CINCINNATI – The Packers and Bengals conducted a roughly 2½-hour joint practice on a warm and muggy Wednesday just outside Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati.
Here are five takeaways from the workout:
1. It sounds like Packers QB Jordan Love will play some in the preseason opener Friday night.
Both Love and Head Coach Matt LaFleur indicated that is the plan, though for how long would be partly determined by how Wednesday's joint practice went.
In a nutshell, it was typical of how most of the practices have gone for Love and a rather young first-team offense, full of ups and downs in the 11-on-11 work.
The good included a slick backside slant to Samori Toure, two crossing route connections with Christian Watson (one for a touchdown in red zone), a delayed underneath route to Jayden Reed that got him the ball in space, and an on-the-money deep ball to Romeo Doubs against cornerback D.J. Turner II that would've gone the distance for the offense's play of the day.
The not-so-good included an underthrown deep ball to Doubs, an overthrown one for Luke Musgrave, a drop at the goal line by Reed, a run of checkdowns when things weren't clicking, and a bubble screen that cornerback Mike Hilton jumped, intercepting the ball for a would-be pick-six.
Overall, it was important to work against a defense other than Green Bay's own and be forced to react to things on the fly, because less can be anticipated due to the lack of familiarity.
"It's a different defense than we were seeing all training camp," Love said. "Having these unscouted looks, you have to go back to your rules, play it out, go through your reads. For the receivers, this is huge for them."
2. Zach Tom more than held his own against a pretty tough matchup.
The Packers' youngest potential starter on the offensive line played right tackle Wednesday and was matched up in one-on-ones and 11-on-11 with veteran defensive end Sam Hubbard, who has 30½ career sacks in five NFL seasons.
"This is a really, really good front, probably one of the better fronts in the league, and they've got a very distinct play style," LaFleur said of the Bengals. "They're going to go hard throughout the duration of the play, then the next play, then the next play, then the next play …"
That's what Tom got from Hubbard, and the 2022 fourth-round pick from Wake Forest was up to the task, winning his share of snaps and continuing to state his case he's one of the Packers' five best offensive linemen. Whether he ends up playing right tackle or center, the two spots he's repped throughout camp, is to be determined. But it's getting harder and harder to not see Tom as a starter on this unit.
"Zach Tom's been doing a really great job at right tackle," Love said. "He's smart, he knows what he's doing. Just keeps building those days and being consistent."
3. AJ Dillon did some good work in blitz pickup.
It's a little easier for running backs to pick up blitzes against their own defense, because they have a pretty good idea what's coming and when.
Not so in a practice like this one, and Dillon was challenged on the third snap of 11-on-11 when the Bengals sent their slot corner after Love. Dillon put himself in great position to make the block, Love got the throw away, and fullback Henry Pearson made a tricky juggling catch downfield.
Later, Dillon had to provide some help against Trey Hendrickson looping around the edge, and his last-second shove allowed Love to step up in the pocket and find Watson for the touchdown mentioned earlier.
Those are the types of moments that help players get ready for the regular season.
"Obviously it's not a game and neither team is going to tackle either quarterback, but there were a couple times I had to pick up blitzes, it's like, 'All right, I don't want them to touch Jordan,'" Dillon said. "You're really going in there and it's a different feel. It's good practice, it really is. It was a humid one, a lone one, but it was good work."
4. Elgton Jenkins was in the middle of two scuffles that forced him to leave practice.
First, Jenkins threw a block in the flat on Bengals linebacker Germaine Pratt on a screen pass to Musgrave. Pratt apparently didn't like it, came back at Jenkins, and a bit of a melee ensued.
A little later, Jenkins' emotions were still running rather hot when he took defensive tackle DJ Reader to the ground after a play, and then took a swing at him after the two got up.
Jenkins then was escorted off the field and did not return to the practice, replaced at left guard on the Packers' top offensive line by Royce Newman.
"Elgton totally was in the right the first time, I'm not going to say otherwise," said left tackle David Bakhtiari, who was in and out of the lineup taking a limited amount of reps. "You've got to protect yourself. Emotions get high. I know he'll never do it in the game, he's never done that in the game."
5. Defenses dominated the two-minute drills.
The defenses won all four of the two-minute drills at the end of practice. Both of the Bengals' drives were quarterbacked by Jake Browning, while the Packers had Love direct one and backup Sean Clifford try the other.
Not once did any of the offenses, which had just 1:11 on the clock starting from their own 25-yard line, threaten the end zone.
Browning had a handful of completions on his first drive, but a third-down throw came up short of the sticks, so he couldn't spike the ball to get another play and the clock ran out.
Love got the offense across midfield, mostly thanks to completions to Doubs and Toure, but the Packers had to settle for a monster 58-yard field goal by Anders Carlson, which fell short.
That ended what had been a good stretch for the rookie kicker, who began the day by missing a PAT from 33 yards out but then hit seven field goals in a row from 37, 39, 40, 44, 46, 48 and 51 yards. Then he missed from 56 before the 58-yard try to conclude two-minute, making him 7-for-10 on the day.