The Green Bay Packers welcomed the Houston Texans to the Don Hutson Center as it was the first time since 2005 the Packers hosted a joint practice with another team during training camp. The two-day joint practice didn’t disappoint as there were some good, some bad and some excitement.
During these two days, it was a struggle for the offense to get anything going, but there were some bright sides. Aaron Rodgers made some nice passes as he was zipping into some tight coverage and hitting the check down routes. Davante Adams and Robert Tonyan got open a few times and made some nice catches. The player that has stolen the show so far is Danny Vitale. Vitale is mostly known for his blocking, but his skills as a route runner and catching ability from the fullback position is going to be fun to watch. UDFA QB Manny Wilkins hasn’t been on the field for much, but that’s not stopping him from making the right plays. OL Billy Turner has been a great signing as he was blocking some Texans defensive lineman five yards down the field, while OL Elgton Jenkins tosses players to the turf.
— Green Bay Packers (@packers) August 5, 2019
There were more negatives than positives during these two days. The running game never got going, especially with Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams out due to injuries. Jimmy Graham struggled the most as dropping passes is still an issue that lingered from last year into the summer. The second and third-team offense has also had some issues. DeShone Kizer has struggled as he has been overthrowing the football by five to ten yards throwing ugly interceptions.
Most of the bright stuff has come from the defense. The first day, the Packers defense was causing havoc to DeShaun Watson and the Texans offense. The Packers front is going to be hard to block in passing situations as rookie edge rusher Rashan Gary was causing some issues. Also, Za’Darius Smith continues his phenomenal camp as he was just making the Texans offensive line just look silly. Montravious Adams has enjoyed a good game and has shown that he’s just too quick and strong. Defensive Coordinator Mike Pettine is going to love his huge front seven. The secondary has looked solid as Jaire Alexander has had some good battles with WR DeAndre Hopkins and Adrian Amos recorded his first interception in training camp. Tony Brown has also held his own and seems like he’s flying up the depth chart.
Rashan Gary making it look easy against Matt Kalil. 👀pic.twitter.com/Vovhuj4Fs1
— Sports Notes🎙 (@TheSportsNotes) August 6, 2019
Day two, the Packers defense took a step back. They still made some plays, but the Texans made adjustments and were able to score a few touchdowns. Some touchdowns were through the air, but the main problem came on the run as Lamar Miller in both days gashed the Packers. Watson made some nice throws over the middle and Hopkins made some plays, which both are expected to happen. The issue was that it happened too often.
The main attraction from the joint practice were the two fights on separate days. On the first day, Texans’ second-round pick Lonnie Johnson Jr. delivered a huge hit on Packers rookie Jace Sternberger in a non-contact session. The hit was so hard that Sternberger’s helmet flew off, but then Johnson decided to stand over Sternberger and flex his muscles. The Packers immediately took issue and a fight broke out. Johnson would be sent off to the locker room. Texans’ Head Coach Bill O’Brien said “It’s not a big deal” while LaFleur expressed that “there was no place for that.”
It was rookie on rookie crime, Packers TE Jace Sternberger was hit hard by Texans CB Lonnie Johnson and then flexed over him.pic.twitter.com/iIXxfBzWzY
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) August 5, 2019
Before day two could even get underway, Johnson posted a picture to Instagram of his hit to Sternberger.
Texans CB Lonnie Johnson posted this on Instagram tonight. This is the hit on Packers TE Jace Sternberger that began today’s fight.
Bill O’Brien kicked Johnson out of practice but said the incident wasn’t a big deal. Packers strongly disagreed.
Joint practice No. 2 tomorrow… pic.twitter.com/oILE32Aaap
— Matt Schneidman (@mattschneidman) August 6, 2019
O’Brien did not let Johnson practice in day two and when O’Brien was asked why he sat him out, his response was, “Just decided to hold him out.” Sitting Johnson didn’t stop tempers from being flared. Za’Darius Smith tangled with Texans OT Matt Kalil. They were some punches thrown but peace was quickly restored. There has been no report on why the two went at it, but Kalil was getting beat by the Packers rush in both days, so perhaps just frustration.
Sounds like it was LT Matt Kalil https://t.co/cS4oDDKxOp
— Rob Demovsky (@RobDemovsky) August 6, 2019
Overall, it was a tough two days for the Packers offense. It’s still early, so there’s no reason to panic, but work has to be done. The Packers have to get their run game going, even without Jones and J. Williams. I wouldn’t worry too much on this as there’s plenty of time to figure out how to improve it, especially where LaFleur is probably going to favor the run in these preseason games knowing the issues.
Injuries are starting to rake up for the Packers and they haven’t even played a preseason game yet. Jones, J. Williams, and Kevin King are out due to hamstrings, Sternberger out due to concussion-like symptoms, Preston Smith dealing with back issues, Trevor Davis with a stinger and Tra Carson with neck spasm. None of these injuries are serious as they are mostly precautions.
It was a fun two days for the Packers and Texans as Green Bay fans haven’t experienced a joint practice in 14 years. We don’t know when the next one will be as LaFleur is looking to get another joint practice this year, while Rodgers has said, “I’m glad it’s over.” Now, both make good points as LaFleur likes the competition and seeing where they can improve, but Rodgers doesn’t like seeing the injuries. Nonetheless, it was unique to see these two teams practice together, but the Packers need some work. Hopefully, we can see the Packers fix their issues in tonight’s preseason game against the Texans.