GREEN BAY – The Packers practiced inside Lambeau Field on Thursday for the first of three times in this training camp.
Here are five things learned from the day.
1. The intensity of practice was what Head Coach Matt LaFleur was looking for.
From the linemen or receiver/DB one-on-ones, to the 11-on-11 work on both third downs and in two-minute situations, the competitive spirit of the practice felt at its highest yet. One-on-one duels in the trenches featuring G/T Billy Turner vs. LB Tim Williamsand T Rick Wagner vs. LB Rashan Gary looked particularly intense, as were the perimeter matchups involving WR Allen Lazard vs. CB Jaire Alexander and TE Josiah Deguara vs. S Raven Greene. Lazard clawing a jump ball away from Alexander along the sideline might've been the play of the day.
"I thought the guys were urgent," LaFleur said. "I thought they communicated well.
"It was super-competitive. Our guys got to understand and adapt to a new environment."
2. A mostly empty stadium isn't necessarily a quiet one.
The Packers had a combination of both music and ambient noise piped into Lambeau Field for the workout. The noise was intended to simulate what the team is anticipating will be the NFL standard for games without fans.
"From what I understand, that's the prototype that they're putting out there right now and they're going to adjust that as needed," LaFleur said. "I had our guys lower that decibel level down a little bit because we haven't done any of our silent cadence. But when we first went out there I thought it was pretty loud, and loud enough where you'd have to use the silent count."
Work on that is probably coming as camp continues, in case it's needed even with limited or no fans. Some 11-on-11 periods will go from being scripted to live play calls as well to create more game-like situations, which will help evaluate position competitions and battles for roster spots.
3. Rookies aren't hesitating to put as many skills on display as they can.
For the second time in the first handful of practices, Dillon came out of the backfield to run a route right down the seam and haul in a strong throw from Tim Boyle. Dillon caught just 21 passes in three seasons at Boston College.
"Going out, catching passes, it's something I didn't have the opportunity to do too much at BC. It's not necessarily lack of talent or anything like that, it was just what we ran," Dillon said. "So, I'm getting used to it now and trying to help out the offense wherever I can."
Deguara is taking the same approach, and he's not getting overwhelmed by the playbook despite lining up in various places in the offensive formation. He feels he's absorbing the scheme installs pretty well.
"I really just take it as it comes, and the whole offense really fits together nicely," he said. "So whether I'm lining up in the backfield or in line or out wide, I'm really just trying to do what I can. Whatever position they want me to learn, I'm going to do it willingly."
4. WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling put together a strong, and nearly flawless, showing.
After hauling in a deep ball in the first practice of camp last Saturday, Valdes-Scantling had been rather quiet. Then Thursday he caught several passes from Rodgers in 11-on-11 on various routes – in and out cuts, plus a shallow cross – and stood out in the receiver competition.
It was almost as impressive a practice as anyone could ask for until the late two-minute drill, when he false-started after Rodgers spiked the ball to stop the clock, making it second-and-15 on the series that stalled the drive.
Still, more practices like that and Valdes-Scantling will put himself in good position. Despite a downturn in production and playing time in the second half of 2019, Valdes-Scantling said he never lost confidence and he expects to perform like he had been his first 1½ seasons in the league.
5. Lane Taylor, and his arm, are feeling normal again.
Taylor, Wagner and Billy Turner are battling for two starting spots on the right side of the offensive line, and Taylor so far has made a seamless transition to the right side after starting for three full seasons at left guard. He played right guard throughout his college career at Oklahoma State, so he said that's made for an easy switch.
Coming back from the torn biceps that ended his season last September was much harder, though. He had to "build it up from nothing" but feels back to full strength now.
"I was just weak … my bicep was completely flat," he said. "I could literally feel a little ball on my bicep get a little bigger and a little bigger and a little bigger until I finally had a full bicep, like a normal-looking one."
A self-made player who entered the league undrafted in 2013 and has 52 career starts, including playoffs, under his belt, Taylor said the time he missed last season was a mixed bag. On the one hand, he enjoyed going with his young daughter on school field trips, which he would normally miss. On the other, he missed being with his teammates as they won a division title and made a playoff run.
"My motivation was just really to get back on track, to prove I'm not done or anything," he said. "I've got many more miles, many more years to play. I just wanted to get back to kind of my old self and work my tail off, be strong and get back to the level of play I want to be at."