GREEN BAY, Wis. — Asked which coaches and players have been most helpful in his transition from safety to inside linebacker, Tariq Carpenter mentioned one name: special teams coordinator and assistant head coach Rich Bisaccia.
Carpenter, a 2022 seventh-round pick, has switched from safety to outside linebacker to inside linebacker before even beginning his second season in the NFL. Bisaccia, he said, has been on his “tail,” even if the 24-year-old might’ve wanted to use another word when speaking with reporters after Family Night inside Lambeau Field on Saturday night.
“Everybody been pretty hard on me,” Carpenter said. “I be walking around trying to make excuses for myself, feeling bad, but everybody else, like I said, just telling me, ‘You a linebacker now. You just gotta suck it up and do (your) job.’ Ever since I came in, Rich been on me pretty hard and he’s just kinda making me tougher, as far as my mental go and I appreciate him for that and yeah, really just Rich.”
Carpenter said that Bisaccia actually visited him this offseason in Atlanta, where Carpenter was training. Carpenter said that Bisaccia wanted to make sure he was in shape (“I was, yeah, for sure,” Carpenter said). Bisaccia tells Carpenter to run every day — he’s a key member of Bisaccia’s special teams units, too — so Carpenter makes sure to constantly run.
“I appreciated him for coming to see me this offseason. I try to go hard for him,” Carpenter said. “It mean a lot. It mean that he care about me. I appreciate him even if he on my tail every day.”
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Carpenter said he feels like a rookie again since he’s trying to master a position he’s never played in his life. He knows there will be bumps in the road and acknowledged he made mistakes during Saturday night’s practice, but it was the good he did that stood out in what Carpenter called “probably my best practice I’ve ever had at the position.”
During a live tackling 11-on-11 period near the end of practice, quarterback Sean Clifford lofted a ball over the middle for tight end Tucker Kraft, but Carpenter leapt to pick it off.
“My eyes were just where they were supposed to be,” Carpenter said. “If my eyes are where they’re supposed to be, a lot of the time, where they should, I make a lot more plays … I got that really just trying to watch Dre (fellow inside linebacker De’Vondre Campbell). You look at Dre and you look at me, we almost got the same build, so I was just watching some film on him tonight and I saw how he was playing and just try to play the same way.”
Later in the period, safety Benny Sapp III laid a thunderous hit on Dontayvion Wicks to knock the ball loose and Carpenter corralled it after it popped in the air.
“I was just in the right place at the right time,” more so crediting the rookie Sapp with the turnover.
“It’s practice at the end of the day,” Carpenter added of his two-pick night. “Don’t really mean much.”
Cool addition to Family Night this year: Coaches and players walking out with their families.
Here’s Preston Smith holding hands with his daughter, AJ Dillon carrying his son and Kenny Clark with his daughter. pic.twitter.com/n8A4nAlCG0
— Matt Schneidman (@mattschneidman) August 6, 2023
Carpenter may not see the field much at inside linebacker with two established players in Campbell, the 2022 First-Team All-Pro selection, and 2022 first-round pick Quay Walker at the position. But Carpenter’s intriguing skill set and build might earn him defensive snaps in certain sub-packages and on blitzing plays, in addition to being a mainstay on special teams coverage units (“I think I’m one of the best cover guys in the league,” Carpenter said of his comfort with special teams).
Carpenter stands a hulking 6 feet, 3 inches and 230 pounds. Asked if any part of him wanted to stay at safety, he said he still views himself as a safety, and then named the traits that coaches feel will make him an even better inside linebacker — length, athleticism, explosiveness, strength coming downhill with speed. The project that the Green Bay Packers have made Carpenter may not pan out on defense even if he remains an integral part of Bisaccia’s special teams, but he’s an intriguing prospect to keep an eye on as the summer progresses, nonetheless.
Here’s what else of note happened in front of the 65,222 fans at Lambeau Field on Saturday night.
