GREEN BAY — With incumbent third-string quarterback Tim Boyle absent due to a personal matter, Manny Wilkins got extra snaps during Saturday’s practice. And to hear coach Matt LaFleur tell it, the Green Bay Packers rookie No. 4 quarterback might’ve earned himself even more extra work moving forward.
“What a great opportunity for him,” LaFleur said after watching Wilkins lead the No. 3 offense to two touchdowns in three tries against the No. 3 defense in the final 11-on-11 competitive period of practice. (The final touchdown would be reviewed during film sessions, since Wilkins scored on a scramble but might’ve been hit short of the goal line by linebacker Curtis Bolton had quarterbacks been live.)
“I wasn’t with him the whole time, but there were some good things that I saw that he did. … I’m interested to see the tape today. The one thing I like about Manny is he does have a lot of athleticism that he can create some off-schedule (plays) like you saw at the end of the practice there. (He’s) a young quarterback that I think has continued to show some progress.
“I think he is, quite frankly, earning himself some more reps as well.”
LaFleur acknowledged at the start of camp that finding enough work for four quarterbacks is a challenge, and that’s one reason why some 11-on-11 periods have had two groups going on simultaneously at opposite ends of the field. But he’s also said that players at every position will earn extra snaps and receive them as the coaches dole them out. And it appears Wilkins, an undrafted free agent from Arizona State who visited the Packers before the draft, has earned more.
Wilkins said the key for him has been grasping the offense, which he understandably struggled with when he arrived at the post-draft rookie camp in May. Now, he’s not overwhelmed by wordy play calls and knowing what he’s supposed to do on as many plays.
“When the play is said in my ear, I don’t have to think about it because I’ve been studying,” Wilkins explained. “Now I go out there and I call the play, there’s a different type of look I can give these guys that are in the huddle. I can be more confident with what I’m saying. And it puts them at ease a little bit more because I’m not stuttering or whatever it would be. Presence is a big part of playing this position that we play, so having a calming presence in that huddle now is helping me take the next step in terms of being comfortable. Man, I’m going to make mistakes. That’s what I feel practice is for – the things that you don’t know, that you mess up on, to learn from those and not make those same mistakes again. Every day I go out there, I try to better myself.“
Despite Saturday’s practice being the first in quasi-pads — wanting to ease his team into padded work, LaFleur had players in shoulder pads but not full pads — LaFleur intentionally kept it short: 1 hour, 41 minutes. LaFleur said that was by design and not in response to temperatures being in the upper 80s.
“It’s just a training principal. Usually the third day is when most players are a little more susceptible to an injury. So, I just thought that it was, take it back a little bit today, then crank it up tomorrow,” said LaFleur, whose team will be in full pads today. “This is a marathon, it’s not a sprint. Shoot, we’d like to be out here as coaches all day. But you’ve got to be mindful of these guys and their bodies because in this league, you really can’t afford to lose any of your players.
“I don’t think half an hour is going to matter come the season, but if you lose a guy, that can certainly impact things.”
Some of LaFleur’s predecessors — most famously Mike Holmgren, but also Mike Sherman and Mike McCarthy — were prone to first-week eruptions when their players didn’t look sharp or seemed sluggish. LaFleur hasn’t flashed his temper yet, but he does have a couple of bugaboos that are starting to irritate him: zn inconsistent tempo between drills and a host of pre-snap penalties.
LaFleur said he wanted to watch the practice video to determine if some of the penalties were on the offense or defense, but acknowledged it was an issue regardless.
“That’s something I stressed to the team afterwards. ‘We have got to be more disciplined. Period. There’s no doubt about it. There was way too many pre-snap penalties,’” LaFleur said. “And also, as the team, our sense of urgency. There’s room for growth there.”
For the second straight day, the Packers added a running back to the mix, claiming Darrin Hall off of waivers from the Cincinnati Bengals and releasing guard Larry Williams. The Packers were without running back Jamaal Williams (hamstring) and defensive lineman Fadol Brown (calf) during Saturday’s practice. … Veteran right tackle Bryan Bulaga did not practice but only for “veteran rest,” LaFleur said. … Second-year wide receiver J’Mon Moore had a fantastic contested sideline catch against cornerback Tony Brown for a 25-yard touchdown from No. 2 quarterback DeShone Kizer. … Kicker Mason Crosby (calf), cornerback Josh Jackson (foot), safety Darnell Savage (tooth), linebacker Kendall Donnerson (hamstring) remained sidelined. … Linebacker Greg Roberts remained on the physically unable to perform list.
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