The Green Bay Packers’ three-day mandatory mini-camp has come to a close, and while voluntary OTAs will continue through June 17th, Thursday was the last time that the entire team — well, almost the entire team — will be together until training camp takes place at the end of July.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit, we can’t really glean a whole lot from what took place on the field this past week. It’s early June, it was only three practices, and it took place in shorts. However, that doesn’t mean there weren’t any takeaways or things to keep our eyes on moving forward.
For me, there were 11 takeaways that I would consider noteworthy from these past few days—and yes, I’m sure there are others but it’s not easy keeping track of everything when you’re not there.
Expect ups and downs with Jordan Love
This should go without saying, but I feel the need to say it anyway. On Tuesday, Love’s accuracy was all over the place and the team barely made it to midfield during the two minute drill. The next day, tight ends coach Justin Outten was jokingly fanning Love because he couldn’t miss, and was pushing the ball downfield after relying heavily on check-downs in previous practices. Then on Thursday, he was somewhere in between those first two days.
This should all be expected. We knew coming out of Utah State that Love needed to develop and that’s what is taking place, especially after a 2020 season with limited offseason practice time, no preseason games, and as QB3, very limited practice reps in season.
These ups and downs are all apart of the learning process and there will be plenty more to come—and that is okay.
Royce Newman getting plenty of chances with starters
After these three days, it’s quite clear that the Green Bay Packers coaching staff thinks very highly of rookie offensive linemen Royce Newman. During his time at Ole Miss, Newman played every offensive line position except center and spent a majority of his time at left guard and right tackle—displaying that versatility that we know the Packers covet.
On Tuesday he was oftentimes the right guard in 11-on-11 drills. On Wednesday, he was at right tackle, and then on Thursday he took snaps with the 1s at left guard. There is at least one spot up for grabs along the offensive line and possibly two depending on when David Bakhtiari is back, so keep your eyes on Newman moving forward, it’s obvious that the coaches like what they are seeing.
OL Competition will be the best battle this summer
We can basically sharpie in David Bakhtiari — whenever he returns — Elgton Jenkins and Billy Turner as starters. I won’t quite sharpie Josh Myers into a starting spot yet but I will pencil him in. That leaves one spot up for grabs — and like I said, possibly two depending when Bak is back — for several players.
Competing for that spot will be the aforementioned Newman, who is getting plenty of reps with the 1s. Lucas Patrick, the most experienced of the bunch, and Jon Runyan, who flashed in his limited playing time as a rookie. A surprise on this list is Ben Braden, who offensive line coach Adam Stenavich said should be competing for a starting spot this summer. There are others but these are the players who I view as the real contenders.
Davante Adams will be at training camp
No, this has nothing to do with Aaron Rodgers, but rather the fact that Adams is in the final year of his deal. According to Spotrac, by average annual value, Adams is the 18th highest-paid receiver in football—considerably underpaid given his production. So wondering whether he would be in attendance at training camp or possibly holding out was a valid question. But if there was any doubt, Adams put that to rest:
“Yeah, I’ll be here. I’ll be here. I signed up to go to work and play,” Adams said Tuesday via Packers Wire. “I’m from East Palo Alto, California. I grew up with zero dollars. I’m not forfeiting any of my money that I’ve earned and signed for already. I’ll be there for sure.”
Aaron Rodgers’ Absence
It’s certainly notable that Rodgers was not present at mandatory mini-camp, but also not surprising. If he was willing to miss out on a $500,000 workout bonus by skipping OTAs, I doubt he cares about a $93,085 fine for missing mini-camp—and that’s if the Packers even make him pay it.
The real litmus test for how the Rodgers-Packers relationship is holding up will be training camp. It’s written in the CBA that a player is to be fined $50,000 per day missed, and unlike in the past, the team can’t refund any of that money if things become resolved.
If, at that point, the saga does drag out into August, then things may be irreconcilable. But we aren’t at that point yet. There’s still quite a bit of time between now and the beginning of camp. We will just continue to wait.
