Packers Rookies Learning From the Veterans at OTAs

OTAs are an important part of the NFL’s offseason. It is the first opportunity for rookies to get a feel for the pro game and for them to make an impression on the coaching staff, the very people who will determine whether they make the team and how much they will get to play.

While there are limitations to what can be accomplished in practices without pads, important learning does go on during OTAs.

As the Green Bay Packers conclude their final week of OTAs, one thing has become abundantly clear: the rookies and younger players are learning a lot from watching their veteran counterparts. Several rookies have gone out of their way to make that point during their press conferences. It only helps the perpetuate the Packers team culture during a time when the team is going through some off the field turmoil.  

First round pick Eric Stokes was quick to point to what he’s learned from watching and interacting with Jaire Alexander, one of the best cornerbacks in the league.

“My first impression was, ‘hey, that dude is a freak,’” Stokes admitted. “On the first day, he had a PBU (pass broken up) on the sideline. The wide receiver clearly caught it and he came and punched it out. I’m standing on the opposite sideline and my eyes were like, wow, he’s different. I’m just trying to pick his brain apart, learning everything, how to get the ball out, how to do this. And the little things you don’t see like outside of practice, how you constantly work out. Even before practice he’s constantly doing all this stuff to prepare. Watching him is learning from the best.”

Wide receiver Amari Rodgers also appreciated his interactions with Pro Bowl receiver Davante Adams and cited the Packers top wideout as someone he can learn a lot from.

“It was amazing,” Rodgers told reporters. “That was my first time dealing with him in person, being able to pick his brain a little bit and I was able to add something to my toolbox. He’s one of those player-coaches so if you don’t know something you can go to him and he knows it because he’s been in the game, he’s experienced and he’s probably the best receiver in the game right now in my opinion so being able to learn from him, being in the same room as him, is only going to help me carry what he teaches me throughout my whole career. Hopefully, I can be where he is so that’s my goal and I’m just happy to have the opportunity to be in the same room as him.”

When asked what he learned from watching Adams, Rodgers was quick to respond. “Just his releases, how he gets off the line of scrimmage. Nobody’s able to touch him when he’s on the ball. You know how smart he is, how quick he is with his feet, how physical he is on the line of scrimmage and after that, his route running is amazing. That’s something I’ve been studying since I’ve started to learn the position at wide receiver.”

Amari Rodgers admitted he spent time at Clemson watching cut ups of Davante Adams in isolation, studying his moves on film. But now, “Being in the same room and actually being able to listen to him break down his own routes, break down the coverages, our offense, learn from him, it’s just even better for me. I’ve already been studying but now being in the same room as him I feel like it’s going to accelerate my game.”

Rookies can learn from the veterans who play the same position as they do, but they can also watch other players on the team and learn from their example.

Rodgers was also impressed by Aaron Jones who was one of the few starters who attended the final week of OTAs even though they were not mandatory for him.

“It showed a lot,” Rodgers said when asked about Jones’ presence at OTAs this week. “He’s a vet, he doesn’t have to be here but he was here from day one, being that example, being that guy that every guy was looking at. Once he gets the ball, once he catches the ball, he’s finishing. He’s been that example, that guy in camp that you look at and say, ‘that’s the way I need to practice.’”

The most successful rookies will be the ones that can glean information from the veterans at OTAs and then incorporate those little things into their own practice habits, game preparation and film study. So far, Amari Rodgers and Eric Stokes seem to be making the most of this opportunity in their first taste of playing for the Packers. 

You can follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

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9 points

Comments (16)

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gkarl's picture

June 17, 2021 at 12:24 pm

Let's just hope the rookies don't learn the wrong thing from the vets that didn't make the OTA's.

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PatrickGB's picture

June 17, 2021 at 12:47 pm

Football is a team effort. As Matt likes to say it’s 11 on 11 and each person needs to do its job for the whole team. I imagine that when the whole team does well then it makes each individual look good. As a vet on a team, a winning record looks good for me as an individual. Helping a new player actually helps a veteran player as well. It’s a mindset that benefits all. That’s part of the reason that Matt likes to say that he has a great locker room.

