3 positive takeaways from Packers OTAs and 2 concerns

Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur
Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur / Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

The Green Bay Packers are making progress toward the 2024 season with their ongoing organized team activities.

One week remains of this year's OTAs, leaving only a three-day minicamp before the team takes a break before training camp. The overall feeling is positive, with the Packers making significant changes on defense while adding reinforcements to the offensive line and running back room in recent months.

This offseason's work sets the Packers up for another potential playoff run in the unpredictable and talented NFC North.

What have we learned from Green Bay's OTAs?

Key positive and negative takeaways from Packers OTAs

Positive: Packers are buying into new defensive system

The Packers are making a dramatic change to their defensive philosophy, going from the conservative two-shell system under Joe Barry to a more aggressive approach under Jeff Hafley. While that sounds great, it only works if the players buy-in. And they absolutely are.

"Ooooooh, I love Hafley," said cornerback Eric Stokes, via The Athletic's Matt Schneidman. "He just want you to go out there and have fun and just play 110 miles per hour and that's what I love about Hafley ... he always say, 'Imma go ahead and take the bullet. You just go out there and just have fun and you just play."

And Stokes isn't alone. Kenny Clark could benefit more than anyone from the new scheme, which allows him to focus on disrupting the offense and making plays.

"Now this is giving us a chance to shut all that other stuff off … just use your ability, go up the field and be disruptive. I just think with my get-off and how I am, I think it's going to suit me well," said Clark, via Wes Hodkiewicz of Packers.com.

The players have bought in, which is half the battle for a new defensive coordinator.

Negative: Injuries already hurting Packers

The Packers can seemingly never catch a break with injuries, and it has already started this offseason. It felt like every player on the roster missed time with a hamstring issue last year, so it's only fitting that Josh Jacobs has that exact injury to begin OTAs.

Fortunately, Jacobs hasn't missed much time, but there is less good news about Zach Tom and Tucker Kraft, who are both dealing with pec injuries and are expected to be out until training camp.

Matt LaFleur revealed that Lukas Van Ness "broke his thumb a little bit," which explains his absence from practice, while rookie safety Kitan Oladapo had surgery for a toe injury.

Positive: Eric Stokes looks 'as good as I've ever seen him,' says LaFleur

Getting Eric Stokes back to full strength will give the Packers' defense a significant boost. Stokes has barely played since suffering significant foot and knee injuries in 2022. His return was disrupted by continuous hamstring injuries, which the Packers aimed to solve this offseason.

Stokes was sent to Badger Athletic Performance in Wisconsin to find the root cause of their hamstring issues, and it appears to have paid off.

"I think he's as good as I've ever seen him. Both mentally and on the field," said Matt LaFleur. "He looks fully healthy. He's doing a great job of challenging our wide receivers, he's always in great phase, and I think you see that personality is back."

LaFleur stressed that it's important to "temper the expectations," but it's an encouraging sign.

Negative: Uncertainty over Jordan Love's new contract

The Packers have had the opportunity to extend Jordan Love's contract for almost a month, but there appears to be no progress as of yet. Love didn't give the most convincing answer when asked about the negotiations.

"I don't really know what's going on, but we'll see. But I'm not gonna get into too much contract stuff," said Love, via The Athletic's Matt Schneidman.

We're nowhere near hitting the panic button, but the Packers don't want this issue dragging into the start of training camp, where it could become a distraction.

Positive: Jaire Alexander is motivated and ready to bounce back

Tell us you didn't like Joe Barry's scheme without telling us. That's what Jaire Alexander is doing.

The 2023 season was a bizarre one for Alexander. He skipped the voluntary offseason program, missed nine games due to back and shoulder injuries, and then received a one-game suspension from the Packers.

We're seeing a completely different Alexander this offseason.

"Ja's been outstanding," said head coach Matt LaFleur. "Again, he's been here every day, shows up, great attitude, eager to learn, is out there competing with the guys, talking trash, which I love because I love just amping up that level of competition in a fun way."

Alexander said he is "trying not to make it as much about myself and just do what's best for the team."

A more aggressive scheme under Hafley should help Alexander play at his All-Pro best, and he is motivated to remind the league how good he is.

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