The Packers' first-string offense shifted into its highest gear of training camp on Thursday night.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers and his embarrassment of riches on the perimeter were clicking impressively as the offense worked through several move-the-ball, no-huddle and red-zone periods at Ray Nitschke Field.
On the very first play of an extended stretch of 11-on-11 work, Rodgers ran one of those patented play-action fakes with a rollout to the left, and he hit Jordy Nelson in stride on a deep ball over Jarrett Bush. That was just the beginning.
"I think Aaron looks very sharp," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said following practice. "He's in command. We're doing a lot more with him, if you can believe that, and he's on top of his game."
As usual, he was spreading the ball around, but the biggest standout was probably Greg Jennings, who missed a few practices earlier in the week with an elbow bruise.
Jennings caught a back-shoulder throw for a touchdown against Davon House, as Rodgers beat a red-zone blitz, and then later he beat House again on a deep post as Rodgers bought time in the pocket. A few snaps later, Jennings hauled in another TD pass between Sam Shields and Morgan Burnett to conclude a slick no-huddle drive.
Tight end Jermichael Finley, who also missed practices earlier, got in on the act with a full-out diving catch in the end zone after Rodgers sold a play-fake to Brandon Saine.
Donald Driver helped Rodgers beat a blitz with a falling catch over the middle after the quarterback picked up a low snap, James Jones got the offense out of a hole near its own goal line with a key reception, and Nelson got open on a deep comeback route that looked almost too easy. The phrase "on the same page" clearly applied.
"I thought the offense was extremely productive," McCarthy said. "The defensive pre-snap penalties (were) totally out of balance, and they had a number of big plays off of those opportunities."
McCarthy was miffed at the number of pre-snap penalties, by far the highest of any practice in camp. He called them "totally unacceptable," and with two installation practices to go, he needs to see "cleaner" work.
Rookie defensive lineman Jerel Worthy jumped offsides – something he had a tendency to do in college – for the third time in as many days, but he wasn't the only culprit. The poor discipline at the line of scrimmage was not what the coach wanted to see heading into Friday's Family Night scrimmage, which he said will include live tackling on the offense vs. defense drives. The special teams work will be "thud tempo."
"We need live action," McCarthy said. "It's good preparation to get us ready for our first preseason game, but it's needed, especially coming off tonight's practice."
Several players dropped out of practice with injuries. They are guard Ray Dominguez (ankle), safety Sean Richardson (thumb), tight end D.J. Williams (back), linebacker Brad Jones (knee) and fullback Jon Hoese (hamstring).
Their status is uncertain for Friday's scrimmage, as is that of running back Marc Tyler, defensive lineman Mike Daniels and receiver Tori Gurley, all of whom missed a second straight practice. Defensive lineman Ryan Pickett did return to the field.
Linebacker Desmond Bishop and fullback John Kuhn practiced for a second straight day in shells, but McCarthy said they "probably" would not play in the scrimmage.
"I know, tomorrow night, there will be a couple of individuals who will do things in the scrimmage that you have not seen on the field," McCarthy said. "That's how it usually goes. It's an opportunity, particularly for young players, to step up and show what they can." Related links