Pace of Packers’ practices still not to Matt LaFleur’s liking

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GREEN BAY – Head Coach Matt LaFleur would like to have joint practices with another team again someday.

But whenever that happens, he wants to see his players pick up their game.

LaFleur was not pleased after Tuesday’s second joint practice with the Houston Texans, saying “there was no energy” from the Packers in the workout and being particularly critical of the offense’s slow pace in and out of the huddle.

“The only thing I want to stress to our guys is, it takes no talent to give effort and to have a sense of urgency, and we’ve got to do a better job of that,” LaFleur said. “And it starts with the coaching, too.”

Working mostly red zone and two-minute against the Texans, Houston’s defense had the edge. The same was true on the other end of Nitschke Field, where Green Bay’s No. 1 defense shut down the Texans’ two-minute drive.

LaFleur clarified there wasn’t any lack of effort on the plays themselves, but more of a malaise between snaps that slowed the pace and drained any juice from the practice. Penalties and other sloppiness didn’t help, but he believes things will change once the Packers install their no-huddle package, because then that becomes an option to jump-start any drive, whether in a practice or a game.

For his part, quarterback Aaron Rodgers is looking forward to the upcoming no-huddle work in a system he said he likes “a lot,” but he didn’t express any enthusiasm for joint practices in general, noting both teams held back a lot schematically.

Rodgers suggested the scheme limitations reduced the value of the practices for longtime veterans like himself. In that vein, he’s not concerned about where the offense is in implementing the new playbook, provided the unit can pick up where it left off after what he felt were strong practices last week.

On another note, Rodgers clearly wasn’t happy to see teammate Trevor Davis (stinger) get hurt in Monday’s full-speed drills on special teams, forcing him to sit out for now. Davis was having a strong camp in a bid to make the team as both a receiver and returner, but no timetable was given on when he might get some preseason action this month.

LaFleur has been indicating there’s a good chance Rodgers will rest during Thursday night’s preseason opener with Houston, which will give backups DeShone Kizer, Tim Boyle and Manny Wilkins a lot of work.

All three have had their ups and downs through camp so far, and LaFleur wants to see them smooth out the rough spots.

“We just want consistent play from the quarterbacks, and I think you’ve seen some good and some not-so-good,” he said. “I just want those guys to play decisively. We talk to the QBs a lot about, ‘Indecisive equals ineffective.’

“Hey listen, are you going to make a mistake? Yeah, chances are you’re going to make a mistake in the game at some point. But, it’s being decisive and if you do make a mistake, how do you respond to that? And that’s what I want to see from those guys.”

The preseason spotlight is definitely pointed at Kizer, the current No. 2 QB who didn’t play well the two times he filled in for Rodgers in the 2018 regular season. Learning his fifth offense in five years going back to his time at Notre Dame, Kizer is making no excuses and knows it’s time to show progress.

“It’s clearly understood this is one of the most important preseasons of my career,” he said. “Year 3 is a big year for everyone. This is a situation in which I know who I am, these guys know who I am as a player, and now it’s about going out and showing some consistency.”

With the team in general, come Thursday night LaFleur hopes to see more of what’s on film from Monday’s joint practice than Tuesday’s. On Monday, he felt the running game looked better and the combination blocks up front were starting to come together. He also liked what he saw from the defense, too.

But at least offensively (he hadn’t seen Tuesday’s defensive film at the time of his press conference), not enough carried over, and the first-year head coach’s assessment as the preseason opener approaches was this:

“Overall, we’ve got a ways to go yet,” LaFleur said. “Again, it starts with the way we operate. I think we’ve got to coach these guys better and just develop a standard of how we operate on a daily basis.”

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