For a little bit on Saturday morning, it felt like things were a little bit more back to normal. The Green Bay Packers were back on the practice field, working for the first time in training camp.
To be sure, this is no normal training camp. There are no bicycle rides with fans, and no fans in the seats surrounding Ray Nitschke Field. But there were media present at the opening practice, giving fans a secondhand look at the first on-field work for the 2020 season.
There were a few notable storylines to come out of the first practice, most notably on the right side of the offensive line. For the first team reps of practice, the Packers rolled out a new look on that side of the line with Lane Taylor at right guard and Billy Turner at tackle. After a few plays, Turner then shifted inside to guard with new Packer Rick Wagner lining up on the outside at tackle.
This is a clear sign that head coach Matt LaFleur is serious about fostering competition at those two positions, and he confirmed that in his post-practice Zoom press conference. LaFleur said that it would be a “daily competition” between the three players at those two spots. All three of those players have been solid starters for lengthy stretches at times over their careers, and the Packers appear to be looking for the best combination up front. Turner’s versatility — his ability to play both the guard and tackle spots — appears to be the X-factor here, and it’s possible that whichever position he plays at a higher level might be his landing spot for week one.
Meanwhile, the Packers seem to have a new role for return specialist Tyler Ervin. Ervin has spent his entire professional and collegiate football careers as a running back, but his speed and quickness caught LaFleur’s eye last season. The Packers used Ervin as a downfield receiver a handful of times late in 2019, particularly on wheel routes, while also getting him involved with some jet sweeps.
Now, Ervin appears to be getting a different positional designation. Instead of working with the running backs, Ervin spent the opening practice of the year among the wide receivers, where he brings a very different build and skill set to that of the majority of that group. The 5-foot-10, 192-pound Ervin has a similar build to Randall Cobb, suggesting a potential role as a slot receiver in 2020. Ervin’s 4.41-second speed also brings a different dimension , as only one other receiver on the Packers’ roster — Marquez Valdes-Scantling — ran a faster 40 at the NFL Combine.
Additionally, the Packers got kicker Mason Crosby back at practice. He had spent the early part of training camp on the reserve/COVID-19 list, but after practice the transaction report revealed that the team activated him. Crosby participated in practice and went 8-for-9 on his first field goal session of the summer. Reserve tackle John Leglue was the long snapper, however, with Hunter Bradley still on the COVID list.
Finally, we at APC would be remiss if we did not mention this absurd photo of rookie running back AJ Dillon. Saquon Barkley who?
Everyday must be leg day for @ajdillon7 pic.twitter.com/PlGxap3tpa— Rob Demovsky (@RobDemovsky) August 15, 2020
The Packers will