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5 things learned from Packers training camp – Aug. 22

Marquez Valdes-Scantling continues to stack success, team ready for stretch of eight practices in nine days

WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling
WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling

GREEN BAY – Returning from an off day for the players, the Packers were back in pads at Ray Nitschke Field for their sixth practice of training camp on Saturday.

Here are five things learned from the day:

1. Marquez Valdes-Scantling continues to stack success.

Everyone knows how dangerous Valdes-Scantling can be on a go route. Equipped with 4.37 speed, the 6-foot-4, 206-pound receiver has averaged 16.1 yards per catch with nine receptions of 40 or more yards through his first 32 NFL games.

As valuable as explosive plays are in today's NFL, there's also something to be said for mastering the little things. Over the past week, Valdes-Scantling has shown strides in his route-running and playmaking ability underneath.

The third-year receiver fashioned another solid showing during Saturday's practice, starting in an early team period when Aaron Rodgers fit a ball perfectly over the coverage of a leaping Christian Kirksey to find Valdes-Scantling in the middle of the field.

To close practice, Rodgers rocketed another pass in the middle and hit Valdes-Scantling on a crosser. It comes two days after Valdes-Scantling hauled in a couple other lasers from Rodgers during Thursday's practice inside Lambeau Field.

"I've seen him stack two great practices back-to-back," Head Coach Matt LaFleur said. "That's the challenge to him on a daily basis, he's got to go out there and do it. I know he's got the physical ability. He's got great speed, and he can really scare a defense. But he's got to be consistent with it. I've been proud of his effort but we're going to continue to challenge him and try to put him in more and more positions to make plays for us."

A former fifth-round pick out of South Florida, Valdes-Scantling added an explosive element to the Packers' offense during his rookie season. He carved out a starting spot and caught 38 passes for 581 yards and two touchdowns in 2018.

Valdes-Scantling was off to a solid start in 2019 before knee and ankle injuries slowed him down midseason. He played in all 16 regular-season games but caught only five balls in the team's last nine games.

Despite the setback, Valdes-Scantling told reporters earlier this week he never lost confidence. Healthy again, he's eager to get back on the right track.

"That was the first time in my career that I had ever really been injured before," Valdes-Scantling said. "So just having to deal with that and just growing as a player, going from playing every snap to not playing as much, I've just got to learn from those things and fight through that adversity. So just learning how to get through that and still believe in myself and have my teammates still believe in me was kind of the big thing for me."

2. Will Redmond is settling in at safety.

A third-round pick by San Francisco in 2016, Redmond had to wait 2½ years to finally see action in an NFL regular-season game.

Since landing with Green Bay in 2018, he's moved from cornerback to safety and developed into a leader on the Packers' special teams.

No other team, college or pro, ever approached Redmond about changing positions but the 26-year-old is starting to feel at home, especially after making four spot starts at safety in 2019.

"It's still new to me, but I've got the skill set for it," said Redmond of the safety position. "For me, I'm just trying to learn as much as I can. Coach Gray is a great guy to learn from. … I like the position a lot. I'm catching on to it and it's going to be fun for me. Nobody's ever (asked me to switch to safety), but I'm finding out it's probably a great move."

3. The Packers like what they see in Kamal Martin.

The Packers' 2020 rookie class has made its presence felt in first week of training camp, whether it's second-day draftees such as AJ Dillon and Josiah Deguara or even third-day prospects Vernon Scott and Martin.

On Friday, inside linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti praised Martin for not only how quickly the rookie fifth-rounder picked up the playbook during the virtual offseason program but also how he's taken it "from a computer screen to the field."

The 6-foot-3, 240-pound inside linebacker has made a positive first impression on LaFleur, as well.

"The first thing that jumps out is he's a long, athletic guy," LaFleur said. "He's very intelligent, he works hard at it. It's going to come down to getting those reps and feeling comfortable in there and knowing what to do so he can go showcase that athleticism on Sundays."

4. The head coach still has a solid hard count.

With his Achilles tendon fully recovered, LaFleur has been stepping into drills with the defense this summer. On Saturday, he served as the quarterback in the one-on-one period between the offensive line and defensive front.

The former Saginaw Valley State QB wasn't shy about using the hard count, either, drawing a few defenders offside during the 10-minute period. And it wasn't to show off.

"Our guys on the defensive side of the ball got to get used to that hard count, and I know they're going against one of the best in the business (Rodgers), that can draw them offsides," LaFleur said, commenting on some of the sloppy moments in practice. "Conversely, on the offensive side of the ball, we had a couple fumbled snaps, and that's the stuff that can get you beat."

5. The Packers are entering perhaps their longest stretch of camp.

With no preseason games breaking up training camp this year, Saturday's 1-hour, 25-minute practice began a stretch of eight practices in nine days for the Packers.

Green Bay is scheduled to practice four days in a row (with Tuesday's practice to be held inside Lambeau Field) before an off day for players on Wednesday. They'll then return to the field Thursday for four more consecutive practices, finishing the stretch with a third trip inside Lambeau next Sunday.

"Anytime you're stringing together four days of practice, you'd better be mindful of what you're asking your guys to do," LaFleur said. "Certainly we know we're at our best when we have everybody healthy and fresh. This week is going to be a little bit of a grind on our guys and then we'll adjust accordingly as we move forward."

Pro Bowl receiver Davante Adams returned to practice Saturday after sustaining a lower-body injury Wednesday. Outside linebacker Za'Darius Smith, tackle Rick Wagner and defensive tackle Montravius Adams attended practice but did not participate.

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