GREEN BAY, Wis. – The man they call Ja-Money broke up a pass, then celebrated in the only logical fashion.
Late in the Green Bay Packers’ minicamp practice on Wednesday, Aaron Rodgers and the No. 1 offense was driving on the starting defense. On a fourth-and-5 from the defense’s 40, Rodgers went deep to receiver Christian Watson. Jaire Alexander ran stride-for-stride with the promising rookie, jumped toward the roof of the Don Hutson Center and broke up the pass.
Alexander bounced onto his feet and used the make-it-rain hand gesture.
“The day before, they did that same route and the receiver [Juwann Winfree] caught it on me and scored in practice,” Alexander said. “Today, Aaron Rodgers was out there. He was trying to be superhuman-alien like he is and tried to score on me. I had to get it up out of here, and then I had to celebrate with my boys. That’s what we’re going to do all year.”
Alexander held court with reporters for the first time since signing a monster contract extension on May 16. The cornerback trio of Alexander, Rasul Douglas and Eric Stokes could be the best in the NFL.
“Straight savages,” he said.
And that could mean a powerhouse defense.
“Just nasty. It’s just nasty, honestly,” he said.
That’s the idea. The Packers’ defense dominated the playoff loss to San Francisco. Alexander played a handful of snaps in that game in his return from a serious shoulder injury. This offseason, the Packers added veteran defensive tackle Jarran Reed and used first-round picks on linebacker Quay Walker and defensive tackle Devonte Wyatt.
The potential is there to be great. But, at this point, it’s only potential. A victory in Wednesday’s two-minute drill was a small step in the right direction.
“We’ve got to play a game first,” Alexander said. But “we’ve got all the pieces.”
Toure in Two-Minute
The two-minute drills were the most competitive segments of the day.
After Aaron Rodgers was thwarted, Jordan Love for the second consecutive day got the offense into the end zone. A big reason for that was the play of Samori Toure. While fellow draft picks Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs have garnered plenty of hype in the spring, the rookie from Nebraska was sensational.
“Two-minute is one of the most competitive periods of the day,” he said. “It’s just replicating that situation with the game being on the line. That’s when you want to step up and make plays. I feel like me and J-Love, we’re on the same page on a lot of the stuff. He was putting the ball right where I wanted it and I was right where he wanted me to be. I feel like we were just clicking.”
After his 5-yard catch set up a third-and-5, Toure beat cornerback Kiondre Thomas for a gain of 29 to the defense’s 41. One play later, Toure was at it again. He went over the middle, made a terrific all-hands catch, and took off for the goal line. He might have scored but was called down at the 2 – perhaps for the good of the drill. After outside linebacker Tipa Galeai’s end-zone deflection, Love found Watson for the touchdown.
The defense won the drill, though. The touchdown made it 28-27. Coach Matt LaFleur went for the go-ahead two-point conversion, but Love’s pass to Watson was denied with a spectacular breakup by linebacker Krys Barnes.
“It means a lot,” Toure said, “just being able to make plays in a competitive period and being able to go out there and show people what I can do.”
Play of the Day
During a third-down period in the red zone, Kurt Benkert fired a touchdown pass to receiver Amari Rodgers. Rodgers had a step on safety Innis Gaines and made a super, diving catch in the middle of the end zone.
Rodgers lost 6 pounds to improve his explosion and stamina.
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“I feel like the reason why I wasn’t able to play as much is because I wasn’t in shape the way I wanted to (be),” he said. “I wasn’t able to go out there and play fast the way I wanted to because my body type and how much I weighed and how I was moving. I really took that to heart this offseason. I brought a chef in, focused on conditioning every single day doing something so I can get a good sweat in so I keep my body and my weight down.”
Player of the Day
Along with two-minute drill catches, Samori Toure had an excellent toe-tapping catch to convert a third-and-10 during a red-zone period.
For the second consecutive day, Dominik Eberle handled all the field-goal attempts. He made 3-of-5 attempts. He nailed the first three, kicks from 40, 42 and 49 yards, but drilled the left upright from 51 and came up short from 53.
As has been the case throughout the spring, receivers Randall Cobb, Amari Rodgers and Romeo Doubs were the three options on punt returns. Doubs muffed one, an Aussie-style kick by Pat O’Donnell. Gunner Rico Gafford was in Doubs’ face and recovered the ball.
The snaps from Steven Wirtel and Jack Coco weren’t awful but they weren’t good enough, either, which has been a theme during the practices that have been open to reporters.
The did-not-practice list had three additions: starting cornerback Eric Stokes, receiver Juwann Winfree and undrafted rookie linebacker Ellis Brooks.
Also out: Kicker Mason Crosby (unknown), running back Kylin Hill (knee), outside linebacker Randy Ramsey (ankle), offensive lineman Elgton Jenkins (knee), left tackle David Bakhtiari (knee), tight end Robert Tonyan (knee) and defensive linemen Dean Lowry (unknown) and Hauati Pututau (unknown) were present but didn’t practice.
Ramsey, who suffered a serious injury at practice on Aug. 2 and had surgery a few days later, expects to practice when training camp begins.
– There will be no third day of minicamp. Coach Matt LaFleur scrapped that for a team-building event. The offseason will conclude with three OTA practices next week. Aaron Rodgers will not be in attendance.
– Wednesday’s practice, which was supposed to be open to fans, was moved indoors because of the rain.
– Without Eric Stokes, Keisean Nixon joined Jaire Alexander and Rasul Douglas as the cornerbacks. In the Aaron Rodgers-led two-minute drill, Nixon had an excellent re-route of an out-and-up deep shot to Christian Watson. On the next play, Nixon broke up a pass intended for Sammy Watkins.
– Douglas had a pick-six against Aaron Rodgers – it appeared Rodgers and the receiver weren’t on the same page – and Shemar Jean-Charles snared a deflection by Krys Barnes and intercepted Jordan Love.
– The No. 1 offensive line has been Yosh Nijman at left tackle, Jon Runyan at left guard, Josh Myers at center, Royce Newman at right guard and Cole Van Lanen at right tackle. On Wednesday, Van Lanen and Nijman flip-flopped occasionally.
– After a play, one of the receivers tossed the ball across the field to Aaron Rodgers. Randall Cobb raced from behind and, playing the role of defensive back, knocked the ball away from Rodgers. Rodgers sat out a few minutes flexing his fingers but returned to action.
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