GREEN BAY – The Packers held a closed, non-padded practice on Monday at Nitschke Field, prior to a Tuesday walk-through that precedes the two joint practices with the New York Jets on Wednesday and Thursday.
Here are five things we learned:
1. There's a new entrant in the guard competition…
…and it's rookie fourth-round pick Royce Newman.
Head Coach Matt LaFleur, offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett and offensive line coach/run game coordinator Adam Stenavich all expressed their dismay over the weekend at the struggles with the run game in the preseason opener vs. Houston.
No one took a step forward in the competition for the starting guard jobs, so Newman now has been added to that mix.
The Ole Miss product was working with the No. 1 offensive line on Monday at right guard, with Ben Braden at left guard. The starters from Saturday night's game, left guard Jon Runyan and right guard Lucas Patrick, also rotated in with the first unit as a pair.
So a three-man battle for two spots is now a four-man competition for those two jobs, which are both available because Pro Bowl guard Elgton Jenkins is filling in at left tackle until David Bakhtiari returns from his knee injury. A timeline on Bakhtiari has not been announced.
Newman had spent the spring and the early stages of training camp getting reps at both guard and tackle with the reserve units after starting at both positions over his last two years in college.
2. QB Jordan Love is on the mend and could be back soon.
LaFleur said Love is feeling "significantly better" than he did Saturday night when he was removed from the game at halftime over concern for a shoulder injury.
Love did not practice Monday, but LaFleur did not rule out him returning to action in the joint practices later this week, and he left open the possibility he could play in the preseason game against the Jets.
"We'll just see how the week goes and how he recovers," LaFleur said.
The Packers still could sign another quarterback this week just in case. Some options are being brought in for workouts on Tuesday, LaFleur said.
3. Kingsley Keke beefed up a little bit for Year 3.
Keke sat out the early stages of camp dealing with an ankle injury, but he's back at practice now and looking to live up to the high expectations defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery has for him.
To do that, he's added about 10 pounds, going from the low 290s to just over 300. He calls it "good, lean weight" to make him stouter at the point of attack but still explosive enough to rush the passer.
"I know I have the ability to be that three-down lineman, to have those expectations," he said. "So I know how to do it, and I'm confident I will get it done. I'm just ready to get back in shape and continue to knock off some rust and I'll be ready to go."
Keke had a pair of two-sack games in 2020 before a late-season concussion forced him to miss the playoff run. He was back working with the No. 1 defensive line in 11-on-11 Monday. When the full unit is healthy, the three starters are projected to be Kenny Clark, Dean Lowry and Keke.
Clark returned to practice Monday, doing only individual drills, but Lowry was off to the side with the rehab group due to a knee injury.
4. Vernon Scott has a lot of tattoos, but one is just a number.
Both of Scott's arms are covered in sleeve-like tattoos, but one of them on his bicep represents his draft position – the number 236, from the seventh round in 2020.
While it is a daily reminder 235 players were drafted ahead of him, the former TCU safety said that's not something bitter he carries with him. It serves as motivation, but also appreciation.
"It's really me just proving myself every day and showing them why I should have gotten drafted higher," he said. "But I'm grateful to be with the Packers. I just landed in the right spot."
Thus far in camp, Scott has played mostly second-team safety while competing with Henry Black for the third safety spot in one of defensive coordinator Joe Barry's dime packages. He had a noteworthy third-down pass breakup in the preseason contest vs. Houston. He's also expected to be a regular on special teams, where he made six coverage tackles last season, fourth on the team.
5. The Packers are getting healthier overall.
Despite the new injuries to Love and Lowry, on balance the team is getting healthier as linebacker Za'Darius Smith practiced for the first time Monday, while running back Aaron Jones (hamstring) and Clark (groin) returned from injuries, and Kevin King took snaps in 11-on-11 work.