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5 things learned at Packers training camp – Aug. 10

Notes on De’Vondre Campbell, Jaire Alexander, and the battles at safety and long snapper

LB De'Vondre Campbell
LB De'Vondre Campbell

GREEN BAY – The Packers took to Ray Nitschke Field one more time before their preseason opener, wearing shoulder pads on a warm and sunny Wednesday.

Here are five things we learned.

1. De'Vondre Campbell is the best pass-coverage linebacker on the Packers' defense in quite a long while.

Campbell made as impressive a play in coverage as anyone will see from a linebacker, running stride for stride deep down the sideline with tight end Josiah Deguara and then reaching out at the last second to swat away Aaron Rodgers' pass, which appeared to be right on target.

On Monday, Campbell helped stall Rodgers & Co. in the two-minute drill by dropping deep into zone coverage and reaching up to deflect a pass zipping through the red zone. That was a whale of a play, too, yet Campbell reacted as though he should have intercepted it.

"'Dre is extremely athletic. I think 'Dre is really good at covering athletic tight ends," said cornerback Jaire Alexander, who's a pretty good cover guy himself, of course. "He's big, strong, fast and physical. I mean, you can't ask for nothing else."

Campbell's first-team All-Pro honor last year marked the first time a Green Bay inside linebacker received Associated Press All-Pro recognition since Nick Barnett was named second-team in 2007. The last first-teamer? Hall of Famer Ray Nitschke in 1966.

2. Speaking of Alexander, he's very fussy about his footwear, understandably so.

The All-Pro corner wasn't happy when he fell down on a route by Allen Lazard, leaving the receiver wide open for a deep ball from Rodgers.

"No, no, hold on, he didn't score," Alexander corrected the media when someone referred to the play as a long touchdown. "Smash (Adrian Amos) was right there to tackle him. So he didn't score.

"But I tried out some new cleats today and I slipped. It's over with for those cleats."

Alexander said the cleats he normally wears aren't made anymore, so the search for new footwear will continue after this short-lived trial.

"If I slip in any cleats, they're done," he said. "No more of those."

Shoes aside, Alexander explained one focus of his in training camp has been to challenge himself now that he's not lining up across from Davante Adams every day. He's been working a lot on his press-man coverage, because he admitted he prefers to play off coverage most of the time.

So in an extended one-on-one period Monday, he took on rookie Romeo Doubs, who has been the early star of camp, and then stepped in to finish the drill with a rep against Sammy Watkins. He took his shots jamming both at the line.

"If you're getting some shine in practice, I want to see what that shine is about at this point," Alexander said. "That's just the kind of competitor I am."

As for his impressions of Doubs?

"I think he's a hard worker, I think he has great hands, and we're going to need him this season," Alexander said.

3. The battle for the No. 3 safety spot keeps getting more entertaining.

Vernon Scott stepped in for the injured Darnell Savage (hamstring) this week with the No. 1 defense, taking the spot Shawn Davis appeared to hold when spring workouts ended.

But Davis isn't backing down, intercepting a pass from Jordan Love in 11-on-11, and then making a diving pick of a Rodgers overthrow later in practice (though video review would need to confirm it didn't hit the ground).

Then Scott answered, intercepting Rodgers on a sideline route to end the two-minute drill, though the offense protested Scott didn't get both feet in bounds. Again, the film would have to tell the story.

The Packers aren't playing as much dime (six-DB) defense now as they did in camp last year, mostly thanks to the addition of first-round pick Quay Walker at inside linebacker. But the third safety did play more than 200 snaps last season, so there's no dismissing the potential role, though Davis said he and Scott are just rolling with whatever comes their way.

"I feel like there's no pressure between us," said Davis, a fifth-round pick last year by Indianapolis who joined the Packers' practice squad in September and was activated by season's end. "At this point we're just playing ball. We're not like letting it get to us.

"We're not really worried about who's going to be the third safety, who's going to be the whatever safety. We're just playing ball and making plays and doing what we gotta do when we get called on the field."

4. Running back Dexter Williams is happy to be back.

Williams, a sixth-round pick from Notre Dame in 2019, was with the Packers for two seasons on the practice squad and active roster before being released at the end of training camp last summer. He then spent time on the practice squads of three different teams (Giants, Browns, Dolphins) before playing for the Philadelphia Stars of the USFL this past spring.

The Packers re-signed Williams on Wednesday and he was on the practice field wearing No. 34 (he wore 22 during his previous stint in Green Bay). The team felt it needed another running back for the preseason with Patrick Taylor having missed some practice time due to injury and front-liners Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon not suiting up for games yet. Undrafted rookies Tyler Goodson and BJ Baylor were the only other running backs on the roster prior to Williams' return.

"It's very awesome, just being back with the guys I started this with, that I came in with," Williams said. "It's just a great feeling being around this high-level competition, going out and competing with the guys. I miss it here. I called this place home when I was first drafted, so I love it here."

5. The Packers are down to one long snapper, but the competition isn't over.

Green Bay released Steven Wirtel, leaving Jack Coco as the lone long snapper in camp for Friday's preseason opener. But as is always the case with specialists, Coco has not earned a roster spot, not with any number of long snappers around the league potentially getting released over the next few weeks.

"You're always competing with someone," said Coco, an undrafted rookie from Georgia Tech. "No matter what, no matter where you are, I know that there's always competition. People are always looking for someone to replace you. So I'm always competing with everybody else, no matter who it is."

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