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5 things learned during Packers rookie minicamp

Edgerrin Cooper and Ty’Ron Hopper showcased their athleticism this weekend

Linebackers Edgerrin Cooper (#56) and Ty'Ron Hopper (#59)
Linebackers Edgerrin Cooper (#56) and Ty'Ron Hopper (#59)

GREEN BAY – The Packers conducted their annual rookie minicamp on Friday and Saturday. Here are five things we learned:

  1. Edgerrin Cooper and Ty'Ron Hopper looked the part.

The two rookie inside linebackers made positive first impressions during their Packers debut, showcasing their speed and athleticism in individual drills and 7-on-7s.

Cooper even corralled a loose ball during one team period on Friday for what might have gone for a touchdown. The 6-foot-2, 228-pound Hopper was imposing alongside Cooper in the heart of Green Bay's defense that was active and aggressive in team periods.

"They really stood out in my opinion," said Head Coach Matt LaFleur after Friday's practice. "But there's a long way to go and they've got a lot to learn."

In preparing for a switch to Jeff Hafley's 4-3 defense, Green Bay doubled down on inside linebacker during the second day of last month's NFL Draft. As luck would have it, Cooper (drafted in the second round, 45th overall) and Hopper (third, No. 91) already were quite familiar with each other after meeting during a pre-draft visit with the Dallas Cowboys.

Afterwards, the two followed each other on social media and developed a friendship before even getting to Green Bay.

"He's a guy that wants to get the job done and I like that about him. I could see a big role for him being a leader on the team," Cooper said. "We're in here on the same mission and just ready to try to take the team to the Super Bowl. That's it."

  1. Kitan Oladapo underwent surgery for the broken toe he suffered at the NFL Scouting Combine.

The rookie fifth-round pick had his left foot in a protective boot while riding a scooter Friday after having surgery to repair the toe he broke in February. Packers associate team physician Dr. Robert Anderson, a renowned foot-and-ankle specialist, performed the procedure in Charlotte.

Oladapo said the injury occurred during his third individual drill in Indianapolis. Initially, the 6-foot-2, 216-pound safety thought it was just a case of turf toe and still did position drills at his Oregon State pro day on March. 11.

The injury likely will sideline Oladapo for the remainder of the offseason program, but he's hopeful to be ready in time for the start of training camp.

"It was devastating but you've got to get through it," said Oladapo, one of three safeties Green Bay drafted last month. "(I'm) getting in the playbook with the coaches and all the coaches have faith in me. They're telling me to lock in and be ready when my opportunity comes."

The Packers' other two rookie safeties, second-round pick Javon Bullard and fourth-rounder Evan Williams, commanded the secondary both physically and vocally throughout rookie minicamp.

  1. LaFleur likes the way Green Bay's cornerback room is trending.

The Packers only drafted one cornerback – Penn State junior Kalen King in the seventh round – but LaFleur still feels strongly about how that room is shaping up.

King is part of that. The two-time All-Big Ten performer played quite a bit of nickel corner this week and has a “permanent chip” on his shoulder following his 255th overall selection. On the veteran front, LaFleur said returnees Eric Stokes and Carrington Valentine also have impressed since the start of the offseason program.

Stokes was limited to just three games last season due to a recurring hamstring issue that caused him to finish the year on injured reserve. Valentine, a seventh-round pick from a year ago, wound up making 12 starts in the Packers' secondary with All-Pro Jaire Alexander also missing nine games due to injury.

"Stokes looks night and day from where he was a year ago," LaFleur said. "Carrington Valentine looks so much better, physically. … These guys, they go through the draft process, go on all these visits and training for the combine. When they get a real offseason to just focus on their bodies, it's amazing how much growth they can have. I think we've seen that from C.V. It's a very competitive defensive backfield, one that we're really excited about."

Perhaps Green Bay's two biggest re-signings came in the cornerback room, bringing back nickel Keisean Nixon and veteran Corey Ballentine this offseason. On Friday, King said he's eager to learn from any and every cornerback on the roster, beginning with Alexander.

"Jaire is a guy who I plan to become really close with, because I grew up watching his film, studying him," King said. "He was somebody who, when I was in college, I'd always turn on his tape and try to mimic things and add things from his game to my game, so that's definitely someone I plan on becoming really close with when I get a chance to finally meet him."

  1. Alex McGough's work with the scout team spurred switch to receiver.

The Packers' third-string quarterback from last season has indeed relocated to the wideout room, LaFleur confirmed Friday.

McGough, 28, joined Green Bay last July on the heels of an MVP season in the USFL in which he led the Birmingham Stallions to a second consecutive league title.

A seventh-round pick by Seattle in 2018, McGough completed 4 of 5 passes for 69 yards in the preseason before spending the entire 2023 season on the Packers' practice squad, where the 6-foot-3, 214-pound athlete turned a few heads as a scout-team wideout.

"He spent a lot of time on the scout team running receiver routes, and he did such a great job, and we feel like he's just such a talented athlete, why not give him a chance there?" LaFleur said. "He's a smart guy, works his tail off, I think he can definitely contribute on we-fense (special teams) as well, so we felt like that might be his best chance here."

McGough's move leaves 2023 fifth-round pick Sean Clifford and rookie Michael Pratt in the quarterback room with Jordan Love. LaFleur did not rule out adding a fourth QB but also acknowledged it can be tough to get four QBs reps during the offseason program and training camp given the snaps allocated for Love, who won't turn 26 until November.

"It's pretty fluid like it is every year. Different circumstances come up and then you adjust," said LaFleur after Friday's practice. "It is challenging to rep a bunch of quarterbacks, especially when Jordan's still a relatively young quarterback and you want to get him a bunch of reps. Just to divvy those out can be challenging."

  1. Walter Stanley's son made the most of his tryout.

Dimitri Stanley, whose father played for Green Bay from 1985-89, had LaFleur and the coaching staff talking after the Iowa State receiver made a nifty one-handed snag from Jacob Eason off play-action during a team period on Friday.

The 6-foot, 200-pound wideout was one of 18 players participating in the Packers' rookie minicamp on a tryout basis. Stanley started his college career at his father's alma mater, Colorado, before transferring to Iowa State in 2022.

"I think there's a great opportunity for everybody here, quite frankly," LaFleur said. "That's one of the things that we talked to the team about. It doesn't matter, first-rounder, UDFA, if you're a tryout guy, you're here for a reason. You got an opportunity and it's really on them to go out there and showcase what they can do, and you got two days to leave a pretty good impression."

The elder Stanley, the Packers' fourth-round pick in 1985, is remembered most for his 287 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns in a 44-40 win over Detroit on Thanksgiving 1986, including a game-winning 83-yard punt return for a TD with less than a minute to play.

In addition to Stanley and Eason, two other notable players who attended rookie minicamp as tryouts were former Arizona Cardinals sixth-round pick Lecitus Smith and Jamaican shot and discus thrower Roje Stona, who's trying his hand at defensive end.

Other tryouts included Troy cornerback Don Callis, Samford receiver Rory Starkey, Kansas cornerback Kalon Gervin, Pittsburg State tight end Devon Garrison, Eastern Kentucky linebacker Logan Blake, Texas A&M linebacker Chris Russell, Wisconsin guard Michael Furtney, FIU defensive lineman Jack Daly, Cal receiver Blake Hightower, Albany receiver Julian Hicks, Limestone receiver Drew Dixon, Northwest Missouri State receiver Kaden Davis, and Duke punter Porter Wilson and Buffalo kicker Alex McNulty.

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