Good injury news: It’s hard to come by. The Packers got it today, though, with the return of two starters in cornerback Kevin King and defensive lineman Kingsley Keke, who came into his own as the 2020 season progressed. Today’s practice was those players’ last chance to get a true practice look before Saturday’s preseason game against the Houston Texans, though we aren’t sure what the exact pitch count will look like for starters in that matchup.
If you missed today’s practice, we recapped the pre- and post-practice pressers, what happened on the field, and all things Mike Smith.
Pre-practice presser: head coach Matt LaFleur
- Everyone wants to know how serious the Green Bay Packers are going to take the preseason this year. In previous preseasons, the Packers have taken the Los Angeles Rams approach of holding out their key players from playing significant snaps, even early on in preseason games. On Tuesday, LaFleur noted that Jordan Love would take most of the quarterback snaps in the Texans game and that Kurt Benkert would see some playing time. Today, the Packers head coach stated, “There’s not a lot of game-planning going on.”
- Every year, it seems like the preseason becomes less important for the player evaluation process and that joint practices become more of an emphasis, as staffs that are familiar with each other are able to simulate more controlled reps over the course of the week. Next week, LaFleur’s Packers will host a week of practice with the New York Jets, who are headed by Robert Saleh. LaFleur was Saleh’s best man at his wedding. Today LaFleur claimed, “There is no substitute for live-action. That’s why I like practicing against other teams.”
- On the topic of last year’s lack of a preseason, LaFleur had this to say, “It is a little more difficult to nab guys off other teams when there’s not a lot of footage out there.” He then went on to note that being able to hide players that the league didn’t have much film on might have helped the strength of their practice squad in 2020.
OLB coach Mike Smith rocking the corduroy #Packers hat straight from the 1970s today. Says he wants his guys to go old school, be “pissed off for greatness.” Leaves us with: “Let’s have a good one today. Let’s have a throwback day.”— Ryan Wood (@ByRyanWood) August 12, 2021
He’s a true gem. pic.twitter.com/hsWWmlSLB6
- Earlier in the summer, linebackers coach Mike Smith broke his tooth with a pair of pliers. Now, he has a broken arm after falling out of his children’s treehouse. There’s not a human walking this earth that I would rather have coach that room.
- Cornerbacks Kevin King and Stanford Samuels, linebackers Kamal Martin and Isaiah McDuffie, defensive lineman Kingsley Keke, and wide receiver Chris Blair all returned to practice today. Here is our write-up on King, Keke, and McDuffie coming off of the non-football injury list.
- According to the Green Bay Press-Gazette’s Ryan Wood, running back Aaron Jones, receivers Equanimeous St. Brown and Juwann Winfree, pass-rushers Rashan Gary and Randy Ramsey, and defensive lineman Kenny Clark were the six players missing from practice today.
- Kabion Ento, the converted wide receiver, has had some recent ups and downs in play. The cornerback was the standout on Family Night but had a tough day in the Packers’ last full-padded practice before their preseason opener. Ento is currently on the roster bubble and may need to start as a gunner or vice on special teams to make the 53-man squad.
- According to ESPN’s Rob Demovsky, the Packers’ most recent waiver pickup, pass-rusher Chauncey Rivers, did a great job of making plays in the backfield today.
- Demovsky also noted that while the team only currently has one true long snapper on the roster (Hunter Bradley) that pass-rusher Tipa Galeai is the team’s emergency long snapper. May that signal that Galeai will not only be on the roster but will be a game-day active? That’s something to watch for this summer.
- If you’re looking to stack some DFS players this preseason, a Jordan Love-Reggie Begelton combo might have some legs. Packers.com’s Wes Hodkiewicz said they have “incredible synergy.”
- The Athletic’s Matt Schneidman noted that Josiah Deguara, fresh off of his knee rehab, was, again, seeing playing time with the starting offense. In fact, Aaron Rodgers was able to get off one of his patented free plays in practice, catching the defense with 12 on the field, and hit Deguara for a completion.
- In a situational drill, Matt LaFleur went for the win (a two-point conversion attempt) down a point with 24 seconds left on the clock today. Maybe the late-game decision to kick a field goal against Tampa Bay lingers this year, leading to a more aggressive approach to points. The Packers also attempted a lateral play that saw receiver Randall Cobb toss the ball to current starting left tackle Elgton Jenkins in a “last play” situation in their two-minute drill simulation. The Packers' offense couldn’t go 38 yards on the play for the win.
- Packers Report’s Andy Herman noted that Kylin Hill “has been the third-down back of choice” with Aaron Jones out of practice. Should Jones not play against Houston, expect Hill to see the field on third downs early on in the game.
Post-practice pressers: tight end Dominique Dafney, offensive lineman Royce Newman, safety Henry Black, and tight end Josiah Deguara
- When tight end Dominique Dafney was asked about how he can train for special teams, he gave a very honest answer: “You don’t, to be honest. Because special teams is a mentality, in my mind. It’s only eight reps a game, but you have to give absolutely everything you have on every single one of those reps.” This echoes Matt LaFleur’s comments yesterday, when he said, “Until you really get out there and go live, full-combat it’s tough to tell right now,” in the context of understanding what the special teams unit is capable of at this moment.
- Offensive lineman Royce Newman told the world “I’m not gonna cut [his hair] until I’m officially done with football.” He later clarified that trimming the back of his hair doesn’t count as cutting it.
- Special teams is a hot-button topic as we head into the Packers’ first game of the summer. Safety Henry Black noted the difference between last year’s unit and this year’s unit is “We’re more excited this year to get after it on special teams. A few tweaks here and there.”
- Tight end Josiah Deguara, who was activated a week ago after rehabbing a 2020 knee injury, spoke about how he handled the first major injury of his career. He said, “I think the mental side of rehab is downplayed a lot. Obviously, you’re grinding every day physically trying to get your knee right, but the mental side of being hurt and not being able to play the game, not being around the team as much, it takes a toll on you for sure.”