GREEN BAY – The Packers held their second joint practice with the Jets on Thursday prior to Saturday's preseason game.
Here are five things we learned:
1. There must be something to all the talk about the depth and competition in the wide receiver room, because Davante Adams confirmed it.
Now in his eighth year in Green Bay, Adams gave a strong endorsement for the position group he's leading once again.
"I like it. I like it a lot," he said of the depth of the unit, which has five players with solidified roster spots – Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb and rookie third-round draft pick Amari Rodgers. "I think that this year has been the most competitive that room has been probably since I first got here.
"I feel like coaches made it pretty apparent they were going to let guys duke it out and see what happens based on how they performed, how they picked up the offense and all of that."
How the rest of the roster spots and practice-squad invites shake out is anyone's guess with two preseason games to go. There isn't anyone amongst the crowded field of Devin Funchess, Reggie Begelton, Malik Taylor, Equanimeous St. Brown, Juwann Winfree and Chris Blair who hasn't flashed at some point this spring or summer, though Funchess and Winfree are currently injured and Blair has been in and out of practice over the course of training camp.
Adams also appreciates Cobb's return and how it's changed the leadership dynamic with the group. Not only does he enjoy having an old friend back (they played together from 2014-18), but now he doesn't have to pass along all the valuable teaching he got from receiving mates like Cobb and Jordy Nelson because Cobb is here to share it himself.
"A lot of times I don't have to even say that much because he's saying the same thing," Adams said. "Sometimes I'll look over to him and we'll be like, 'You want to say it or me?' And he'll jump in and give his two cents about Amari's route or something 'Quez could have done better, Allen could have done better.
"And not just the coaching part of it, but having more veteran eyes out there, I think it brings people kind of rise to the occasion a little bit more."
2. Going against rookie Eric Stokes also brings back memories for Adams.
Lining up across from the first-round cornerback from Georgia reminds Adams of his past training camp battles with Sam Shields, who always had speed to burn and would use it to recover quickly on a play if he got beat or took a false step. Adams said Stokes is "fast as hell."
"My rookie year, I got Sam on like a fake inside and he baseball turned and spun around, and I actually took off way too wide but I'm thinking I'm wide open," Adams said. "I'm like, 'This ball is on the way.' I turned back and Sam is on my hip, right there, like, 'Where the hell are you going? I'm right here.' I see the same thing from him."
Adams complimented Stokes for breaking up a pass to him along the sideline the other day in practice, showing patience at the top of Adams' comeback route and timing his break on the ball well. Stokes made a similar sideline play Thursday to break up a pass intended for New York's Keelan Cole.
Adams called Stokes the closest ability-wise to Jaire Alexander he's seen from any young corners since Alexander arrived, and while Stokes has taken some lumps against Aaron Rodgers and Adams, he understands it's all for the right cause and is out to prove he belongs.
"He came to me after one of the practices and was like, 'Keep getting me better, bro. I appreciate this. I know you're getting after me,'" Adams said. "It almost gave me the vibe of, 'I can play, now. I just haven't really played with you guys like that yet and you are two of the best in the business.'
"Matt (LaFleur) reminds him of that, too, to keep his confidence high. He can really go so I'm excited to see how it looks when we really open this thing up."
3. Speaking of Alexander, he taught Jets QB Zach Wilson a rookie lesson.
On Wilson's second throw of 11-on-11 against the Packers' starting defense, he thought he had tight end Chris Herndon open on a simple curl route at the numbers.
Alexander was covering a receiver in the flat, along the boundary, but read Wilson's eyes, peeled off his man, and dove in front of Herndon for an impressive interception.
Alexander nearly picked off Wilson again in the two-minute drill later in practice, but couldn't haul in the pass over the middle, which might have been tipped by safety Adrian Amos. In any event, Alexander immediately dropped to the ground to do push-ups as a personal punishment for missing the opportunity.
4. It didn't matter on which side Preston Smith lined up against the Jets.
The Jets had a difficult time blocking Smith in both days of joint workouts, whether he was working against a left tackle (Wednesday) or a right tackle (Thursday).
On one rep Thursday, Smith bull-rushed veteran George Fant and pushed him all the way back into Wilson, who stumbled over Fant's feet trying to escape the pocket. He did have one miscue, jumping offside on a snap.
"I thought he brought some good intensity," LaFleur said.
Smith has an incentive-laden contract and appears intent on earning everything he can this season.
5. LaFleur's brother is one of his biggest fans.
LaFleur's younger brother, Mike, is the offensive coordinator for the Jets, and Mike's family has been staying with Matt's family while everyone is in town, including their parents.
The brothers have coached together only once in their careers, for two years in Atlanta (2015-16), where Matt was the QB coach and Mike was an offensive assistant. They went to a Super Bowl with the Falcons after the 2016 season but lost in overtime to the Patriots.
Mike has been back to another Super Bowl, as passing game coordinator for the 49ers in 2019, when San Francisco beat Green Bay in the NFC title game in Matt's first year as head coach. Now that the two are in different conferences, Mike is rooting for his older brother to get another Super Bowl shot.
"I'm so proud of him. I'm almost a little fan boy when I get to watch Green Bay," Mike LaFleur said when he addressed the media Thursday. "I root for him so much more than I'd root for myself. I'm just proud of him and what they're doing here. You can totally see this team has gelled and they'll continue to, and hopefully they can do what we all want them to do at some point."
For the record, the Packers and Jets are scheduled to play each other in the regular season in 2022, at Lambeau Field.