GREEN BAY – Packers running back Jamaal Williams was not back on the practice field Monday, but he was back at Lambeau Field with his teammates.
Head Coach Matt LaFleur did not provide any injury update on Williams or any players – the first official injury report of the week will be released Wednesday – but so far all the signs are positive for Williams as he recovers from a vicious late hit by Eagles defender Derek Barnett last Thursday that led to a night in the hospital. (Update: Williams is officially in the concussion protocol, according to a team spokesperson.)
“I saw Jamaal today. He’s doing well,” LaFleur said. “We’ll see how the week progresses.”
That applies to receiver Davante Adams as well after Adams left last week’s game with a toe injury. He didn’t practice Monday (nor did tackle Bryan Bulaga, cornerbacks Kevin King and Tony Brown, safety Will Redmond or defensive lineman Montravius Adams) and LaFleur said the rehab/workload plan with Adams is “day by day” at this point.
If Adams is unable to play this week, a greater burden falls on both the rest of the Packers’ receiving corps and the running game, which hasn’t yet found a consistent level of production. Both Aaron Jones and Williams are averaging just 3.3 yards per carry through four games.
“Work in progress,” LaFleur said of how he’d characterize the run game thus far. “We need to look at ourselves from a schematic standpoint and see, are we always calling the right stuff to attack the defense in the right way? There’s been some pretty good moments, but certainly there’s stuff we can do a better job as a staff, and our execution can be a little bit better as well.”
As for the receivers, Jake Kumerow was back at practice on Monday after missing time with a shoulder injury. Given his strong training camp, he could be next in line after Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Geronimo Allison in the event of Adams’ absence. Darrius Shepherd and Allen Lazard also both saw the field last week against Philadelphia.
If Adams does miss time, LaFleur indicated the coaches will examine things schematically in the passing game as well because of such a “significant void.”
“It’s not as if our standards and expectations are going to change, but we have to be mindful of what we’re asking our guys to do,” LaFleur said. “With a receiver like Davante, I don’t think there’s a route he cannot run.”
On the defensive side, shoring up leaky run defense is a top priority with Dallas and Ezekiel Elliott next up. The Packers survived breakdowns against the run in the Minnesota and Denver games largely due to the defense generating turnovers.
But against Philadelphia, the inability to contain the run proved costly when the Eagles did not turn the ball over and gave themselves several third-and-short conversions in putting together drives.
“We saw some guys getting out of their gaps and that is the first thing that’ll get you beat in terms of trying to stop the run,” LaFleur said. “If you’re not playing your gap or the right assignment, it makes it a lot easier on the offense. So we have to do a better job being disciplined, staying in our gaps. We always talk about it on both sides of the ball, it takes all 11. It really does.”
The defense could be on the verge of getting inside linebacker Oren Burks back, as the second-year pro returned to practice on Monday, albeit in an unpadded workout. A starter when training camp began, Burks went down with a chest injury in the early moments of the preseason opener on Aug. 8 and has been out nearly two months.
A 2018 third-round draft pick who dealt with a preseason injury as a rookie as well, Burks played sparingly on defense last year. His return could definitely help the defense up front, but expecting him to step in and save the run defense after an extended rehab isn’t realistic.
“There will definitely be a lot of catching up to do,” LaFleur said regarding Burks. “He’s been locked in and engaged, been in all the meetings. It’s about going out there now and getting those practice reps.”