Five things learned during the Packers’ offseason program

Head Coach Matt LaFleur
Head Coach Matt LaFleur

GREEN BAY – The Packers’ first offseason program under Head Coach Matt LaFleur is complete. With training camp right around the corner, here are five things we’ve learned over the past 10 weeks:

1. New landscape under LaFleur

From running simultaneous team drills on both ends of Clarke Hinkle Field to the routes the receivers emphasized, LaFleur’s influence on his new team was widely visible this spring.

Much like defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, LaFleur aims to present an offense that appears more complicated to the defense than it actually is for his own players to absorb.

To accomplish that, LaFleur likes to use a cascade of receiver formations, establish a steady ground game and also get running backs involved in the passing game.

LaFleur developed a comprehensive plan for how he wanted to approach his first offseason program as a head coach in years spent working for Mike and Kyle Shanahan. The overarching theme this spring was to maximize every rep, while also being quick to answer any questions players might have about the new scheme.

Predictably, LaFleur was extremely hands-on with players, throwing to receivers and roaming the secondary during passing drills, prior to tearing his Achilles tendon in a basketball game with the coaching staff late in the offseason program.

Even after the injury, LaFleur still worked closely with quarterback Aaron Rodgers, tight end Jimmy Graham, and the rest of the roster thanks to a modified golf cart that allowed him to roam the field.

There are still areas of the offense LaFleur wants to tighten up, but the blueprint is in place for the offense to challenge all three levels of the defense.

2. Depth behind Davante

If there were lingering questions as to why the Packers chose to look internally to fill Randall Cobb’s void in the lineup, the young receiving corps has provided some answers.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Geronimo Allison, Trevor Davis, Equanimeous St. Brown, Jake Kumerow and J'Mon Moore all had their moments in the battle for the No. 2 and 3 receiver jobs behind two-time Pro Bowler Davante Adams this spring.

Coming off 38 catches for 581 yards as a rookie, Valdes-Scantling held serve with Adams and the first-team offense. Rodgers praised Valdes-Scantling during OTAs for his maturation, adding he believes the second-year receiver has what it takes to be an every-down player in the Packers’ offense.

With LaFleur preaching versatility and variance among his receivers, Allison appears to have taken well to a transition to the slot position.

The fourth-year receiver won the No. 3 job last summer with relative ease and appeared to be on his way to a breakout season before a core muscle injury limited him to five games. Allison has caught 55 passes for 758 yards (13.8 yards per catch) and four TDs through his first 30 regular-season games (eight starts).

3. Rookies coming as advertised

From a pure athletic standpoint, Rashan Gary and Darnell Savage have lived up to the billing of first-round picks through their first two months in a Packers uniform.

Gary, the 6-foot-4, 277-pound pass rusher, posted impressive numbers at the NFL Scouting Combine, which helped crystalize the Packers’ decision to take him with the 12th overall pick. While the pads have yet to go on, Gary showed a natural explosiveness rushing off the edge indicative of his 4.58 time in the 40.

“(He’s a) big, athletic individual who’s got a great first step,” said three-time All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari, who had a few opportunities to block against Gary this spring. “I can see why he got drafted in the position that he did.”

Savage took all the first-team safety reps next to veteran Adrian Amos in practices open to the media this spring and looked every bit the playmaker the Packers feel he could be when they traded up to take him 21st overall in April.

The 5-foot-11, 198-pound safety ran a 4.36 in the 40 at the combine and offers position flexibility. More than with the measurables, however, Savage has impressed veterans on both sides of the ball with his awareness and professionalism.

“He’s going to be that guy – I can tell,” Adams said. “We definitely got a steal. I know we got him early, but I still think that he could have gone even earlier just based on what he’s doing out there.”

4. Plenty left in the tank

Entering his 13th NFL season, Tramon Williams remains very much in the Packers’ defensive plans for 2019.

The 36-year-old cornerback finished last year at safety but has since moved back to his natural position. With the Packers being mindful of Kevin King workload this spring, Williams worked extensively alongside second-year cornerback Jaire Alexander, who is 14 years his junior.

Williams has experience playing all six positions in Pettine’s secondary, having previously done so in Cleveland.

Technically the oldest player on the Packers’ roster, Williams doesn’t feel that way on the field. His football IQ and savviness were still present during offseason practices, as Williams deflected several passes in team periods open to the media.

“I still can move,” Williams said. “I have a lot of guys in this locker room who keep me feeling young and keep me on my toes.”

5. The more you can do

It was an offseason of opportunity for Raven Greene, the second-year safety who was one of four undrafted rookies to make the Packers’ initial 53-man roster last summer.

While serving as the next man up at safety behind Amos and Savage, Greene got the chance to showcase his versatility playing inside the box of the starting dime defense.

Greene was an impact player at James Madison, setting the program’s all-time records for career interceptions (14), but he also possesses a body type that lends itself to hybrid duties.

The 5-foot-11, 198-pound safety had a chance to contribute on special teams as a rookie before an ankle injury ended his season in early December. He attacked his weight training and returned in peak condition for the start of the offseason program in April.

With Josh Jones’ sitting out of voluntary OTAs and then developing a hamstring issue that sidelined him during minicamp, the Packers got an extended look at former Wisconsin defensive back Natrell Jamerson at safety.

Green Bay listed Jamerson as a cornerback after claiming him off waivers from Houston in December. He played special teams in his two games with the Packers, recording three tackles.

“He does have position flexibility,” Pettine said. “He is playing inside corner, we’ve played him at the nickel some this spring, but he does have a solid skillset for safety. He’s smart, he’s tough, he’s shown that he can tackle.”

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