Family Night was in full swing Friday night at Lambeau Field as the Packers took the field for practice in front of 60,000 fans.
Family Night is always a great night for fans, first-year Packers players and new coaches. For many of us fans, it is the first chance we get to see the team in action for the year. There were several things that immediately jumped out to me shortly after the practice began, and the team period really answered a lot of questions about personnel, matchups, and scheme. I’m going to touch on each one briefly to give you an idea of what we might see heading into the first preseason game of the year next week.
First off, I was really wanting to keep an eye on what the offense looked like under first-year coach Matt LaFleur. Let me just say this; it seems like night and day compared to what we saw last year under McCarthy. During the team period, there was a fair amount of I formation ran. Usually, there was some sort of quick motion involved with either the fullback or flanker. I really liked to see this, as I believe that quick motion can set players up in better position before the play is ran. For instance, I saw that a few times the fullback would motion quickly to either side and see an outside zone concept ran. This puts the fullback in a better position to lead up on a linebacker or defensive back. Especially if its outside zone, it will help the fullback get to the edge quickly. The defense must also account for this and can sometimes be caught off guard.
When it came to the passing game, I noticed a few 7 step drop concepts that were run. This is something we haven’t seen much of the past couple of years. It could be a testament to LaFleur’s west coast roots. Personally, I love it. Rodgers looked comfortable dropping back and he got a good distance from the line of scrimmage. Everything involving the 7 step drop has to be timed well and quick-hitting. More often than not, we will see some quick routes ran out of this, such as out routes, drags or slants. It’s a good look to establish a drive.
When it comes to the defensive side of the ball, Pettine ran a lot more two inside linebacker looks than I remember seeing last year. The defense was cranking up the heat as they would send 5 or 6 rushers a play. Although they aren’t allowed to hit the quarterback, they looked solid in ball get offs and gap control. Pettine really wanted to challenge the offense it seemed, as he stacked the box several times during the scrimmage.
Tony Brown had a pick 6 on DeShone Kizer. Kizer didn’t look too comfortable in the pocket. It seemed like he had happy feet all night and tried to extend things when he didn’t have to. I felt like he broke the pocket far too many times and tried to make too much happen. Boyle looked like the better of the two during the two-minute drill.
Raven Greene got some reps with the starters later on in the evening. This is most likely because the coaches want to make sure Savage is healed up before he is thrown back in, but Greene held his own. Don’t sleep on him this year. I feel like Greene could come in and do well in the subpackage. He’s a reliable backup in the nickel.
Jake Kumerow and Trevor Davis stole the show offensively. Both players were making great catches all night. Kumerow especially made some impressive catches. Right now I don’t see any way that he doesn’t make this team. If he can stay healthy during the regular season he could be a key contributor to this offense.
Ficken looked good for the most part on his field goals. Throughout the drives that I saw, I counted him going 4-6. It always seems like there is a significant special teams battle during camp, but I don’t see him taking Mason Crosby’s spot.
Overall I thought it was a solid practice for the team. They got to experience Lambeau and put on a show for the crowd. Look for some of these things to translate to next week as the Packers take on the Texans in the first preseason game of the year.
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