GREEN BAY – The Packers conducted their annual Family Night practice Friday in front of 50,112 fans at Lambeau Field.
Here are five things we learned.
1. The No. 1 defense wasn't making anything easy, and rookie LB Quay Walker was showing up a lot in that regard.
The Packers' starting offense made its share of plays in 11-on-11, but it was difficult to find much rhythm because the defense wasn't giving up much downfield or in the run game.
Inside linebacker and first-round draft pick Quay Walker helped set a tone early by meeting Aaron Jones at the line of scrimmage on an outside running play. Then Walker nearly intercepted a pass at the goal line, but Aaron Rodgers threaded a needle to tight end Marcedes Lewis with Walker whizzing by and just missing the ball.
Later, Walker made another nice play in the flat, stretching laterally to cover AJ Dillon on a checkdown throw and staying in balanced position to not get beat by Dillon's inside move after the catch. There was no live tackling but Walker clearly would have wrapped up the big running back in open space.
The one stretch Rodgers did seem to get things rolling, with three straight completions to Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb and Dominique Dafney, the defense rebounded to stop the next two plays. Walker had decent coverage on Amari Rodgers on a shallow cross that was incomplete, and then a deep ball for Lazard didn't connect.
"One thing that we've kind of challenged our defense on is just the consistency with stopping the run, and then I think they've done a pretty nice job defending the pass and in particular the deep balls and not giving up a ton of big plays down the field," Head Coach Matt LaFleur said.
"Our front seven can be pretty salty, so I hope they're making our offense that much better."
2. The offensive star of the night was rookie WR Samori Toure.
Toure got going early with a nice adjustment and sliding catch on an end-zone fade from Jordan Love during one-on-ones against the defensive backs. Then during 11-on-11 near the goal line, he made another nifty sliding catch in the corner on a pass from Danny Etling.
The big highlight then came on a deep ball from Love, as Toure got behind two defenders and hauled in the pass for a touchdown of 50-plus yards.
"I think he's got really good body control and body movement," LaFleur said of Toure. "He's a smart kid that really works at it."
Added Lazard: "He definitely made a step up tonight."
Fellow rookie Romeo Doubs once again made an eye-popping play, as he seems to do every day, this time with a contested catch on a one-on-one deep ball in the end zone against cornerback Kiondre Thomas. Though later in 11-on-11, Doubs showed he's human, as he just missed corralling a deep ball that appeared to glance off his fingers.
"Really, all the rookies have done an outstanding job in that wide receiver room," LaFleur said. "They've shown a lot of flashes. It'll be interesting to see what happens next week in San Francisco."
3. Not to be outdone by the youngsters, the veteran newcomer at receiver made his presence felt, too.
Free agent Sammy Watkins had a relatively quiet night until a late move-the-ball period, when he connected with Rodgers on back-to-back plays.
First, he brought down a sideline fade with a strong grab over cornerback Eric Stokes, and then Rodgers hit him on an in-breaking route in space in the red zone.
It was a good follow-up to the two deep balls Watkins caught in practice this week, one in 11-on-11 and the other in one-on-ones.
4. Once again, while not flawless, Love made multiple impressive throws.
Right before the Rodgers-to-Watkins connections in move the ball, Love made two sharp throws during his turn, a middle seam route to Dafney and a slant to Juwann Winfree, who cut inside for a potential big gain.
Earlier, on a scramble/roll to his right, Love lofted a nice touch pass to Doubs along the sideline, and then shortly after hit Toure on the aforementioned deep ball down the middle. On that throw, Love did not have a clean pocket thanks to Devonte Wyatt, but he took some contact and put the ball on the money.
"There was pressure in my face. It'd be different in a live game but tonight, I was able to let it go," Love said of the big play.
"I'd definitely be taking a shot right there, but the way he came open, as long as I can get it out there and just make some type of throw downfield, he'll be able to make the play."
Love still talks about wanting this or that play back, but his progress and production is noticeable to his teammates. He practiced well in the padded workouts throughout the week.
"I think Jordan's played his best football that I've seen – since the first day of camp," Lazard said. "His demeanor, his confidence, his throwing ability, I think he's definitely taken a huge step from where he's been in the past.
"The next challenge for him is to be able to translate it in a game. He's shown his ability to make critical throws, tough throws, to get our offense in the right position for the right plays."
5. Two players were added to the injury list, and then practice was cut short.
Outside linebacker Randy Ramsey did not practice due to an ankle injury, and during one-on-ones safety Darnell Savage pulled up when he felt tightness in his hamstring while trying to run with Amari Rodgers and did not continue.
Both LaFleur and Savage said afterward they didn't think the hamstring injury was a big concern. Vernon Scott replaced Savage at safety with the No. 1 defense.
With all the running that was done in various special-teams periods, and with LaFleur witnessing "a couple guys dragging," he decided to cancel the last period of practice, which would have been a four-minute offense drill with live tackling.
"We definitely are not where we need to be right now as far as overall conditioning," LaFleur said.