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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

June 17, 2021 at 01:48 pm

ARod should remember all that!

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LambeauPlain's picture

June 17, 2021 at 12:50 pm

Both young men will play a lot this year as long as they are blessed with good health. In fact, I see the 2021 Packer draft class with many contributors this year. And in 2, 3 years it may one of the best in many years.

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TarynsEyes's picture

June 17, 2021 at 01:20 pm

With the NFL inducting more college rules, the time for rookies to adjust or compete to the level of expectation when and why drafted should not need the same years of waiting, as has been the rule of thumb. I've said, not long ago, players need to develop faster and coaches need to coach them up faster. The QB's that come out in the first round the last few years have adapted quickly to the NFL version of College, and that trend will grow and the other positions not doing the same will be more the failure of the QB position, than the QB himself. The QB is the number one position and dictates the rest cannot lag behind too far, on either side of the ball. Leaders shouldn't need to lead with the others miles behind when the battle comes to actual battling, they must be as equally ready or more so than the leader in their attributes and contributions. I hope they are fast learners and can contribute more than the possible new leader because he will need them to be such.

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CheesyTex's picture

June 17, 2021 at 02:46 pm

Well said.

And, should the "...possible new leader..." be called upon to take the reins, we can only hope he starts stronger and develops faster than his possible predecessor did.

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greengold's picture

June 17, 2021 at 03:02 pm

Yeah, TarynsEyes. That was a big pet peeve of mine with Dom Capers, who held fast to his rule of not playing rookies, to the detriment of possible team success, even though some were clearly better, faster players.

You're right. Not all players are alike in their abilities to process information and perform at high levels. Some are very fast learners.

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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

June 18, 2021 at 09:30 am

GG,
Wonder how much of Capers decisions were driven by MM who did the same thing on offense? MM was not an exceptional coach nor was he even an above average coach.

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Swisch's picture

June 17, 2021 at 10:06 pm

So it's not only about what a player can gain for himself by going to OTAs, but what he can contribute to his teammates. Just being there helps the team grow in terms of working together to improve combined performance. Then there's the element displayed in this article, veterans helping young guys to learn and grow.
This also carries over to the preseason. Aaron Rodgers bothers me when he says publicly he doesn't need to play all that much in preseason games, that it doesn't really help the offense to gel.
However, what if the coaches think it's important for Rodgers to get more than a little action in the preseason, not just for his sake but for the good of the whole offense growing in cohesion and efficiency? Rodgers seems to be manipulating public opinion to make the coaches look bad if they supposedly force him to play in the preseason more than he wants. He is in effect daring the coaches to play him, in the sense of discouraging the coaches from playing him.
Another possible example of Rodgers being manipulative may be him saying he really likes Jake Kumerow as a wide receiver just before the team has to decide which players to keep at the beginning of the season and which players to cut. As the Packers did decide to cut Kumerow, it looks like they are acting against their superstar quarterback. Rodgers put the front office in an awkward position by speaking up about a matter that is not his responsibility.
I could be way wrong about these things, and am quite open to other viewpoints. If I'm right, though, it seems Rodgers needs to stop interfering in matters that properly belong to the general manager and head coach. He needs to be quiet about such things, or at least a lot more careful. For example, he can compliment his teammates, but not in a way that in effect challenges his bosses to do things his way.
I write this because I would still be glad for Rodgers to come back to the Packers for one more season of going all in for a Super Bowl. However, he has to be committed to do what his superiors in the team hierarchy ask of him without trying to slyly manipulate public opinion -- which would seem to risk causing discontent and disunity amongst his teammates.
I want Rodgers back, but not as a diva trying to call the shots that are outside of his job description. As the team leader on the field, he has to set an example for following the coaches to the other players, not an example for undermining the coaches. Perhaps Rodgers has a role in making private suggestions about the team, but not publicly.
It's not about the front office or the coaches being better or more important than Rodgers, but about respecting proper roles in an organization for it to function at its best.
I still wonder if in the NFC Championship Game last season against the Bucs, Rodgers was truly heeding his coaches in the second half. With first and goal from the 8, for example, was Rodgers stubbornly doing things that more or less contradicted what the coaches were going for? Would he do so again in similar situation?
I don't know -- but a quarterback acting that way isn't going to lead us to a Super Bowl. He's too smart for his own good, the good of the team, and the good of the fans. He's stepping on the toes of his bosses in a way that will cause the team to malfunction and ultimately fail.
Maybe the Broncos would be okay with that; it would be the ruin of the Packers if they accept any player -- even a superstar quarterback -- usurping power.

