During the offseason, quarterback Aaron Rodgers spoke hopefully about the second-year contributions of veteran tight end Jimmy Graham.
After a relatively slow start to camp, Graham is gaining steam. His 32-yard touchdown reception from Rodgers against safety Adrian Amos was one of the plays of Tuesday’s practice. On third-and-17, Graham ran a post route. Rodgers saw the one-on-one coverage and threw the ball to the outside. Graham made a beautiful adjustment and caught the ball in stride for the score. As always following one of his touchdowns, he capped the play with a huge spike of the football. Most of the offense sprinted downfield to celebrate.
“Jimmy and I have great communication and I think we have really chemistry on the field,” Rodgers said after practice. “It’s just a matter of getting in positions where he is the first read, where he is the second read or where he is in the initial progression of the play, because you see the talent. You saw the adjustment today on that throw where I had to throw him out of it, and he’s just so smooth in making those plays. He has a great feel for distribution on plays and spacing and timing. He’s a Hall of Fame talent, and we’ve got to get him the opportunities so he can reach his potential in this offense. I think we’re going to do it based on the schemes and the approach in getting him in some of those positions where he can be the first or second read in a progression.”
Graham also scored two touchdowns on Sunday.
“This is an offense where they match up a lot of formations and the run to the pass,” Graham said recently. “For me, that’s all good. And they like to use the tight end quite a bit. So I think we’ve got a dynamic group of tight ends and we’ve got a good mix of veterans and young kids, and I’m excited to see what we’re going to do this year. I really am.”
In a third-down period, Rodgers moved the chains on 4-of-7 passes against the No. 1 defense. After “losing” on third-and-12 and third-and-10, Rodgers took advantage of a coverage bust for a long gain to running back Aaron Jones on third-and-8, Alex Light delivered the key block to spring rookie Darrius Shepherd for a big gain on a receiver screen on third-and-7, Davante Adams beat Chandon Sullivan in the slot on third-and-4 and Rodgers lofted a pass over defensive back Will Redmond for a long gain to tight end Robert Tonyan on third-and-2.
Speaking of Jones, these were his first team reps since suffering a hamstring injury on July 30. He will not play against the Ravens, though. The rest of the starters are expected to play about a quarter, coach Matt LaFleur said.
While Rodgers won the third-down drill, the No. 1 defense won a two-minute drill. The pass rush was phenomenal. After a defensive penalty, outside linebackers Za’Darius Smith and Rashan Gary came free off the offense’s left side to force a throwaway on first down, Jaire Alexander broke up a pass to Adams on second down and outside linebacker Preston Smith sacked Rodgers on third down. On fourth-and-17, Rodgers went deep to Adams, who made an acrobatic, leaping catch against Alexander and safety Darnell Savage for a gain of 42. That put the ball on the defense’s 27. After Rodgers stopped the clock with 12 seconds later, Gary drew a holding penalty on All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari to end the drill.
“When we have that D-line that they can throw at us in the two-minute situation of the Smiths and Rashan and Kenny (Clark), that’s a pretty tough four-man rush,” Rodgers said.
The Packers had punt and field-goal drills. In three full-field punts, J.K. Scott had kicks of 41 yards with 4.53 seconds of hang time and 33 yards with 4.20 seconds of hang time into the wind and a 62-yard bomb with 4.89 seconds of hang time with the wind at his back. His two other kicks were goal-line punts. The first was coaxed a fair catch at the 13 and the other sailed into the end zone.
On field goals, Mason Crosby and Sam Ficken hit all three chip-shot attempts of 27, 32 and 37 yards.
Starting inside linebacker Oren Burks might not miss the entire season, after all. He told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Tom Silverstein that his torn left pectoral could heal through time rather than surgery.
“Hopefully, this will be a short term thing with Oren and we’ll get him back in the fold soon,” GM Brian Gutekunst said before practice.
Out: WR Trevor Davis (stinger), CB Kevin King (hamstring), S Josh Jones (illness), RB Jamaal Williams (hamstring), ILB Oren Burks (chest), FB Danny Vitale (calf), FB Malcolm Johnson (groin), CB Kabion Ento (calf), TE Jace Sternberger (concussion) and DT Fadol Brown (calf).
New: S Josh Jones (illness).
PUP: S Ibraheim Campbell (knee), OLB Greg Roberts (core muscle).
Returned: WR Equanimeous St. Brown and TE Evan Baylis. St. Brown made a couple impressive catches on back-to-back plays, including a diving grab over the middle.
The Packers will play their second preseason game at Baltimore at 6:30 p.m. Thursday. The team will then move into its regular-season schedule. After off-days on Friday and Saturday, the team will work at 1:30 p.m. Sunday and Monday – the final open practices of camp – and again on Tuesday ahead of next Thursday’s preseason game at Winnipeg against the Oakland Raiders.