By Chris Havel
Special to Event USA
Green Bay’s defense finding identity, Rodgers, offense ready to get after it
GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Packers’ first full pads training camp practice Saturday opened with a bang.
GAME TICKETS & PACKAGES!
LOTS OF NEW CHOICES
GRAB YOUR SPOT NOW! >>
Jimmy Graham and Josh Jones got tangled up, words were exchanged and defensive backs coach Joe Whitt got in the middle of it.
Afterward, Graham shrugged it off as teammates competing hard to get properly prepared for a rugged NFL season.
It sounded like business as usual for him.
Perhaps it will become so for the Packers.
Often described as “too soft” by some – and not just on defense – the Packers’ tempo and physicality appear to have jumped up a notch or two this camp.
That tenor continued Monday after a day off.
Rookie Jaire Alexander worked as the No. 1 nickel corner on Saturday. On Monday, he made his move by intercepting Aaron Rodgers’ pass intended for Randall Cobb on a slant route.
Alexander’s speed and hands are top flight.
Expect him to be more involved as camp unfolds.
Clearly, the defensive coaches are encouraged and/or allowed to be much more vocal than their Packers’ predecessors. It isn’t just rah-rah stuff, either. The coaches are instructing, to be sure, but they’re also not mincing words. They want it done right.
That is perhaps the most obvious difference, thus far, in Green Bay’s defense under new coordinator Mike Pettine’s direction.
Even an eight-year veteran such as Muhammad Wilkerson was getting after it during drills as well as the team portion. Wilkerson flashed a quick first move as a pass rusher, especially for someone his size (6-4, 315).
Other highlights from camp:
** Aaron Jones looked terrific on Saturday. The 5-foot-9, 208-pound running back appeared stronger and perhaps faster – if that’s possible – when the pads came on.
That was Saturday.
Jones since experienced hamstring tightness and was shut down until it heals. He’s already set to miss the first two weeks of the regular season due to a suspension.
Hopefully, this is just a hiccup.
The reality is Jones needs every rep possible to be prepared for his regular season Week 3 return to action.
Meantime, Jamaal Williams just keeps doing what he does, which is being available, accountable and pretty darn good.
While some media continue to write about Ty Montgomery’s prospects – he looks stronger, he looks ready, blah, blah, blah – the reality is Williams is the lead dog and that’s not changing.
** Kyler Fackrell finally made some noise in his third season. He beat David Bakhtiari in the one-on-one pass rush drill, which is a major accomplishment for anyone. It is especially so for Fackrell, who has been decidedly disappointing as a third-round pick to this point.
Perhaps the light will go on. Or maybe he’s benefiting from the defensive coaching change, too.
** Clay Matthews donned a clear visor affixed to his helmet after breaking his nose in the charity softball game this summer.
Perhaps Matthews’ visor is prescription, which will allow him to identify and hit opposing quarterbacks with more frequency.
Matthews does look well-conditioned and active. This is a big season for Matthews and edge-rush mate Nick Perry, who remains sidelined with an ankle injury for now.
** J’Mon Moore flashed on Saturday. Marquez Valdes-Scantling did so Monday.
Moore caught a slant pass from Rodgers on Saturday with a defensive back draped around him. He shrugged the DB, held onto the football and broke into the clear.
The ease in and out of breaks and the concentration were impressive. Moore is going to be productive as a rookie if he continues to make plays like that.
Valdes-Scantling high-pointed a Brett Hundley pass attempt in coverage and came out of it with the football.
It’s a good start for both.
Also, second-year receiver DeAngelo Yancey has been making plays throughout camp. We’ll see if he has done enough to merit a spot on the 53-man roster. It’ll take some doing though, especially if Moore and Valdes-Scantling continue to make plays.
** Punter J.K. Scott has a powerful leg. That much is obvious. He also seems to be smooth as place-kicker Mason Crosby’s holder thus far.
** While Bryan Bulaga rehabs after his knee surgery, third-year tackle Jason Spriggs has been busy at right tackle. Veteran Byron Bell also has worked there with the first unit.