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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

June 17, 2021 at 02:00 pm

Swisch,
You make an interesting point that I hadn't thought of.

Yes, Rodger's should QB and stay out of trying to influence FO personnel decisions. I always assumed when Rodger's publically gave Kumerow an atta boy it was simply during middle of camp, and coincidentally cut him a few days later. Now you have me wondering if Kumerow got cut at a designated roster reduction deadline. Does anyone know if there was a roster deadline coming up when Kumerow got cut? Curious if there was some roster reduction window and Rodger's intentionally was trying to influence the FO leading up to the deadline. To me if that was the case it makes a difference as it shows Rodger's intentionally trying to interfere vs Gutey allegedly trying to discredit Rodger's.

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greengold's picture

June 17, 2021 at 02:55 pm

It was cutdown Saturday in trimming their roster to 53, Sept 5th, 2020. Kumerow was cut that day in favor of WR Malik Taylor as their #5 WR.

Kumerow ranked #9 on the team in 2019 with 12 catches, 3 fewer than Big Dog.

Kumerow ranked #8 on the team in receiving yards with 219 yds, 34 fewer than RB Jamaal Williams.

Malik Taylor has 4.4 speed. In his RARE 6 targets through 16 games in 2020, Taylor caught 5 of them for 66 yds, 13.2 Y/R, 1 TD and 4 1Ds. He had a long of 26. 83.3% Catch % and a Drop% of 0.0... His rating when thrown to was 152.1. LOL. Taylor also had 1 rush for 9 yds on a jet sweep.

Whitewater Jesus' biggest cheerleader made his comments that Thursday prior.

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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

June 18, 2021 at 09:55 am

Thanks GG!

Always appreciate your research and the time you invest.

Sure appears Rodger's tried manipulating and influencing the FO by making his comments. I'd say this piece of information is very informative!

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greengold's picture

June 18, 2021 at 10:55 am

It kind of speaks to that, doesn't it? Kumerow's numbers were a shit show in 2019. That's a fact. His Catch% was 57.1%. 12 receptions on 21 Targets.

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greengold's picture

June 17, 2021 at 02:33 pm

That's a good piece, Gil! Thanks for sharing that.

Our WR, RB, OL, DL, CB and S positions have great mentors there to help the young guys. QB and ILB are lacking to varying extents, though I'm sure Bortles is helping with what Love is taking in these days. Maybe Campbell will be able to help Barnes, Martin, Summers and Wilborn through with helpful insights, etc.

You know Bakhtiari is willing to help all of the younger players. We have a ton of them there. Great to see Jaire and Davante sharing what they can too. I think about TJ Slaton, and how much fun he must be having picking Kenny Clark's brain...

TJ Slaton, to me, seems like an outlier who could really surprise once the games start for real. I know he wanted and was getting higher snap counts as his last season wore on, up into the 60s. He remarked how much he liked getting a bigger chunk of the workload on the DL at Florida. Would be pretty cool if he can be a solid, regular contributor here with Kenny Clark. I think the two of them together could do some serious damage.

That whole WR room has to be like, "Oh, wait. It's my turn to talk to Davante!!!"

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Gman1976's picture

June 17, 2021 at 03:51 pm

It’s pretty simple: Great teams have great teammates (who take the time to coach up one another). So glad to hear it is happening in Packerland.

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Coldworld's picture

June 17, 2021 at 04:38 pm

It’s not just the play, it’s really more influencing habits, physical and preparatory. Help the rookies put themselves in the best position.

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