The Green Bay Packers concluded their second day of practice at mandatory minicamp Wednesday. There will be team building exercises on Thursday and then the players will have six weeks off before the start of training camp on July 26th. Here are five key takeaways from the Packers mandatory minicamp:
Packers Minicamp Takeaway 1: There May Be a Battle at Punter
The Packers brought in Daniel Whelan to challenge Pat O’Donnell for the punting job this year. On Wednesday, Whelan looked extremely strong.
He had better hang time than O’Donnell overall and looked like a solid challenger. Obviously, this is one day and we’re not even at training camp yet, but Whelan looks like he has a strong leg and had good hang time.
Both O’Donnell and Whelan took turns holding for field goals and extra points which is something O’Donnell did very well for the Packers a year ago.
The battle will likely continue when training camp gets under way.
Packers Minicamp Takeaway 2: Jayden Reed Getting a Look at Punt Returner
Keisean Nixon has secured the kick return position after his All-Pro season last year. The Packers also expect Nixon to be their nickel back and he may even see a few snaps on offense if he gets his way.
But while Nixon is a natural kick returner, running back punts is not as natural for him. Matt LaFleur, defensive coordinator Joe Barry and special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia may want to reduce some of Nixon’s workload so as not to wear him out and to maximize his effectiveness.
As a result, Nixon and rookie second-round pick Jayden Reed have been splitting time returning punts this week.
Reed averaged 15-yards per punt return at Michigan State, so he has the experience to do the job. If he wins it, it could get Reed more involved during his rookie season and prevent Nixon from being overworked.
Packers Minicamp Takeaway 3: Malik Heath and Carrington Valentine Continue to Impress
Wide receiver Malik Heath and cornerback Carrington Valentine have impressed the coaching staff throughout OTAs and minicamp. Neither player came in with big expectations.
Heath turned heads again on Wednesday with two more catches during a seven-on-seven drill. While the undrafted free agent is a long shot to make the final roster, he is making a strong case for a spot on the practice squad and making it tougher for the team to cut him with each successful practice he has.
Meanwhile, LaFleur said that Valentine has done “an unbelievable job” throughout OTAs and continues to shine.
It’s still early but both players are making a strong first impression.
Packers Minicamp Takeaway 4: Lukas Van Ness Has Elite Speed
First round pick Lukas Van Ness continues to use his speed and anticipation to get pressure on the quarterback and track down ball carriers.
Depending on who’s been in the lineup, Van Ness has been with the first, second or third-string unit. Right now, it appears Preston Smith, Kingsley Enagbare and Justin Hollins are ahead of him on the depth chart. That’s to be expected as the coaching staff wants him to earn his position.
Van Ness needs to add some secondary pass rush moves and become more consistent at reading plays, but he continues to show great natural ability thus far.
Packers Minicamp Takeaway 5: Jordan Love Continues to Learn
Starting quarterback Jordan Love continues to show his talent and that he is still learning. He was unable to lead the offense to the end zone during the team’s two-minute drill although none of the team’s three quarterbacks did.
All three quarterbacks worked on their progressions during 7-on-7 drills and on their footwork.
For the day, Love completed 8-of-12 passes including some nice passes over the middle to Luke Musgrave and Josiah Deguara. He also threw an interception which was picked off by De’Vondre Campbell.
Love is still learning. That process will continue throughout training camp and the preseason but he’s also making some throws that show why he was a first round pick as well.
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