GREEN BAY – Aaron Rodgers is awfully good at the two-minute drill.
If any of the 66,397 fans in attendance at Lambeau Field for Family Night on Sunday had any doubts, all they had to do was watch.
Rodgers needed 13 plays to drive the offense 65 yards for a score that led to a Lambeau Leap en masse into the north end zone stands, one of the highlights of the annual training camp event.
The Packers’ defense didn’t make it easy, forcing five incompletions plus a spike to stop the clock, though a couple of the missed throws appeared catchable. In any event, it came down to fourth-and-1 from the 3-yard line with seven seconds on the clock, and Rodgers’ quick flip over cornerback LaDarius Gunter to Randall Cobb was good for the TD.
“Aaron does a great job of running the two-minute, handling the down-and-distances, play selection, and particularly the situations, when to call timeout, take the clock play,” Head Coach Mike McCarthy said afterward.
Before the TD, Cobb caught two passes for 28 yards on the drive, and tight end Richard Rodgers had two grabs for 31. Three of those four completions came on third down.
McCarthy also liked that, just before the TD on third-and-10 from the 12, with no one open in the end zone, Rodgers took a short completion to Jared Abbrederis at the boundary to set up the do-or-die fourth-and-1.
“It put more stress on the defense,” McCarthy said. “As a defense, if you’re holding them out of the end zone and you get up to nine, 10, 11 plays, it comes down to discipline, focus and endurance. It was a heck of a drill for both sides.”
The second-string work was beneficial for both sides as well, approaching double-digit plays with backup QB Brett Hundley getting his unit within striking distance. McCarthy believes that once a two-minute drill gets up to seven plays or so, the advantage shifts to the offense, but a “sack” by outside linebacker Jayrone Elliott with 10 seconds on the clock ended that one.
“What an incredible practice environment,” said McCarthy, who couldn’t thank the fans enough. “Great night of work. It gives us a chance to get into a game-like atmosphere.”
Earlier in practice, the half-line run drill was hard-hitting and fast-paced. Running backs Eddie Lacy and John Crockett appeared from the press box view to be hitting holes quickly, and on defense both Mike Daniels and Clay Matthews blew up plays in the backfield.
The work on pad level and combo blocks on offense and run fits on defense is just getting started with three practices in pads so far, and McCarthy promises more to come.
“You do 24 reps at the rate and the physicality that we do it, that’s how you get your football team ready,” McCarthy said. “There’s a number of things you’re getting done there. You can’t have enough of that.”
The practice concluded, as usual, with a field-goal session by kicker Mason Crosby. He went 6-of-8, with both misses getting blocked, one by Morgan Burnett.
Overall, the key accomplishment was getting all of the rookies their first taste of an NFL atmosphere. That will only help as the preparation for five preseason games continues with what McCarthy is calling a “big week” with three more night practices on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday.
“You look at how they respond,” McCarthy said. “This is another challenge, and everything we do from a training standpoint is to put challenges in front of our players.
“You see the wide eyes, especially when they walk out there, but at the end of the day it’s about playing football, whether you’re in front of six people or 67,000.”
Hodkiewicz: Masthay feeling at home on Family Night
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