NFL Hall of Famer quarterback and, technically, former Green Bay Packer Kurt Warner stated on Sunday that the most nervous most players are in their football career is their first preseason game, as they transition to a higher level of play. If that is true, one can only imagine how outside linebacker Kenneth Odumegwu, a soccer-to-basketball-to-football convert from Nigeria, felt last Friday, when he suited up for his first-ever football game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Kenneth Odumegwu played in his first ever football game on Friday in Cincinnati. The Packers’ IPP player from Nigeria got a game ball from Matt LaFleur and Odumegwu said everybody was hyping him up in the locker room.— Matt Schneidman (@mattschneidman) August 13, 2023
“I’m gonna keep the ball forever,” he said today. pic.twitter.com/njf1zqgcea
In the pre-practice presser today, head coach Matt LaFleur let the media know that Odumegwu received a game ball for his effort, as the coaching staff has noted his effort, attitude and progress that he’s made over his short time in the NFL. Odumegwu, who was assigned to Green Bay via the International Player Pathways program, does not count against the Packers’ 90-man roster this offseason and is eligible to spend two years on the team’s practice squad without counting against their 16-man limit there, too. Hopefully, we continue to hear about Odumegwu’s growth.
Unfortunately, the story that looms over the Packers from their preseason opener is the amount of injuries that the team faces. It has already been reported that tight end Tyler Davis (ACL) will likely miss the rest of the 2023 season due to a knee injury. LaFleur said that, aside from Davis, the most concerning injury that the team suffered on Friday was by Luke Tenuta, a tackle who was claimed off of waivers by the Packers in mid-October of last year and saw action in three games in 2022. Tenuta’s injury was officially listed as “ankle” against the Bengals.
Beyond just Davis and Tenuta, the following players were held out of Sunday’s practice: RB Lew Nichols (shoulder), RB Tyler Goodson (shoulder), LT David Bakhtiari (knee), OT Caleb Jones (ankle), ILB Tariq Carpenter (back) and CB Eric Stokes (ankle). Goodson and Jones went down on Friday, while Carpenter’s injury appears to be new. Goodson was reportedly seen in a shoulder sling, but the few pieces of positive injury news came via Sports Illustrated’s Bill Huber, who stated that CB Innis Gaines and C Jake Hanson returned to the field on Sunday.
Despite the practice being a non-padded event, cornerback Jaire Alexander (groin) and defensive lineman Kenny Clark (unknown) only worked in with the team in positional drills, as they were kept out in team looks, per The Athletic’s Matt Schneidman. Their replacements were cornerback Carrington Valentine and defensive lineman Colby Wooden, the same rookies who stepped in their place against the Bengals.
Zach Tom and Yosh Nijman working the sled. pic.twitter.com/PR2APmZV3v— Ryan Wood (@ByRyanWood) August 13, 2023
On the field, the Packers threw out a couple of interesting looks on the offensive line today. If you haven’t been in the loop here, Green Bay is testing both their center and right tackle positions with Zach Tom, who has been rotating in at both spots with incumbent starters Josh Myers and Yosh Nijman. Typically, when Bakhtiari misses a practice — which seems to be about every other time they hit the field — Nijman fills in at left tackle, allowing Tom to play right tackle and Myers to play center.
According to Packer Report’s Andy Herman, though, the Packers shook it up today with 2022 seventh-round pick Rasheed Walker lining up at left tackle and Yosh Nijman working with the second-string team at the start of practice. This could just be Green Bay testing what they have in Walker, following the injuries to Jones and Tenuta, but it’s something worth monitoring going into the team’s two joint practices with the New England Patriots this week.
Later in practice, as Herman noted, Tom was moved to left guard — displacing Pro Bowler Elgton Jenkins — which allowed Nijman to get a few looks at right tackle in the two-minute drill. This is the third position that Tom has practiced at this summer.
Speaking of the two-minute drill, Green Bay’s first-team offense was able to score in that period today, ending the drive off with a Jordan Love touchdown to rookie receiver Jayden Reed. Per the Green Bay Press-Gazette’s Ryan Wood, the second-team offense didn’t look so hot. On fourth down, undrafted rookie outside linebacker Brenton Cox — who flashed against the Bengals — was able to beat offensive lineman Royce Newman — who struggled against the Bengals — for a sack that ended the drive.
The tale of two linemen (70, 50) pic.twitter.com/uBmjXADlae— The Big Ten's Justis Mosqueda (@JuMosq) August 12, 2023
If you want to know what I mean by Newman’s struggles, check out the clip above and look at #70, the left guard.
Wood also noted that sixth-round rookie Karl Brooks saw some snaps with the first-team defense in the two-minute drill. That should be viewed as significant, as Brooks was out-snapped by Devonte Wyatt, Wooden, T.J. Slaton and Jonathan Ford — all while Clark was out — in first-team looks against Cincinnati on Friday.
Our final two notes come at the tight end position, where numbers seem to be particularly thin following Davis’ injury. Herman mentioned that Josiah Deguara’s move to fullback seems serious, as Deguara and Henry Pearson continue to work separately from the tight end position in practice. Two weeks ago, the Packers signed Andre Miller, a college receiver who converted to tight end for the New York Giants, as a free-agent addition. Miller initially worked out as a receiver for Green Bay, but was seen, by Herman, getting some reps with the tight end group today.
On paper, the Packers only have three “tight ends” on the roster in Luke Musgrave, Tucker Kraft and Austin Allen, but their hybrid fullbacks and receivers should keep them afloat.