GREEN BAY – The Packers conducted a closed, no-pads, jog-through practice Monday at Nitschke Field before the New Orleans Saints are in for the rest of the week.
Here are five things we learned:
1. Inside LB Isaiah McDuffie is a more comfortable player in his second season.
The 2021 sixth-round draft pick from Boston College wasted no time making an impression in Friday night's preseason opener at San Francisco, tying for the team lead in tackles with six (three solo, one for loss) in just 26 snaps. Defensive lineman Chris Slayton was the other defender with six tackles, and he played 51 snaps.
"I just tried to pursue to the ball," McDuffie said of his outing. "Effort is what we talk about every day and that's what I try to portray every time I step out on the field."
McDuffie was barely heard from during training camp last year as a rookie, getting snaps on the reserve units far down the depth chart. But he made the team and went on to appear in 13 games, mostly on special teams, making two coverage tackles. He added another special-teams tackle in the playoffs.
This summer, McDuffie has received steady work with the No. 2 defense and he's on a number of the first special-teams units. He spent the time to "dive deep into that playbook" during the offseason, and particularly during OTAs, when he estimates he spent an hour or two after every workout studying on his tablet.
So far it's paying off, and McDuffie just wants to keep going and follow up his solid preseason opener with another good showing Friday night vs. New Orleans.
"As a rookie in the NFL, you've got to learn how things work, the ins and outs," he said. "Year 2, you're more comfortable, you've seen everything before. It's just knowing what to expect."
2. The offensive line keeps trying new looks.
It might be a while yet before Elgton Jenkins is taking 11-on-11 snaps in full pads at full speed, but he was the right tackle with the No. 1 offensive line in jog-through work already. Royce Newman was next to him at right guard.
When Jenkins stepped out after a few reps, Newman shifted over to right tackle and Jake Hanson jumped in at right guard.
On Sunday, the interesting development was seeing rookie Zach Tom taking snaps with the No. 1 unit at left guard in place of Jon Runyan. Tom handled the entire two-minute drive at the end of practice. On Monday, Runyan was back in his customary spot with Tom working on the second unit.
"We're just going to continue to work through different combinations and try to create as much competition as possible, and let's see kind of where it goes," Head Coach Matt LaFleur said.
3. Aaron Rodgers is taking every opportunity to get his returning targets in the flow of things.
Tight end Robert Tonyan and rookie receiver Christian Watson also took jog-through reps with the No. 1 offense, and Rodgers directed plenty of passes in their direction. Most likely, they'll be back to doing just individual drills on Tuesday given their extended layoffs.
Receiver Juwann Winfree (groin) and tight end Dominique Dafney (knee) also returned to practice after missing some time due to injuries, along with outside linebacker Tipa Galeai (elbow) on the defensive side.
Doing jog-through work is no guarantee they'll be available for full-pads reps in the upcoming joint practices with the Saints, but it's an indication their injuries are not significant.
4. There's a new JUGS machine in town.
It's called the "Seeker," made by MonarcSport, and it's an incredibly high-tech version of the JUGS machine the Packers have replaced that was giving them trouble in practice earlier in camp.
The new unit can be loaded with a half dozen footballs to be triggered remotely. It also can be programmed to fire a football (for a pass, punt, etc.) at a specific distance and velocity, mimicking certain routes or QB characteristics, any data the players or coaches want stored in the system.
5. Both the Packers and Saints are ready for the next two days.
LaFleur said all the communication regarding the scripted periods in the joint practices with the Saints took place in advance, and both teams are all set for Tuesday and Wednesday. The two workouts are slated for 10:30 a.m. each day.
"Technology these days makes it very easy," LaFleur said of making the arrangements, which includes both teams requesting certain looks for certain situations in practice. "Make a phone call, send an email, have a conversation when you get it in front of you. Just kind of work together through it.
"We've done this the last couple years, so you kind of have a format and we tweak it every time. It should be good work the next two days."
This will be the third time in four seasons the Packers have hosted joint practices under LaFleur. In 2019, the Houston Texans visited. Last year, it was the New York Jets.