GREEN BAY – The third and final phase of the Packers’ offseason program is officially underway.
With the start of this week’s organized team activities, the Packers are scheduled to conduct their first public practice of 2017 at 11:30 a.m. CT Tuesday at Clarke Hinkle Field.
It’s the first of three practices open to the public during OTAs (weather permitting) with the next installments scheduled for June 1 and June 6. Standing-room-only viewing will be available on Oneida Street for fans to follow the action.
The Packers began the offseason program last month with strength and conditioning, individual player workouts and classroom work, but this is the first time players and coaches are able to conduct a non-contact practice. Minicamp is slated for June 13-15, also at Hinkle Field, and also open to the public.
On the eve of OTAs, here are five things to watch when the Packers conduct their first open practice of the year on Tuesday: 1. New additions
General Manager Ted Thompson was busy this offseason, signing five outside free agents (TE Martellus Bennett, TE Lance Kendricks, G Jahri Evans, DT Ricky Jean Francois and CB Davon House). Bennett and Kendricks were signed within 24 hours of each other during the opening days of free agency. Paired with veteran Richard Rodgers, the trio gives quarterback Aaron Rodgers his deepest contingent of tight ends in his 10 seasons as a starter. Evans signed during the week of the draft to help fill T.J. Lang’s vacated post at right guard. The six-time Pro Bowler leads all active NFL offensive lineman with 169 games played. House, a fourth-round pick in 2011, returns after spending the past two seasons with Jacksonville. He adds a veteran presence to the cornerbacks room with only one other player (Demetri Goodson) older than 26.
2. Montgomery’s backfield
Ty Montgomery has only 80 career carries on his NFL ledger, but that didn’t stop Head Coach Mike McCarthy from proclaiming the third-year playmaker the Packers’ starting running back after the NFL Draft concluded. After making an in-season switch from receiver to the backfield in 2016, Montgomery now has the opportunity to spend the offseason in running backs coach Ben Sirmans’ room. Montgomery’s first impression in the backfield was positive. He led Green Bay with 457 yards and three touchdowns on 77 carries (5.9 yards per attempt). Now, the 24-year-old running back will look to set the tone for a room that welcomes three rookie draft picks – Jamaal Williams, Aaron Jones and Devante Mays – and returns fullbacks Aaron Ripkowski and Joe Kerridge.
3. Second-year spurt
Kenny Clark, Dean Lowry and Kyle Murphy are on the verge of their second NFL seasons, but this will be their first time going through organized team activities after having to sit out last year because their schools – UCLA, Northwestern and Stanford, respectively – run on the quarters system. Overall, the Packers return 13 players from their 2016 rookie class who will be looking to take the next step. Clark, a first-round pick a year ago who turned 21 last October, looks to continue his upward trajectory after a strong finish to his rookie campaign.
4. Subtle changes
McCarthy has made a few references to possible changes during the third and final phase of the Packers’ offseason program. That includes new individual drills the team will be utilizing in practice and putting a greater emphasis on the passing game. It remains to be seen how obvious the changes will be, but McCarthy said he and his coaching staff began incorporating some of the modifications during rookie orientation earlier this month.
5. Competition brewing The Packers will have competition at several key positions this summer, but OTAs and minicamp will offer the first glimpse at the punting battle between incumbent Jake Schum and rookie Justin Vogel. Claimed off waivers from Tampa Bay near the end of training camp, Schum averaged 43.2 yards per punt (39.1 average net) with 19 inside the 20-yard line on 56 attempts. Vogel started his collegiate career at Florida before transferring to Miami (Fla.), where he averaged 43.0 yards per attempt on 183 career punts, including 67 inside the 20. The Packers also currently have only one long-snapper, James Madison’s Derek Hart, on the offseason roster. Veteran Brett Goode remains a free agent.