One thing we haven’t seen much of from the Green Bay Packers this preseason is their auxiliary runs. For the most part, the Packers’ summer snaps have consisted of direct runs, with the defense being held by hard play action in the passing game.
That changed on Thursday, the final practice of training camp — which was not open to fans. According to The Athletic’s Matt Schneidman, the Packers’ offense ran the triple option twice during practice today, something I can’t remember ever being done with Aaron Rodgers under center. Per Andy Herman of Packer Report, Green Bay also ran a speed option with quarterback Jordan Love and receiver Christian Watson as the designed ball carriers, a jet sweep to Aaron Jones and a jet motion pop pass to tight end Luke Musgrave, something we’ve already seen in camp before.
Now that the public’s eyes (and cameras) are gone, it appears that head coach Matt LaFleur has opened up the playbook in the ground game. Remember, LaFleur was Robert Griffin III’s quarterbacks coach in 2012 when the second overall pick was named a Pro Bowler and Offensive Rookie of the Year, as he carried the ball 120 times for 815 yards and seven touchdowns. Don’t believe that it’s a coincidence that all three of the quarterbacks on the Packers’ roster can run. Maybe, we’ll see a little bit of it in the preseason finale against the Seattle Seahawks on Saturday.
On the injury front, safety Darnell Savage, defensive lineman Devonte Wyatt, left tackle David Bakhtiari and defensive lineman Jason Lewan returned to practice on Thursday, according to Herman. Receiver Dontayvion Wicks, running back Tyler Goodson, running back Lew Nichols, cornerback Eric Stokes (PUP) and safety Anthony Johnson Jr. remain out, though.
Earlier in the day in the pre-practice press conference, LaFleur hinted that the team knows who the number two starting safety is going to be, opposite of Savage. If this week’s action is an indication, that player will be Rudy Ford — as he started at safety in preseason Week 2 against the New England Patriots and has also been the “starter” in practice this week.
With Bakhtiari in the lineup for today’s non-padded practice, the offensive line began to take shape, too. The starting line was comprised of Bakhtiari, Elgton Jenkins, Josh Myers, Jon Runyan Jr. and Zach Tom (left to right), but there was also an alternative lineup with Tom at center and Rasheed Walker at right tackle that saw some action on Thursday, per Herman.
For the last two weeks, Walker has been receiving snaps over Yosh Nijman as the team’s swing tackle. Despite being the incumbent starter at right tackle, Nijman now looks to be the odd man out on the offensive line.
Pressure was the key word of the day in team drills. Don’t overrate a padless practice, but Love was able to throw the ball well when he wasn’t getting “sacked.”
There were multiple standouts in the pass-rushing game today, including preseason star Karl Brooks, who Schneidman claims recorded three pressures. Brooks, a sixth-round rookie defensive lineman, had a great showing against the Patriots last week.
Outside linebacker Rashan Gary, who was just activated off of the PUP list recently due to his 2022 season-ending ACL tear, seemed to hit the ground running this week, too. Schneidman said Gary posted two sacks in a five-play stretch while the Green Bay Press-Gazette’s Ryan Wood had him down for three sacks on the day.
On one play, Herman stated that the “entire picket collapse[d]” on Love, with Brooks, Kingsley Enagbare, Wyatt and Lukas Van Ness being the perpetrators. Maybe the practice would have gone differently if it were padded, but the defensive front stole the show on Thursday.
On the special teams side of practice, rookie kicker Anders Carlson went six of eight today, an improvement from his summer-long percentage. According to Sports Illustrated’s Bill Huber, the practice ended with the “entire team trying to distract” Carlson as he kicked from 50 in a game-winning situation. His first kick went wide left, after missing most of his kicks from wide right during camp, but he hit his second attempt.