The Green Bay Packers training camp battles that matter the most for the regular season
It’s a solo newsletter from Peter Bukowski today for the Juneteenth holiday. We are less than six weeks away from training camp and that means more for some part of the Packers roster than others. For whom will camp be most important for impacting the regular season? We tackle that topic and more in today's edition of The Leap.
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With very few open positions on the roster, for what part of the team will training camp be most essential?
Peter Bukowski: The obvious answer would be receiver, with so many new pieces and the task of replacing a superstar along with another key role player. But it’s not my answer; It’s the offensive line.
We have to see David Bakhtiari come back and until we do, the worry about his injury status will linger. The right guard spot will be up for grabs with Royce Newman battling rookies Zach Tom and Sean Rhyan for that spot. Presumably Yosh Nijman will win the right tackle job in the absence of Elgton Jenkins, but we also don’t know for absolute certain the Jenkins position change is coming and won’t until we see him back on the field.
What’s more, the offensive line position changes far more than the receiver position going from shells to full pads. A 7-on-7 rep can closely mirror what a pass catcher sees in a game setting, but there’s little to be gained from line reps without pads except for the mental aspect of the game. A player like Newman, who struggled at times to recognize twists and stunts last year, needs those mental reps to be sure, but he can’t prove he’s a better blocker than Tom or Rhyan without the pads on.
Who is the rookie you’re most excited to see on the field?
PB: It’s easily Christian Watson. He’s shown flashes through the spring and his speed clearly shows up in the NFL. Forging a connection with Aaron Rodgers will take time and we won’t see those two together in actual game settings through the exhibition season when Rodgers won’t play.
Family Night or training camp practices will be the only time before the regular season opens to see those two in action together. On the other hand, if he pops with Jordan Love under center, it will be easy to get excited about the prospects of him working with the four-time MVP.
Watson complements Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb as a trio extremely well and while Sammy Watkins will be running ahead of Watson early on, the Packers clearly believe in this talent. So far, that appears to be a smart bet.
Rich Bisaccia wants to change the culture of special teams in Green Bay. What aspect of special teams seeing improvement would most benefit the team?
PB: For years under previous special teams coaches, coverage reigned as the constant issue. The Packers would give up big returns and set their defense back having to defend short fields. That has been the least of the issues, though still a problem, in the Matt LaFleur special teams disaster era.
Fix. The. Blocking. It’s been a mix of bad technique and bad personnel decisions leading to disastrous blocked kicks and punts. Two blocked kicks doomed the Packers against the 49ers in a game they lost by what amounts to one of those kicks.
Whether it was Tyler Lancaster standing like a statue blocking no one as the end man in field goal situations or the interior protectors on the punt team blowing assignments to let free rushers blast into the backfield, this has to change and if it does, the Packers special teams immediately takes a huge step. Just don’t be terrible. It’s a low bar but one all too often uncleared in Green Bay over the last decade.
PB: Something sad happened on Packers Twitter Sunday, and then something bizarre. The Packers official Twitter account sent out a post commemorating the Juneteenth holiday, one that celebrates the ending of slavery in the United States. I would think that was the kind of thing we could all agree was worth celebrating.
There was a cohort of people annoyed by this, that the Packers would send this post on Father’s Day, even though it was also Juneteenth. It’s pretty sad anyone would even feign political outrage over a tweet celebrating the end of slavery. That part was gross.
What happened next was also weird to me (though not equally disappointing, to be clear). A steam of “the replies to this are gross” came in from people pointing out the stupidity of those claiming to be upset by the tweet. But a loose count from my feed showed far more people complaining about the complainers than actual complaints.
(Maybe I’ve just muted the right people and if that’s the case, I’m even more glad for that function on Twitter.)
It’s important to call out bad behavior, but let’s not give oxygen to a small group of morons on the internet. Spreading it only gave a larger platform to the troglodyte fans by highlighting their words. I would have much preferred to see people celebrating the Packers for putting out the original tweet than amplifying the small group of people who can’t walk and chew gum.