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5 things learned at Packers training camp – Aug. 1

Interior lineman Jake Hanson looking to find his niche

#67 Jake Hanson
#67 Jake Hanson

GREEN BAY – The Packers put shoulder pads on Monday at Ray Nitschke Field.

Here are five things we learned.

1. Offensive lineman Jake Hanson will be in tremendous shape when the preseason games arrive.

Hanson, a sixth-round draft pick in 2020, has been working with the No. 1 unit at right guard and the No. 2 group at center, which meant nonstop action for him as practice concluded Monday with back-to-back two-minute drills.

He has no problem with the heavy workload, though, as the former Oregon center is looking to make inroads during his third season in Green Bay.

Hanson started 49 games in college, all at center, and didn't make the roster his rookie year. He was on the practice squad before hurting his hip and going on injured reserve, eventually needing surgery. But he followed up that washout season by making the 53 last year.

Even though he took only special-teams snaps in a handful of contests in 2021, his game progressed considerably as a member of the scout team, going up against the Packers' starting defensive line all season long.

"It was huge, being able to get reps against guys like Kenny (Clark) and Dean (Lowry) and our edge rushers. There's so many guys on that defense that are top notch," Hanson said. "Being able to get those live reps against some of the best in the business – because I wasn't getting them in games – (helped me) continue to get better in practice over the course of the whole season."

That's also when guard was added to his duties, and now that he's more used to lining up slightly off the ball and having more space to react and execute blocks – "not having somebody breathing into my facemask," he said – he's become a true swing interior lineman.

The past few years, that was Lucas Patrick's gig, as the now-Chicago Bears lineman started regularly at center and guard for the Packers, proving to be immensely valuable. If that's where Hanson's career is headed, he's all for it.

Right now, he's getting work with the starters on one of the main line combinations while David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins are sidelined. That's a far cry from where he was during a difficult rookie year when he admittedly didn't know if the Packers would even bother keeping him around.

So far, his resiliency has paid off, and Head Coach Matt LaFleur referenced Hanson after the first day of training camp as a player who has "consistently improved" over the past year. Hanson expects to be taking snaps in the preseason games at both guard and center, and then he'll see where things go from there.

"I'll be ready for whatever," he said. "Obviously, I have not arrived. I've had five training camp practices, I still have three preseason games, 17 games to go, a lot of ball left to be played. But things are moving in the right direction."

2. The defensive backs' film sessions apparently include calisthenics.

After QB Aaron Rodgers had driven the No. 1 offense 65 yards in the two-minute drill, with six completions to six different pass catchers, the No. 1 defense had 10 more yards to defend, with 11 seconds on the clock.

The defense succeeded, though not as much as it wanted to. On back-to-back passes, safeties Darnell Savage and Adrian Amos broke up passes they appeared to have a chance to intercept, forcing the offense to settle for a field goal.

"Oh, we bummed. We are bummed," second-year cornerback Eric Stokes said of the missed picks. "Especially the one that Smash dropped. Hey look, that's a drop in the room. I mean, Sav, we gotta go back and look at it and see how it is. But Smash, that's a drop in the room. That's 20 push-ups right then and there in front of the room. You pretty much owe us."

Stokes admitted he had 10 push-ups to do in the next film session as well after dropping a ball during individual drills. The punishment is the secondary's way of holding one another accountable for plays that should be made.

The two-minute drill with the second units did end with an interception, it turned out. Third-year safety Vernon Scott picked off QB Jordan Love on the third play of the drive.

"We were in Cover-A and I was to the back side playing quarters," Scott said of the coverage. "My read was running a crosser and I just used my instincts and jumped it."

3. The one-on-one pass rush/protection drill made its debut, and two veterans took 11-on-11 reps for the first time.

There will be plenty more to come as camp continues, but the first round of one of the more entertaining drills of camp had a rookie standout – defensive lineman Devonte Wyatt.

The first-round pick from Georgia showed his all-around quickness – off the ball, with his feet, using his hands – to win a pair of reps against fellow rookie Sean Rhyan.

Look for Wyatt to get one-on-one reps as camp continues against veterans and/or starters. Players who flash like that are sure to get pushed.

Also, receiver Sammy Watkins and outside linebacker Randy Ramsey were both taking 11-on-11 snaps after being held out of team drills in their initial returns to practice late last week.

4. There's no shortage of candidates at punt returner.

During an extended period of punts and punt returns, the Packers rotated five different returners for Rich Bisaccia's unit – Amari Rodgers, Romeo Doubs, Randall Cobb, Ishmael Hyman and Rico Gafford.

The first four are receivers while Gafford was playing receiver in the spring and has switched back to his college position of cornerback.

5. The Packers are practicing five straight days this week.

Monday was the first of five straight days of practice, culminating in Family Night on Friday, though not all workouts are created equal.

Monday's practice was less than two hours while Tuesday's first in full pads will be a bit longer. Wednesday's workout is a jog-through and closed to the public, with Thursday another longer practice. Family Night officially begins at 7:30 p.m. Friday, followed by an off day Saturday.

"It is gonna be a little bit of a grind on our guys," LaFleur said. "But that's why it's so important for these guys to take care of their bodies and do whatever they can."

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