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Green Bay Packers practice news and notes, 6/8: Matt LaFleur talks Sammy Watkins, Amari Rodgers

“He’s going to be a big part of our offense.”

NFL: Green Bay Packers at New Orleans Saints Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Green Bay Packers fans who traveled to see the team practice on Wednesday were disappointed when the weather forced the Packers’ open practice indoors. Due to the limited space in Green Bay’s indoor practice facility, the practice was closed to the public, meaning that the next chance to see the Packers practice live will be in training camp in well over a month.

Despite the move, the media was still allowed to view practice, giving us some insights on what happened on the second day of Packers’ minicamp. Here’s what you need to know.

Matt LaFleur talks wide receivers

Green Bay head coach Matt LaFleur spent a good amount of time in the pre-practice presser discussing some of his wideouts. First was Sammy Watkins, signed by the team this offseason, who LaFleur stated is “going to be a big part of our offense.” Watkins missed the two open OTAs earlier this spring but LaFleur has stated previously that Watkins has made other optional workouts in Green Bay.

LaFleur continued, “I don’t think his game has fallen off at all since 2017. I think a little bit of it has been a lack of opportunity.” 2017 was the season that LaFleur’s Los Angeles Rams, under first-year head coach Sean McVay, traded a second-round pick in a package for Watkins. That season, the former Clemson Tiger registered 39 receptions for 593 yards and eight touchdowns.

Another former Clemson receiver, Amari Rodgers, was described as “in much better shape” by LaFleur. Rodgers had said similar post-practice yesterday when he claimed that he has lost six pounds since last season.

Per practice reports, Rodgers was seeing time with the first-team offense at times today.

Another day, another switch at cornerback

As we have mentioned previously, there has been a lot of movement at cornerback over these helmet and shirt practices. At times, Rasul Douglas, Keisean Nixon or Jaire Alexander are playing the slot with the first-team defense. Due to the absence of Eric Stokes, which at this point is an undisclosed absence, Alexander and Douglas played outside cornerback with Nixon playing inside, per Ryan Wood of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.

If you’re reading between the lines here, it seems like the top four cornerbacks on the team are fairly set, with Nixon getting the opportunity whenever a fourth cornerback is needed. What’s interesting is Nixon has spent most of his NFL career as an outside cornerback, but most of his reps in Packers’ practices have come as a slotback with the first team, per reports. Coming into the offseason, many thought that Shemar Jean-Charles, a 2021 fifth-round pick, might have been able to earn himself playing time as Green Bay’s fourth cornerback. At this point, though, Nixon seems to be one of the Packers’ fastest-rising new additions, in terms of on-field reps with the first team.

Familiar faces returning punts

According to The Athletic’s Matt Schneidman, the three players working in as punt returners on Wednesday were Amari Rodgers, Randall Cobb and Romeo Doubs. This should come as no surprise, as Rodgers and Cobb both saw time returning punts last season. When Doubs was drafted, the staff mentioned his ability to return punts as a positive in his game. Doubs, famously, gained 80 punt return yards on his first college touch for the Nevada Wolfpack.

The defensive depth chart starts to take shape

Beyond Quay Walker displacing Krys Barnes as a first-team inside linebacker, there are other movements being made on the defensive side of the ball. Ray Wilborn, who was on the practice squad last season after a strong preseason, is getting reps as the fourth inside linebacker on the defense, per Andy Herman of Packer Report. That would place him ahead of Ty Summers, a key special-teamer on the last year of his deal, and Isaiah McDuffie, a 2021 draft pick.

It’s hard to imagine a situation where the team keeps six inside linebackers on the roster in 2022. Inside linebacker is also one of the positions that is played the most on special teams, as linebackers can contribute in kick coverage, punt block coverage and punt return team. It’ll be interesting to see how the numbers shake out for Green Bay, which will likely be signified by who is on the first-team special teams unit in the preseason.

Shawn Davis continues to see time as the team’s third safety behind Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage, ahead of the likes of 2020 draft pick Vernon Scott, 2021 practice-squadder Innis Gaines and 2022 draft pick Tariq Carpenter. Per Herman, the Packers returned to their three-safety dime looks in practice and used Davis and Amos as the high safeties to allow Savage to play as the second slot defender. Last season, the team used this approach with Herny Black as the third safety until the Baltimore Ravens game when the decision was made to play four-cornerback dime with Kevin King helping out as the second slot.