Keep your eyes on Juwann Winfree
One name that reporters kept mentioning all three days was that of wide receiver Juwann Winfree. Winfree was a sixth-round pick by Denver in 2019 out of Colorado, where he tallied 649 receiving yards at 13.6 yards per catch and four touchdowns in 15 games. He was signed to the Green Bay practice squad in 2020 and has 14 career offensive snaps with no targets.
When it comes to the receiver position, we know Adams, Allen Lazard, Marquez Valdez-Scantling, and Amari Rodgers are on the roster but at least one and likely two spots are up for grabs. I certainly wouldn’t call Devin Funchess or Equanimeous St. Brown roster locks, they need to perform this summer, and players like Malik Taylor and Reggie Begelton are in the same boat. Winfree will not only have to continue showing his value of offense but also special teams.
When Gutey says something, we should listen
After the draft, Brian Gutekunst told us that they would look to address the quarterback position. Green Bay then signed three quarterbacks. He also said that they would look at veteran linebackers. The Packers just signed De’Vondre Campbell.
Going back even further before the 2020 draft, Gutey said that drafting a quarterback is always on the table. He then drafted Jordan Love a few months later. When Gutekunst first became GM, he said the team would be in every conversation. They would then go on a spending spree in free agency the following year.
When Gutey speaks, we all need to listen closely.
AJ Dillon and the wheel route
AJ Dillon saw minimal playing time as a rookie and was hardly utilized in the passing game. But there were a few occasions where he was sent downfield as a receiving target on a wheel route; however, nothing ever came from it and he was never targeted.
Well at practice on Wednesday when Love was dealing, one of his big completions was to Dillon on a wheel route for 30 yards. As the season unfolds, keep your eyes on this as I’m sure it will catch defenses by surprise.
No timetable for Bakhtiari’s return
I will say that I’ve been of the mindset that Bakhtiari is going to miss at least some time this season as he still recovers from an ACL injury. For one, being ready for Week 1 would be on the quicker side when it comes to the recovery timeline, and two, the Packers medical staff is historically conservative.
However, after seeing clips of Bak working out on his own at OTAs, I’m much more open to the idea of him being ready for the Saints game. It was pretty impressive and Matt LaFleur did say that he was “a little bit ahead of schedule.” But when Bak spoke to reporters this week, he said that there still is no timetable for his return—which is an expected answer:
“I’m not going to put any timetable” on it, he said via Sports Illustrated. “For me, I’m going to stack my days, have that turn to weeks, weeks to months, months to years. I have no idea. This is my first time going through this, so I’m just going to attack every day, try to hit every benchmark I can. Once Doc can check me off, I can check myself and I can go out there and not only perform and protect myself but perform at the level that the Packers need me to, I think that’s where you’ll see me return, on that date.”
Star CB role an open competition
We didn’t really hear much about the nickel cornerback position and the battle that is taking place during these practices, but it’s still intriguing nonetheless. Last week Jerry Gray mentioned that they are looking at four or five players to fill that role and will try to whittle it down to one or two by the regular season.
In a recent CheeseheadTV article, I took a look at the ‘star’ cornerback position, how Joe Barry views it, and who might be competing for playing time there. Click here to check it out.
Devin Funchess certainly looks the part
Listed at 6’4” – 225 pounds, we know Devin Funchess is a big receiver, but seeing him in those video clips from practice really let’s us see just how massive he is—and LaFleur felt similarly:
“Well, he sure looks the part, there’s no doubt about that,” LaFleur said after Tuesday’s practice via Packers Wire. “You’re talking about a big, strong, long, physical guy that can run and sink his hips. I know he has a lot to learn, but we’re excited about having him on this team and letting him go compete, and we’ll see what he can do.”
Funchess has the ability to line up both out wide and in the slot and with that size he could be a favorite target on third downs and in the red zone. However, he hasn’t played in a regular-season game since 2019 and we have to see how quickly he shakes off the rust and adjusts to the new offense.
Born and raised in Green Bay, WI and I still call it home. After my family, watching the Packers, sharing my opinions on the team through my writing and interacting with other fans is my greatest passion. You can find me on Twitter at @Paul_Bretl.