GREEN BAY – The bigger changes this time are on the other side of the ball.
Last year in training camp, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was adjusting to his own offense, which was altered a lot from Year 1 to Year 2 under Head Coach Matt LaFleur.
Extensive offseason Zoom meetings with LaFleur, offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett and quarterbacks coach/passing game coordinator Luke Getsy gave Rodgers plenty of changes to incorporate once the team actually reconvened on the field in the summer of 2020.
This year, not so much, Rodgers said Wednesday, but the same can't be said for the defense he's trying to attack daily in practice.
"It's definitely different," he said. "It's not really like any of the other defenses that I've faced over the years in practice."
Joe Barry is the fifth Packers defensive coordinator to challenge Rodgers in training camp, following Jim Bates (2005), Bob Sanders (2006-08), Dom Capers (2009-17) and Mike Pettine (2018-20).
What Rodgers has found tough through the first half-dozen practices is figuring out exactly what coverage Barry's unit is in. He described multiple instances of reading where he thinks safety Darnell Savage is going, but then holding back on a throw because he's suddenly somewhere else. One time, he pulled Savage aside to chat about it.
"I saw a flash out of my eye, and I couldn't believe … what the hell was Darnell doing there?" Rodgers said. "You're seeing these guys kind of running all over the place, which is definitely difficult even for an older quarterback like myself."
His receivers have recognized the additional challenge as well. Allen Lazard noted it's harder for the pass catchers like him to decipher post-snap, on the fly, how to "get to the right holes and windows of the defense."
"They do a really good job of disguising and not really showing or tilting their hat to what they're doing," Lazard said. "It's a big adjustment that we're facing."
That said, any struggles for Rodgers and the offense as a whole have been hard to see as a simple observer. Despite skipping all the team activities in the offseason, Rodgers showed up for training camp firing darts of different speeds and from various angles right away.
He had a daily throwing regimen of 50 to 75 passes back home in California, and he went through the first week of training camp in Green Bay not topping 80 throws in any given practice. As camp progresses, the pitch count becomes less relevant.
The offense didn't stay completely static, either. It just didn't change as much compared to a year ago.
"There's not a whole lot we wanted to change," Rodgers said of what produced the league's No. 1 scoring offense last season. "I think we might want to refine some things that we did last year and kick some plays out that really didn't fit what we were doing. Added a few things, some wrinkles. Matt does a great job of communicating those things."
He added there are ideas he'll suggest, and others he'd prefer to veto, in those meetings with LaFleur, Hackett and Getsy, and there's plenty of disagreement. But everybody hashes it out to reach a decision on whether to include something, or not.
"We kind of throw our ego and sensitivity out the window when we get in that room," Rodgers said. "Whatever comes out is in the best interest of the team. I enjoy those conversations.
"I enjoy being proven wrong. I really do. I'm headstrong, but when I come in there and he goes, 'This is this and I'll show you why, and look at this clip here.' I go, 'Yeah, … that's good. Let's do that.'"
Whatever the process, confidence is high the Packers' offense has another strong season in store. It won't be easy to rank as the top-scoring offense with the best red-zone and second-best third-down efficiencies in the league again, but the challenge of facing a new defense in practice every day just might help the unit get there.
"It's a great defense to go against every single day. It's going to make us only better on offense," Lazard said.
"I think we are setting a pretty high standard for what we can achieve this year."