On Thursday, the day before their lone preseason game at Lambeau Field this summer, the Green Bay Packers’ coordinators met with the media for press conferences. First up was new special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia, who last year was the interim head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders.
This week, we finally saw kicker Mason Crosby, who is on the physically unable to perform list with a knee injury, workout with a football. Previously, he had only been working out on air or with a Packers-branded soccer ball with the rehab group. Bisaccia said the following about Crosby’s injury: “I’m not sure about the timeline. I know he’s improved every day.”
Hopefully, Crosby returns to the team sooner rather than later as his current replacement, Ramiz Ahmed, is going to get his first action as a Packer on Friday. Ahmed was signed this week after Green Bay’s first replacement option, Gabe Brkic, was waived with an injury designation. Brkic kicked against the San Francisco 49ers, but his health limited what the team could do on kickoff reps.
Punter Pat O’Donnell, going into his ninth year in the NFL, is a known commodity, but there are questions about the final specialist: rookie long snapper Jack Coco.
“I think he’s been a little bit of a rollercoaster, but we’re excited about where he is at this particular point. This will be another big game for him. Practices were a big deal. I think he understands that he’s competing against 31 other teams. Just because there’s not another one here doesn’t mean we’re not looking at everyone around the league or guys that may not be playing now. So I think he knows he’s in constant competition.”
Only one team league-wide, according to Ourlads’ depth charts, rosters more than one full-time long snapper: the Cincinnati Bengals. If there Packers are going to replace Coco, it will likely come from someone off the street. A little over a week ago, two long snappers — Mitchell Fraboni and Antonio Ortiz — were brought in for workouts in Green Bay along with 15 other players.
When asked what Bisaccia saw in Coco to warrant the developmental time the team has spent on him this summer, he responded, “We liked his physical size. We liked that he was a position player in college and he had tremendous work ethic from what he had seen on tape and people we had talked to.”
Next up was defensive coordinator Joe Barry, the only 2021 Packers coordinator who remains in his role for the 2022 season. When asked about 2021 breakout cornerback Rasul Douglas and his ability to play in the slot, Barry stated, “I think you guys have all gotten to know Rasul. He has such a great feel. He’s such an instinctual and aware football player. I think you could put Sul anywhere in the backend and he would just find a way. Obviously, the nickel corner position is unique, it’s different playing inside than outside. He’s done a phenomenal job. We still will put [Jaire Alexander] in there. You know, [Darnell] Savage was getting a lot of work in there before he got the hamstring on Family Night.” He later mentioned that Keisean Nixon, Shemar Jean-Charles and Innis “Thump” Gaines have also seen work in the slot this summer.
Barry also spoke praises of free-agent signing Jarran Reed, a defensive lineman who has been starting as a 3-4 defensive end with “the ones” as well as contributing as a nickel defensive tackle.
“He’s played a lot of football and he’s played a lot of football at a high level. He had a ten-sack year, which for interior guys to get double-digit sacks that’s pretty impressive...He brings a lot to the table not just as a veteran but a veteran who has played at a high level. We’re going to put him everywhere. I think that he’s a guy that if he was in a true 4-3 system, he could be a stereotypical 3-technique, but he can play up and down the line. He can play over a center. He can play over a guard. He can play over a tackle.”
Last but not least was offensive coordinator Adam Stenavich, who was peppered with questions about the offensive line — the unit he coached for the Packers in 2021. Based on the way Stenavich talked about tackle Yosh Nijman, it seems like the team wants to keep him at left tackle, if he has to play, if at all possible.
“I think he’s got to concentrate more, once he gets over [to right tackle], of just being able to flip his brain fundamentally on the right side. That’s one thing I’d like to see from him do a better job.”
“He’s got all the tools and all that stuff to do that. Your right tackle is not necessarily your run blocking guy and your left tackle’s only the pass pro guy. There’s good defensive ends on both sides that you’re going to have to block. It’s just basically him playing with his fundamentals on both sides and I think when he goes on the right side, he kind of struggles with that at times.”
One of the standouts in the preseason opener was rookie offensive lineman Zach Tom, who rotated in with “the ones” as a right tackle and has since seen practice snaps at left guard following the activation of expected starting right tackle Elgton Jenkins. Stenavich had the following to say about Tom, “Zach’s shown he’s a pretty smart guy. He’s shown that he can handle playing tackle, playing guard, stuff like that. We’re just going to keep working him at both positions and get him ready. He’s competing. He’s doing a good job. I’m excited about Zach.”
When the Packers turned in three draft picks for rookie offensive linemen in April, it was not expected that Jake Hanson, a third-year player out of Oregon, would still be in the mix for a starting job in mid-August. Still, that’s where the team finds themselves today as Hanson has been mixing in as a starting right guard, where he got the start against San Francisco, and as the team’s number two center.
“Jake, offensively, has had one of the best camps of anyone on our offense, just from taking that next step. His first year, his hip was banged up and he just didn’t look right. He got his hip fixed and looks like a brand new guy. He’s playing with physicality. He’s intelligent. He has the ability to play center and I’m excited about him.”