Observations and takeaways from Packers rookie minicamp

By: Paul Bretl 5/4/24

The Green Bay Packers held their two-day rookie minicamp on Friday and Saturday following the 2024 NFL draft–the first opportunity to get the recent draft picks in the building while trying to get them up to speed on everything as quickly as possible.

“Well first of all,” said Matt LaFleur on Friday, “it’s just good to get ’em in the building to start to form a relationship with these guys and find out what they’re all about and try to push them to be their best. You wanna see everything they do, from the meeting room to on the field and how they compete. I think that’s huge for us. 

“I think my time here, Gutey and his crew do such a great job of bringing in high character, especially high football character individuals, guys that truly love the game, that wanna be great and that makes our job a hell of a lot easier and it makes it a lot more fun, too, when you’re working with guys that wanna put in the work, that are willing to do all the little things that it takes in order to be their best and so, yeah, it’s great to get the guys in the building, get ’em acclimated and start to get to know ’em.”

As is always the case at this time of the year, any thoughts or takeaways on what occurred should be taken with a rather large grain of salt. However, there were a things from the locker room availability and two days of practices that did stand out.

What is rookie minicamp? Matt LaFleur prefers to have rookie minicamp right after the draft as a way to get the players in the building right away to give them the playbook and other information prior to joining the veterans for Phase II of the offseason programs on May 13th. The rookies get acclimated to the facilities, meet the coaches, go through meetings, and participate in a few practices.

Who participated? There were 50 players on the Packers rookie minicamp roster. This included their 11 draft picks, the eight undrafted rookies they signed, and several players from last year’s practice squad, such as Grant DuBose, Henry Pearson, Ellis Merriweather, Anthony Johnson (the cornerback), Keshawn Banks, Kadeem Telfort, Joel Wilson and Kenneth Odumegwu. Also invited were 18 players in for a tryout, highlighted by former Washington quarterback Jacob Eason. Below were the tryout participants:

  • Duke punter Porter Wilson
  • Buffalo kicker Alex McNulty
  • Samford receiver Rory Starkey
  • Troy cornerback Don Callis
  • Kansas cornerback Kalon Gervin
  • Pittsburg State tight end Devon Garrison
  • Eastern Kentucky linebacker Logan Blake
  • Texas A&M linebacker Chris Russell
  • Florida International defensive lineman Jack Daly
  • Arkansas defensive lineman Roje Stona
  • California wide receiver Brian Hightower
  • Albany receiver Julian Hicks
  • Iowa State receiver Dimitri Stanley
  • Limestone receiver Drew Dixon
  • Northwest Missouri State receiver Kaden Davis

These tryout candidates aren’t only here to fill out the rookie minicamp roster so the Packers can run some productive 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills, but the coaching staff is taking a good look at each player to see if they want to consider signing them. If the Packers were to make a move, because their roster is currently at max capacity, a cut would have to follow.

“Oh absolutely,” said LaFleur when asked about looking at the tryouts. “That’s always – as a matter of fact, we had some discussions out on the field today. They’ve already started. I think it is best – you gotta go back and watch the tape to really get a better vantage point of how they performed but some guys flashed out there on certain plays and it sparks your interest. As long as they’re out there on the field, they have an opportunity.”

Matt LaFleur thought Edgerrin Cooper and Ty’Ron Hopper “really stood out.” As I was watching the linebackers go through individual drills, you could really notice the quickness and speed that both Cooper and Hopper possess, something Brian Gutekunst spoke very highly of after Day 2 of the draft. Hopper was at inside linebacker – although that doesn’t mean that is where he will stay – while Cooper came away with a one-handed interception.

Former quarterback Alex McGough made the move to wide receiver. My guess is that the Packers go into training camp with three quarterbacks on the roster, which they now have after drafting Michael Pratt. McGough moving to receiver gives him a better chance to stick.

“He’s just he’s a really athletic guy,” LaFleur said. “And one thing that you guys didn’t get to see last year is he spent a lot of time on the practice squad on the scout team running receiver routes. I mean, he did such a great job.

“And you know, we feel like he’s just such a talented athlete, why not give him a chance there? He’s a smart guy, works his tail off. I think he can definitely contribute on “we-fense” (special teams) as well. So we felt like that might be his best chance here.”

While many draft analysts believe Jordan Morgan would be best at guard, he is determined to prove that he’s a starting left tackle, and by all accounts up to this point, that is where he’s going to begin carving out a potential role.

“I was out there today at left tackle,” said Morgan during Friday’s rookie minicamp media availability. “I’m trying to show that I’m a true left tackle and show I’ll be out there on the edge to protect the quarterback.”

My UDFA to watch this summer is Donovan Jennings from USF. Jennings checks a lot of the boxes that the Packers look for in an offensive lineman–he is a very good athlete, is an experienced player coming out of college, and is versatile. While he spent most of his time in college at tackle, the Packers will start him out at guard. On top of that, there is an opportunity to make the team with only Elgton Jenkins, Josh Myers, and Sean Rhyan as roster locks along the interior.

Some quick hits:

  • As the Packers were going through warmups under new Strength and Conditioning coach Aaron Hill, the skill position players were going through different stretches than the bigger players. Warmup also lasted for 20 minutes, which was longer than training camp last summer.
  • It took less than a minute of watching the inside linebacker drills to see the energy that new Linebacker Coach Anthony Campanile brings to the team. Throughout this offseason, you can tell that having more juice from the defensive coaching staff is something LaFleur emphasized as he helped put that group together, including the hiring of Jeff Hafley.
  • As already mentioned, Jordan Morgan was at left tackle. Next to him was undrafted rookie Donovan Jennings and then Jacob Monk at center. You can really see Morgan’s initial burst and quick feet in space.
  • After the draft, Gutekunst talked about Pratt’s “big arm,” and even on easy throws over the middle, you could see the zip he was putting on the ball. It was also noticeable that he was going through his progressions.
  • A name to watch this summer is Henry Pearson, who is listed as a fullback after spending most of 2023 on the practice squad, but he is a prime candidate to fill the Josiah Deguara H-back role. He had a few catches during 7-on-7s. 
  • Right away, we saw the versatility of Javon Bullard and Evan Williams. Both had opportunities as the deep safety, while Bullard took some slot snaps and Williams handled some box duties as well.
  • And speaking of the safety position, you could already see Hafley’s stamp on this defense with quite a few single-high looks.
  • Marshawn Lloy very much looks the part. In a locker room full of NFL athletes, he stands out. On the field when going through drills, his burst was really impressive.
  • Kitan Oladapo was in a walking boot after having surgery a few weeks ago on a broken toe that he suffered while going through position drills at the NFL Combine. He expects to be back on the field for training camp, but in the meantime will really have to emphasize the importance of mental reps to stay as caught up with everything as he can.