Five things learned at Packers training camp – Aug. 12

Dominique Dafney fits right in with the Packers’ versatile tight ends

TE Dominique Dafney

GREEN BAY – On Thursday morning, the Packers conducted their final public practice at Ray Nitschke Field before Saturday's preseason opener against the Houston Texans.

Here are five things we learned:

1. Dominique Dafney feels at home in "the room of misfits."

As someone who defied the boundaries of a single position throughout his college career, Dafney has fit right in with a collection of athletes who comprise the Packers' tight ends.

No position on Green Bay's roster may have more differing sizes, experience levels and skillsets than tight end. A room that starts with 6-foot-6, 267-pound Marcedes Lewis, now in Year 16, also includes Josiah Deguara and Dafney, who are both entering their second seasons and hover around 6-2, 240.

It's often a topic among the tight ends and position coach Justin Outten.

"J.O. jokes and says we're the room of the misfits, the people nobody wants because we're all just kind of different body types, we play different positions," said Dafney with a smile.

"As a room, we're that Swiss Army knife. 'OK, we've got one player down, we can look at the tight ends and know we can trust them. We need to put 'em in on the line, we need to put 'em out wide, in the backfield, we can look to the tight end room because they have what we need if we need it.' So, it's a very special room."

Dafney was a hidden gem for the Packers' offense last year. A former Iowa recruit who finished his career as a receiver at Indiana State, Dafney spent two weeks with the Indianapolis Colts last August before resurfacing on Green Bay's practice squad in October after Deguara tore his ACL.

He used his size to his advantage as the "F" tight end in Head Coach Matt LaFleur's offense, which usually required Dafney to line up as an H-back behind quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

In addition to his special-teams contributions, Dafney caught two passes for 26 yards, including a 13-yard touchdown, in 68 offensive snaps over five games (two starts).

Dafney spent part of the offseason training with Packers tight end and fellow Indiana State alumnus Robert Tonyan and George Kittle in Nashville, and is hungrier than ever before to earn a place back on the Packers' 53-man roster.

"I feel like I couldn't have ended up in a better position starting out Year 1 and 2," Dafney said. "Having the supporting cast and people like Rob and 'Cedes and J.O., just people pushing me and how great they are, and pushing me to be just as great. I couldn't have asked for a better place to be."

2. The Packers are getting healthier.

Cornerback Kevin King (hamstring), defensive lineman Kingsley Keke (ankle) and rookie linebacker Isaiah McDuffie (hamstring) all returned to practice after being activated off the non-football injury list Thursday.

The Packers were smart with all three, limiting them to just individual drills. Their return leaves just linebacker Za'Darius Smith (back) and safety Will Redmond (foot) on the NFI list and tackle David Bakhtiari (knee) on physically unable to perform.

Linebacker Kamal Martin (knee) and receiver Chris Blair (ankle) also returned to practice after missing the past few days with their respective injuries.

3. Royce Newman isn't cutting his hair, or versatility, short.

The former Ole Miss offensive lineman not only brought versatility to the Packers when they drafted him this past spring, but also a luscious mane of hair.

Other than an occasional self-trim, the Packers' rookie fourth-round pick confirmed Thursday that has no plans to cut his trademark mullet at any point in his NFL career.

What about 10 years from now?

"I'll still have it," Newman replied.

On the field, the 6-foot-5, 310-pound tackle/guard has been playing plenty of both positions this summer. While NewmanRoyce Newman has been concentrating more on right guard with the second-team offense since the signing of veteran Dennis Kelly last month, the rookie feels comfortable at either post.

"I'm more familiar with tackle just because I've played (it) this whole past year, but just getting more reps at guard has really helped me out," said Newman, who started 10 games at right tackle last season for Ole Miss after starting 12 at left guard in 2019.

"(I'm) just figuring out how quick the speed was in the interior compared to tackle … getting used to different type of speed you see in there."

4. Henry Black is making the most of his opportunity.

With Redmond still on NFI, it's been Black filling in on the back end when starting safety Adrian Amos moves into the box in the dime sub-package with six defensive backs.

Black signed with the Packers as an undrafted free agent out of Baylor last year and made a big first impression when he forced a game-ending fumble against Houston in Week 7.

The 24-year-old safety is soaking in as much as he can this summer, while locked in a fierce safety competition with former seventh-round pick Vernon Scott, and undrafted free agents Innis Gaines and Christian Uphoff.

"We're pushing each other, we learn from each guy," Black said. "I was talking to Ja (Alexander) the other day, like some things he does are certain things we can learn from and also improve from his game to our game. So we're just all trying to make each other better."

5. The Packers are using evening walkthroughs to prepare Jordan Love for the Texans.

The 2020 first-round pick will make his preseason debut under center on Saturday night against Houston.

With Rodgers and the veterans taking a majority of the snaps on Thursday, LaFleur said the team is using its evening walkthroughs to go through the scout-look "cards" with Love and the other young guys who'll be playing against the Texans.

"We know who the coordinators are down in Houston, Lovie Smith and Tim Kelly, who was there last year," LaFleur said. "We have an idea of what they may do, so there is a little bit of card work, but the majority of that is done in our walkthrough. (Thursday) evening, we'll have a walkthrough geared toward that first preseason game, as well as (Friday)."

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