GREEN BAY – The Packers have two key tasks ahead of them entering the final week of training camp.
While there are still plenty of young players competing to make Green Bay’s initial 53-man roster, Head Coach Matt LaFleur and his staff must also begin preparing veterans for the team’s regular-season opener in Chicago in less than two weeks.
LaFleur said he’s still contemplating how the Packers will balance those two ideals this week, with splitting the team up and running two different practices being one possible alternative depending on the injury report.
“We’re going to sit down as a staff and go over the schedule for the week because you would like to get a jump on the season-opener,” said LaFleur at his Friday afternoon news conference.
“There are still some positional battles that are going on and you want to make sure these guys going into the last preseason game are well-prepared in terms of what they’re going to see, so they can go out and play good quality football.”
LaFleur had a favorable impression of how his team performed on film during Thursday night’s 22-21 loss to the Oakland Raiders, a game that was played on a modified 80-yard field at IG Field in Winnipeg, Man., due to issues with the end-zone turf.
The Packers held out 33 players from the game, including quarterback Aaron Rodgers. LaFleur said he trusted his gut in deciding to not play the two-time NFL MVP with the “risk-reward” just not being worth it.
LaFleur didn’t have any updates regarding injuries, but said he and General Manager Brian Gutekunst are weighing their options after rookie linebacker Curtis Bolton (knee) exited Thursday night’s game and didn’t return.
Green Bay’s defense already has been without Oren Burks, who’s missed two weeks with a chest injury he sustained early in the Packers’ preseason opener against Houston on Aug. 8.
“I know that they're looking at every available option,” LaFleur said. “We're brainstorming as a staff, as well, to see what we have to do. I'm pretty confident that we'll find the right solution.”
LaFleur liked the effort his defense displayed against the Raiders and how Green Bay cut its number of missed tackles, particularly in the second half. Rookie Ty Summers led the way with 10 tackles, playing all but one of the defense’s 78 snaps.
Offensively, LaFleur was happy to see Trevor Davis carry over his success in practice to a game. In his preseason debut, the fourth-year receiver amassed 113 all-purpose yards (78 receiving, 18 rushing and 17 punt return) and scored the first touchdown off a 23-yard TD pass from Tim Boyle.
The Packers’ backup quarterback competition is positioned to go right down to the wire with Boyle, DeShone Kizer and Manny Wilkins all in line for snaps in next Thursday’s finale against Kansas City.
“We’re going to evaluate from here until that decision has to be made,” said LaFleur regarding the No. 2 job. “There's a few more practices left out there and then the game certainly will be a big part of that, as well.”
Perhaps one of the biggest beneficiaries of the preseason has been LaFleur, himself. Still working his way back from a torn Achilles tendon, LaFleur has learned how to delegate certain game-management responsibilities to his staff.
Since he can’t just take off running, LaFleur estimated the Packers lost about six or seven seconds at the end of the game because officials didn’t hear him screaming for a timeout.
Moving forward, LaFleur plans to have quarterbacks coach Luke Getsy, who is on headset, designated as the guy to draw the attention if the side judge is down the sideline.
“That’s why I wanted that game to take place, because every opportunity that I have to go out there and go through that process is good for myself and for our staff,” LaFleur said. “Just to make sure our communication’s on point, we’re getting the necessary information down from the press box to myself, staying in tune to when the defense is out on the field.”