off the edge seem to be locked into place with Preston Smith and Rashan Gary dominating at practice all summer long. However, the depth behind the two making up the rotation at the position looked murky before this week. Now that we saw some action in last week’s preseason game and this week at practice, those worries should be put to rest.
First off, let’s begin by discussing rookie outside linebacker Kingsley Enagbare. Enagbare has been amazing over the past six days and that didn’t change in the joint practices this week. After reportedly having three would-be sacks against Rodgers on Sunday, he followed it up with great days on both Tuesday and Wednesday with the starting team after Gary missed the second half of practice on Tuesday. The fifth-round pick keeps continuing to impress and it looks like he likely could make his way into the starting rotation.
“I feel I had two pretty solid days,” Enagbare said. “Definitely a lot of stuff I can work on, hand placement, stuff like that or being more aggressive on my strike. But, overall, pretty good solid days.”
The second group of outside linebackers consisted of Jonathan Garvin and Kobe Jones, each of whom also put together a nice showing at practice. As Andy Herman reported, Jones had three sacks and a stuff on Tuesday and also worked in with the ones. Jones has put together a string of solid practices going back to family night. Garvin also showed a presence off the edge and got after the quarterback.
So, for a position that originally had depth worries, you can now make a strong case for five players making the final roster. That’s certainly been an unexpected surprise worth noticing from this week.——————
Kole Noble is a lifelong Packers fan currently living in North Carolina and is a huge NFL Draft nut. You can follow him on twitter at @SlawSportsShow.