GREEN BAY – On the hottest day of training camp thus far, the Packers were in full pads Thursday on Ray Nitschke Field.
Here are five things we learned:
1. The third running back competition likely will last the entire preseason.
Based on how the reps are being divvied up, the third running back spot behind Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon remains wide open amongst Patrick Taylor, Tyler Goodson and rookie seventh-round pick Lew Nichols. Undrafted rookie Emanuel Wilson is in the mix as well but hasn't gotten as many snaps with the upper units.
Goodson, who was undrafted a year ago from Iowa and spent 2022 on the practice squad, definitely stood out Thursday. During a two-minute drive with rookie Sean Clifford at quarterback, he took a short pass for a huge gain down the sideline that might've gone the distance, except the coaches decided to continue the drive from inside the 10.
Then during a concluding developmental period that included full tackling, he broke off a long TD run with a nice cutback.
"Everything went my way today," said Goodson, who admitted being humbled, and now even more highly motivated, after being relegated to the practice squad last year. "It all goes to the hard work the guys up front put in."
Wilson, from Fort Valley State University, also broke off a long run during that last period of practice, proving difficult to get to the ground. It was his biggest standout moment of camp.
Taylor has the most experience of the bunch, having played in 23 games with 33 rushing attempts over the past two years. Nichols was one of the country's leading rushers two years ago at Central Michigan.
Head Coach Matt LaFleur said when it comes to the preseason contests, he'd like to give each back a significant portion of a game to show what he's got, rather than rotate backs series by series.
"You'd like to feature a guy, get him into a rhythm, what it's like to be a starting back in this league," LaFleur said.
That sounded good to Taylor.
"I'm willing to take any opportunity I get and maximize it, whether it's a half or a quarter or whatever," he said.
It won't be simply a matter of comparing stats and production to make decisions, though.
"A lot of it is going to come down to what else do you have to offer," LaFleur said. "Certainly, there's got to be a prerequisite in terms of your ability to run the football, but what are you doing in pass protection? What are you doing on (special) teams? How are you catching the ball out of the backfield?
"All that plays into it in determining who's going to be that third back. When you think about that third back, they usually bring some sort of value to teams."
2. The offense finally got into the end zone during a two-minute drill.
Clifford used that big play from Goodson and finished the drive, hitting rookie tight end Tucker Kraft on third-and-goal from the 13 right at the goal line and then converting the fourth-and-short with a quick slant to undrafted rookie Malik Heath.
"It was a lot of good execution," Clifford said. "I felt there were a lot of plays we still had on the table throughout that drive. But I thought we bounced back as an offense for the most part. Lots to correct and lots to clean up."
That score, combined with multiple offensive units properly executing a late-game scenario by converting one first down to kill the remainder of the clock, led to the defense doing the up-downs at the end of practice for the first time in camp.
3. Rookie kicker Anders Carlson's day was almost a repeat of Tuesday.
Like he did earlier in the week, in a pair of three-kick sessions, Carlson missed the first field goal before making the next two, and both misses were wide right.
He missed from 41 before making kicks from 43 and 45. Later, he missed from 47 before two good ones from 49 and 54. On the miss from 47, the snap was poor and holder Pat O'Donnell did very well just to get the ball placed for the kick.
"It's really just getting my hips through a little bit better," Carlson said of his misses to the right, which have come from the left hash. "In a game it's a one shot kill, so it's something I need to revisit, look at the technique. Really it's ball-striking and making sure I'm trusting my line. But I felt in control today, felt good about the hits I was making."
4. Safety remains a position to watch.
Rudy Ford has taken by far the most snaps with the No. 1 defense alongside Darnell Savage in the battle for the open safety spot, but on Thursday, newcomer Jonathan Owens got his first extended look with the top unit.
Rookie receiver Dontayvion Wicks, a fifth-round pick from Virginia, returned to practice after clearing concussion protocol. He'd been out since sustaining the concussion in the first practice.
5. Family Night is up next on Saturday.
To some of the rookies, practicing in front of roughly 60,000 fans will be a new experience. For others, they had spring games at their campuses in front of even larger crowds.
Whichever their background, LaFleur likes having the annual practice under the lights because "it gets the adrenaline going" for the rookies before their first preseason game the following week, which will be on the road at Cincinnati.
As for whether Family Night will follow the usual format …
"We've got a few little wrinkles for you guys," LaFleur said.