GREEN BAY − The Green Bay Packers kicked off organized team activities this week, with Tuesday’s practice open to the media.
OTAs are voluntary so there were a few notable absences including, but not limited to, Jaire Alexander, Rasul Douglas, David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins. There were new faces and a majority of the squad at Ray Nitschke Field. Here are six observations from Tuesday’s practice:
Injured guys getting in work
Both cornerback Eric Stokes (knee and foot) and linebacker Rashan Gary (ACL) were present. A timeline for both or either of their returns is still unknown. Gary was able to work through some recovery drills during practice, even high-stepping at times, with relative ease. Stokes used his time behind the secondary, isolating himself 20 yards downfield, but mirroring the corners movements on plays.
Stokes, who was injured during the Week 9 loss to the Detroit Lions, confirmed his injury was a torn meniscus and a Lisfranc injury. If it had just been a matter of recovering from the torn meniscus, which occurs in the knee cartilage, Stokes said he would've returned much sooner. But the Lisfranc injury, which is the bone in the mid-point of the foot (in this case, his right foot), resulted in a much longer recovery timeline.
"Rehab been going good," Stokes said. "Just taking it day by day, second by second, minute by minute, that's my approach for everything. And brick by brick.
"I already knew I wasn't gonna be ready for OTAs ... we don't know yet (the timeline). That's the real big question. Just depends on how I feel. But we just knew coming back for OTAs, I wasn't gonna do any OTAs."
Linebacker Quay Walker spent practice working on his own as well, but a reason why is not known at this time.
There is only so much that can be learned from one day of OTAs, especially when it comes to quarterback. That being said, Love did appear to be comfortable. His years in the system contributed to his ease.
On one play, with the pocket collapsing, Love danced backward a step, stayed stoic and delivered a shot over the middle to rookie Malik Heath.
There was little frustration, which can be common of a first-time starter. He knew what play he was taking to the line each time, inevitably made some mistakes and threw balls that were too high, but didn’t let it bleed into the next play.
"The more you can just put him in those situations,," LaFleur said, "it's not like he's a true rookie so he's seen a decent amount, especially being able to get the majority of the snaps this time of year, the last couple of years. So we're not necessarily coddling him, in any sense of the word.
"We're just installing our plays, and whatever the defense presents, he's got to react. If it gets out of hand, one way or another, you can kind of adjust. But I think he's done a pretty good job up to this point."
Danny Etling worked behind Love as the second-team quarterback, with Sean Clifford taking third-team reps.
Young receivers getting plenty of opportunities
With the departure of so much veteran talent in the receiving corps, coaches are looking to young guys to pick up the slack. So it wasn’t a surprise to see Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs and Samori Toure trot out as the first-team group.
All three made nice plays throughout 11-on-11 drills, either catching touchdowns from Love or fighting for more yardage against the defense. Coaches have bragged about the weight Toure added in the offseason and he did appear bigger than he did as a rookie. While the Packers plan to cross-train the entire unit, it was most often Watson and Doubs outside with Toure in motion. Rookie receivers Jayden Reed, Dontayvion Wicks and Heath also got a lot of action with Love at quarterback.
Both Doubs and Reed worked behind incumbent starter Keisean Nixon as kick returners as well Tuesday.
The Packers signed wide receiver Jadakis Bonds before practice Tuesday. The rookie was undrafted out of Hampton and participated in rookie minicamp with the Washington Commanders as a try-out player. He practiced with the team Tuesday. In a subsequent roster move, the Packers released first-year tight end Nick Guggemos.
Competition on the offensive line
As coaches have reiterated time and again leading up to OTAs, there will be plenty of competition along the offensive line this offseason.
With that in mind, as well as the absences of Bakhtiari and Jenkins, the lineup is likely to change. But during inside drills and 11-on-11, the Packers ran with some combination of the following six guys working at multiple spots along the line: Zach Tom, Yosh Nijman, Royce Newman, Rasheed Walker, Josh Myers and Jon Runyan.
Sean Rhyan, the third-round draft pick who played only one snap last season and missed the final six games due to suspension, also received a bulk of work at center. LaFleur didn't want to commit to one name this early in the process but has been impressed with the second-year lineman.
"At this time of year, we kind of experiment with a lot of these guys, but absolutely he's a viable candidate to potentially be inside," LaFleur said. "We need more than one guy to snap and we always want to try to train three or four guys to be able to get that done."
Edge rusher battle could be one to watch
Packers pass rush specialist Jason Rebrovich took guys three at a time, working on angles to the quarterback. As he went over details with one young group consisting of Kenneth Odumegwu (international player), Brenton Cox (undrafted free agent) and Keshawn Banks (UFA), Rebrovich told Odumegwu, “you’re gonna have to learn it on the fly Ken, I ain’t got time to go over this.”
Such is the state of the edge rusher unit right now: a bevy of young but raw talent, all being asked to step up while Gary recovers and provide necessary depth behind Gary and Preston Smith for the long run. They need someone to take the reins now.
First-round draft pick Lukas Van Ness will undoubtedly have a eyes on him as that guy. During his session with Rebrovich, Van Ness took the wrong inside step on his first try. After one note from the coach, though, the rookie was able to correct the mistake.
During drills, both inside and during 11-on-11, it was second-year player Kingsley Enagbare who not only stood out, but received first-team reps in Gary’s place. Twice he busted behind the line in a flash, forcing a fumble once and making what would have been a tackle for loss in live reps. Justin Hollins took reps for Preston Smith. During individual drills with Rebrovich, Enagbare not only flashed the best grasp of the move, but added a killer upper cut for extra emphasis.
More:Here is the Packers roster with a position-by-position review ahead of this week's offseason team activities
Safety spots up for grabs, slot appears locked down
With Adrian Amos no longer in the locker room, and Darnell Savage looking to prove himself again, there are safety spots up for grabs all over the field. Savage worked most often as a deep safety during drills. Rudy Ford, who re-signed with the Packers this offseason, seems to have come into his own more. When on the field with the first team, it was Ford moving guys around, telling them who to cover and where to line up before the snap.
The club signed free agent Jonathan Owens, formally of the Houston Texans, this offseason as well. Owens was on the field Tuesday, picking up a new system just a little over a week-and-a-half from being signed. Asked what he can bring to a unit desperate for depth, Owens responded, "Smart, fast and full speed."
"I just come in and compete. There's open room (in the unit) and guys are ready to come in and make you better every day. I just wanna get better every day. I'm not gonna say any guarantees or anything. That's my goal, is to come in, improve every day, learn the scheme, play style, how the coaches want you play and just be a great teammate."
The Packers also have an intriguing option with Keisean Nixon. After being forced into the starting lineup last season due to injuries, Nixon proved he could be counted on close to the ball. Coaches have talked about using him exclusively in the slot and Tuesday, he proved it was the right move. Nixon was everywhere the ball was. From sideline-to-sideline, deep on long shots and even pushing past the line, the nickel was firmly in hand of Nixon.
"I feel like the quarterback out there. I understand what I'm doing and I got a feel for the guys," Nixon said. "Towards the end of the (last) year, I already knew the defense, I already was comfortable, but I started getting more reps, I started a couple of games. But now it's just getting comfortable and I'm comfortable, like from day one, when I got out there, I was like 'OK, these are my guys.'"