Here are the reps from one-on-ones between pass catchers and defensive backs that I put a star next to:
• WR Duece Watts had an impressive contested catch against CB Corey Ballentine on a deep ball from QB Danny Etling
• CB Keisean Nixon had a nice pass breakup on a deep ball from Etling to WR Samori Toure
• Pretty route over the middle by WR Malik Heath against CB Tyrell Ford for a reception
• WR Jayden Reed burned Nixon off the line and was wide open over the middle for an easy catch
• WR Romeo Doubs cooked CB Shemar Jean-Charles and QB Jordan Love put it on him for a deep TD
• S Anthony Johnson (against TE Luke Musgrave), CB Kiondre Thomas (against WR Bo Melton), S Benny Sapp III (against FB Henry Pearson) and Jean-Charles (against WR Jadakis Bonds) had impressive reps on defense in the short red zone
• TE Tyler Davis (against S Jonathan Owens), Heath (against CB William Hooper) and TE Austin Allen (one-handed catch against S Dallin Leavitt) caught touchdowns that stood out in the short red zone period of the drill
• On the last two reps of the period, TE Andre Miller made a contested catch on a fade while drawing a defensive pass interference penalty on S Rudy Ford and Nixon rebounded against Reed with a nice pass breakup on an out route
Good friend Bill Huber of Sports Illustrated watched OL/DL one-on-ones again and came away impressed with left guard Sean Rhyan (had been dominating rookie defensive linemen in this drill but beat Devonte Wyatt twice on Saturday), center Josh Myers (trying to hold onto his starting job, Myers won both reps against T.J. Slaton) and Zach Tom, who will start at either center or right tackle, after beating rookie first-round pick Lukas Van Ness twice.
“These are the best fans in football right here.”
— Green Bay Packers (@packers) August 6, 2023
Love struggled to start team periods, going 1-of-5 passing on his first set of reps. His only completion came on a broken play when he found Musgrave in the flat for what might’ve been a loss of yards in a real game. Love’s first deep ball for Doubs was broken up by cornerback Jaire Alexander, but his second one, after Doubs beat Alexander deep down the right side, sailed past a wide-open Doubs. Love also missed a wide-open Musgrave high on a crosser over the middle and then missed Musgrave high down the seam again while trying to fit the ball over Campbell.
There wasn’t much spectacular or terrible from Love in the next couple team periods until a botched exchange on the first play of the starters’ two-minute drill that ended with Love chasing the ball as it bounced well behind him. Head coach Matt LaFleur reset the clock to two minutes, which the defense didn’t appreciate. However, LaFleur went into the defensive huddle and told them that they had won the first two-minute drill since that botched snap likely would’ve ended a real game for the offense. Love and company took advantage of try No. 2, with the first-year starting quarterback hitting Musgrave for 30 yards down the seam, wide receiver Christian Watson on a slant for 20 yards and Watson on a 50-50 ball in the back-right corner of the end zone, on which Watson mounted Ballentine for a 21-yard touchdown.
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Rookie kicker Anders Carlson had his best day of camp, hitting 8-of-9 field goals to bring his camp tally to 24-for-36 on live field-goal attempts. Carlson’s one miss came from 50 yards (just short) because of a brutal snap/hold. Otherwise, he might’ve gone a perfect 9-for-9. The sixth-round pick made kicks from 40 yards (right hash), 44 (left hash), 49 (right hash), 43 (left hash), 45 (left hash), 51 (left hash), 53 (right hash) and 51 (right hash) at the end of a team period to finish an impressive first night of live kicking inside the stadium.
“He did a heck of a job,” LaFleur said. “It was great again just for him, his first experience in Lambeau with obviously a lot more pressure than you feel in practice. To kick a 50-some odd-yarder right there at the end, I thought he had an excellent day. And quite frankly I thought our snaps were on point. We had a lot of good holds. The operation was clean.
“I think any time you get in an environment like that, it can’t help but build confidence for him. I was super proud with the poise that he showed and the execution, so if we can get that, I think we’re going to be A-OK because he’s got a big time leg. I think you guys can see that and just really happy for him.”
With David Bakhtiari, Elgton Jenkins healthy, Packers may have NFL’s best left side again
Elgton Jenkins missed his first practice of camp with an illness, according to a team spokesman. The left guard was not seen on the sideline Saturday night, unlike left tackle David Bakhtiari, who was in sweats. Bakhtiari is on a heavily modified practice schedule this summer and hasn’t practiced since Tuesday. LaFleur, at least publicly, doesn’t seem to be worried.
“You guys have seen what his situation’s been the last couple years,” LaFleur said. “And it’s just one of those things that we’re going to have to be very flexible with. And what I love about it is I know he’s working really hard. Got a lot of confidence. We’ve just got to find ways to get him to Sundays, so this could be the case throughout camp. It could be the case throughout the season in terms of just how much load we put on him and how his knee reacts.”
In addition to Bakhtiari and Jenkins, outside linebacker Rashan Gary (PUP, knee), cornerback Eric Stokes (PUP, foot), wideout Grant DuBose (NFI, back), tight end Josiah Deguara (calf), offensive lineman Jake Hanson (elbow) and running back Lew Nichols (unknown) also didn’t participate in Family Night.
(Photo of Anders Carlson: Patrick McDermott / Getty Images)
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