Packers: Three takeaways from Day 1 of mandatory minicamp

Green Bay Packers, Aaron Rodgers, Jordan LovePackers08 1
Green Bay Packers, Aaron Rodgers, Jordan LovePackers08 1 /

The Green Bay Packers kicked off their mandatory minicamp Tuesday.

Nearly every player on the 90-man roster was present at practice. WR Allen Lazard was absent but is expected to re-join the team this week after he signs his RFA Tender.

Once Lazard is in the building, it will be the first time the entire team, including the rookies, are all together.

Regardless, there were plenty of notes to be taken from Day 1 of minicamp, as Aaron Rodgers met his new receivers, Joe Barry’s defense appears to be even stronger, and the elite potential of the offensive line.

Aaron Rodgers meets some new friends

It’s always a joy to see Mr. Rodgers return to his neighborhood in the summer. It’s even better when he has a new cast of friends to meet.

The back-to-back MVP met rookies Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs, and Samori Toure for the first time at practice Tuesday. He was also able to link up with free-agent acquisition Sammy Watkins.

Rodgers actually face-timed Watkins after he signed his deal in the offseason.

“There’s definitely going to be opportunities for him to make plays for us in this offense,” Rodgers said Tuesday. “I think he has everything right in front of him to have as productive a year as he wants to.”

Second-round pick Christian Watson was in awe of Rodgers on the practice field.

“It’s crazy to be here and play with him,” Watson said after practice Tuesday.

It will take some time to get the chemistry down, but it definitely appears as though the offense has a great chance to be just as deep as any that Aaron Rodgers has played with.

Especially if second-year WR Amari Rodgers, who has come back to Green Bay lighter (by about six pounds) and quicker, can take another step.

Veterans Randall Cobb and Allen Lazard are going to be solid undoubtedly. Those guys are the leaders of that unit and will provide great leadership. If the team feels the need add one more veteran receiver like a Julio Jones, they have the room ($17 million in cap space).

Green Bay’s defense is LOADED

Defensive coordinator Joe Barry had the Packers performing as a top-10 unit last season.

He didn’t have All-Pro linebacker De’Vondre Campbell until June. All-Pro cornerback Jaire Alexander and Pro Bowl edge rusher Za’Darius Smith were both out for the majority of the season with injuries.

Standout mid-season acquisition Rasul Douglas didn’t come to play for Green Bay until October.

Now, he is looking at an even healthier and possibly elite defense.

In the first practice of mandatory minicamp on Tuesday, the starting defense looked like this:

The interior of the defensive line is even deeper than it was in Matt LaFleur’s first three seasons.

Pro Bowler Kenny Clark and Jarran Reed lead a unit with size and athleticism. First-round pick Devonte Wyatt, seven-year veteran Dean Lowry, and a 340-pounder in T.J. Slaton provide an elite level of depth.

Preston Smith and Rashan Gary are going to sure up the edge and put a lot of pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

It would be even better if GM Brian Gutekunst added a No. 3 edge-rusher behind Smith and Gary. A veteran like Justin Houston, Carlos Dunlap, or Dee Ford.

In the middle of the defense, De’Vondre Campbell is the first-team All-Pro that leads a relatively young but talented room. Another Georgia first-round pick in Quay Walker will help bring elite talent, speed, and explosiveness that Campbell brought last season.

Third-year man Krys Barnes, who started last season, will be a key rotational piece. Backups Ty Summers and Isaiah McDuffie will provide depth at that position and on special teams.

Finally, on the back end, Joe Barry has arguably the best DB room in all of football.

Jaire Alexander, Rasul Douglas, and Eric Stokes only played in one game together last season. That game was in the divisional round against San Francisco. The 49ers couldn’t score an offensive touchdown.

Safeties Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage form one of the best center field duos in the game.

Amos lowers the boom and Savage is one of the better ballhawks at his position. The drafting of a Swiss-army knife in seventh-round pick Tariq Carpenter could be an underrated move, too. The former Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket can play both linebacker and safety.

This is the most talented defense the Packers have had since their 2010 Super Bowl run. This defense’s ceiling is even higher.

Another year, another solid offensive line

For years, the Packers have been able to churn out elite offensive lines. The key is versatility.

After losing C/G Lucas Patrick and RT Billy Turner in free agency, GM Brian Gutekunst added versatile offensive linemen in OT Sean Rhyan, G Zach Tom, and OT Rasheed Walker. Each of those guys can play multiple positions.

On Tuesday, they were out there while All-Pro LT David Bakhtiari and Pro Bowl G Elgton Jenkins were working out off to the side. Bakhtiari should be ready to roll for Week 1 after missing 16 regular season games last year and the team’s divisional round game vs. San Francisco.

Jenkins probably won’t be ready until midseason after tearing his ACL last November. The Packers like to be cautious with these kinds of injuries.

But once everyone is healthy, this entire unit appears to be primed for a solid year.

“I don’t really worry about that group, over the years, they’ve been coached so well,” Aaron Rodgers said Tuesday.

The versatility of this group will be the key to its success.

They have a good 5-7 players who can play multiple positions. C Josh Myers, G Royce Newman, G Jon Runyan, and T Yosh Nijman are all very capable players and have shown that in their short time in Green Bay.

If all else fails, offensive coordinator and former OL Coach Adam Stenavich can just put big Caleb Jones in there. The 6-9, 370-pound OT went undrafted out of Indiana but was signed by Green Bay post-draft.

Imagine if the Packers could hit on his potential too. Regardless of who is out there, they will be very solid.