The Green Bay Packers hosted the New England Patriots for a joint practice session on Wednesday, but not before Packers head coach Matt LaFleur got to touch on the performance of breakout cornerback Carrington Valentine in the pre-practice presser. Valentine, a seventh-round rookie, had three pass breakups against the Cincinnati Bengals and ended the Packers’ Monday practice with an 80-yard pick-six.
When asked about Valentine’s path to playing time behind the logjam at the cornerback position, LaFleur stated, “We definitely have to look at something,” before bringing up the possibility of Valentine playing in the slot — a role that on the first-team defense has almost exclusively been filled by Keisean Nixon throughout training camp.
Here’s how Valentine and the rest of the Packers faired against the Patriots in the first of two joint practices that the teams have scheduled before their preseason Week 2 matchup.
The big news here is that left tackle David Bakhtiari, who did not play in Friday’s game or in Monday’s practice, was a non-participant against the Patriots. According to LaFleur, the plan is for Bakhtiari to hit the field on Thursday for the second joint practice of the week, but the head coach wouldn’t commit to that being certain.
According to the Green Bay Press-Gazette’s Ryan Wood, starting inside linebacker De’Vondre Campbell was added to the injury list today with an ankle injury — which held him out of action. Campbell did not have a noticed injury during Monday’s practice.
Cornerback Jaire Alexander, who has been missing team drills with a groin injury, returned to first-team looks today on a limited basis. Alexander opened and ended practice as the “starting” outside cornerback, but also took a few series off.
The Athletic’s Matt Schneidman also mentioned that receiver Bo Melton, who is fighting for one of the final roster spots on the 53, was missing from practice today with a hamstring injury.
Without Bakhtiari, the starters on the offensive line today were Yosh Nijman, Elgton Jenkins, Josh Myers, Jon Runyan Jr. and Zach Tom. This is about par for the course whenever Bakhtiari misses a practice. Only recently, tackle Rasheed Walker has begun working with the first-team offense, allowing Tom to compete with Myers at center without Bakhtiari holding it down at left tackle.
I thought Jordan Love was pretty good today. His accuracy and spiral were impressive again. Couple chunk plays for TDs. Patriots defense made it tough for a stretch in the middle of practice, but Love for sure got his. Another sign of progress for the 24-year-old.— Matt Schneidman (@mattschneidman) August 16, 2023
First-year starting quarterback Jordan Love looked like he belonged against the Patriots’ first-team unit today. He opened practice by going 7 of 10 in the first team period of the day, according to Schneidman. Based on the reports from Green Bay today, the Packers’ biggest struggle in the passing game right now is having Love and his receivers on the same timing for deep passing attempts.
Love was able to connect with Christian Watson on a deep corner route over Patriots first-round rookie Christian Gonzalez, per Wood. Hopefully, the deep ball simply gets better over time as both sides of the exchange build up more chemistry together. At this point, Love doesn’t seem to have a problem “running the offense.”
One player who continues to build momentum throughout the summer is tight end Luke Musgrave, who was the clear starter on both Family Night and versus the Bengals in the preseason opener. Musgrave was featured in various ways today, catching a 25-yard touchdown, receiving an end around in scoring territory and eating yards on a pop pass. Get excited about this rookie; The coaching staff seems to be.
Without Campbell at inside linebacker, Isaiah McDuffie earned the “start” in practice today. McDuffie was the first linebacker off the bench against the Bengals, too, but he was second off the bench — behind Eric Wilson — on Family Night.
Safety Tarvarius Moore, who in my opinion had the best game out of the safety group versus Cincinnati, got the start opposite of Darnell Savage today. Previously, Rudy Ford and later Jonathan Owens were the players to take snaps there with the first-team defense. There seems to be a true three-man camp battle for the single spot in the starting lineup.
According to Andy Herman of Packer Report, Valentine was the starting outside cornerback whenever Alexander was not on the field, which should be less than surprising. What is interesting, though, is that first-round rookie Lukas Van Ness received first-team reps across the line from Preston Smith today at outside linebacker. For the most part, that’s been a job that has been filled by Justin Hollins this spring and summer.
Patriots just wrapped up joint practices in Green Bay.— Chad Graff (@ChadGraff) August 16, 2023
The Patriots offense struggled to block Green Bay’s front 7 and had little open downfield. New England’s defense was mostly solid except for a couple big plays.
Chad Graff, who writes about the Patriots for The Athletic, had some choice words about New England’s offensive performance today. Multiple times, Graff said some variation of “the Packers aren’t getting blocked and the Patriots aren’t getting open.” It’s only August, but the defense seems to be moving in a positive direction this summer. Remember, Green Bay didn’t give up a single touchdown, defensively, in the preseason opener last week.
One player who seemed to have a quality day on the field was backup nose tackle Jonathan Ford. Ford was a seventh-round rookie last season who wasn’t activated for a single game, despite being on the 53-man roster for the entire season. According to Herman, Ford had two run stuffs in a three-play span against the Patriots today. There’s a real chance that Ford makes the 2023 team and actually sees some regular season playing time this year, now that Kenny Clark has moved from the nose to end.
The only real story on the special teams front for the Packers this summer is kicker Anders Carlson and what a story he has been. Carlson’s inconsistency, with no lack of talent, has turned every attempt into a must-watch event. There is no better example of this than Carlson hitting his field goals against Cincinnati, but missing two PATs wide right.
Anders Carlson is staying after practice kicking field goals.— Ryan Wood (@ByRyanWood) August 16, 2023
In the special teams period, Carlson went five of five on field goal attempts today — ranging from 33 to 50 yards. In the two-minute period, though, Carlson missed a 40-yarder on a stopped clock and a 43-yarder with a live clock ticking down.