The Green Bay Packers are in the midst of training camp as they prepare for the 2021 season. From now until the end up camp in late August, Wisconsin Sports Heroics will bring you the most important notes from each day’s practices.
Za’Darius Smith Is Back in Camp
The Green Bay Packers really hit a home run with the signing of Za’Darius Smith ahead of the 2019 season. He has made two straight Pro Bowls and has become a leader in the locker room. Unfortunately, Smith has not been able to participate in training camp due to a non-football injury. Today, however, he made his first appearance in camp.
Zadarius Smith with his first appearance of #Packers camp. pic.twitter.com/QJlkx6dWZf
— Eli Berkovits (@BookOfEli_NFL) August 11, 2021
Smith did not take part in regular team drills. Instead, he did some rehab workouts on the sideline. Still, his presence in camp is a good sign that he is close to returning.
The Defense Is Going to Be Very Different
Last season, one of the main frustrations among Packers’ fans was that the Mike Pettine defense seemed ineffective at times. To be fair, the Packers did finish the regular season as a top-ten defense overall. However, this was in large part due to a string of great games late in season. When it mattered, however, in the NFC title game, the defense did not play at its best.
For that reason, among others, Mike Pettine’s contract was not renewed and Joe Barry was hired. So far, the play calls on defense look much different than last season:
One thing that’s been missing at practice, dime packages. Plenty of nickel but our days of heavy dime might be behind us
— Perri Goldstein (@perri_goldstein) August 11, 2021
The dime defense is when a team will use six defensive backs, usually in obvious pass play situations. A nickel defense is where there are five backs. Presumably, this means that the Packers will have an extra linebacker or pass rusher in these packages to either stop runs or rush the passer. Stopping the run, in particular, was a glaring weakness of the Packers’ defense in 2020.
One of the reasons for the Packers’ struggles on defense was inconsistent play from the inside linebacker position. Christian Kirksey was injured for much of 2020, leaving rookies Krys Barnes and Kamal Martin with the majority of the snaps at the position. Kirksey is now playing for the Houston Texans, and the Packers have brought in DeVondre Campbell as a veteran to help shore up the defensive attack. It seems to be working thus far in camp.
LB group seems pretty well defined:
1s: Campbell and Barnes
2s: Burks and Summers
— Paul Bretl (@Paul_Bretl) August 11, 2021
This is not all too surprising given the fact that Barnes received a lot of time wearing the green dot last season. Oren Burks and Ty Summers are each young linebackers who have shown flashes of promise in their young careers.
Special Teams Will Be the Way onto the Team for Some
As reported recently on this site, the Green Bay Packers are stacked at wide receiver. The question is how many of them will make the team. There are certain locks, such as Davante Adams, Randall Cobb, and Amari Rodgers. MVS and Allen Lazard, too, are considered locks for the roster. Therefore, if any of the other wide receivers are to make the team, it will have to be on special teams. Camp hopeful Reggie Begelton admitted as much in his press conference following camp.
Reggie Begelton: book of quotes.
-Said competition in the WR room is fun.
– “1% better every day” is the clear motto this camp.
-Said Jordan Love is getting more comfortable with the way they each run routes.
-Acknowledged special teams as important for a guy in his position.
— Nicole Menner (@NicoleMenner) August 11, 2021
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