Packers aren’t hiding their big plans for rookie TE Luke Musgrave


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GREEN BAY, Wis. — The Packers ran an end-around from the 7-yard line during Wednesday’s joint practice against the Patriots — not just any regular end-around, but an end-around to a tight end. And a rookie tight end, at that, who stands 6 feet 6 inches and 253 pounds. Luke Musgrave is special, and the Packers seem hell-bent on making the most out of him.

Forget that the play didn’t gain much (it’s always tough during non-tackling periods to tell how much running plays would gain in games): The mere fact that Green Bay ran a tight end end-around in the deep red zone in a public practice against another team (the Patriots!) is notable, let alone that it exists in the playbook and was even a thought of head coach Matt LaFleur and his staff in the meeting room.

I talked with Musgrave in the locker room after practice, and he chuckled when I asked about the last time he ran an end-around in the red zone.

“Those are awesome,” the 22-year-old out of Oregon State said, clearly giddy about the play. “We would rep ’em in college. I had a few in college, but we never ran it in a game. So hopefully that (in Wednesday’s practice) doesn’t get me kicked off that end-around because I kind of got out-leveraged, but those are awesome … those are fun, so hopefully we keep on doing it.”

Can you imagine Robert Tonyan running an end-around in the red zone? Jimmy Graham? That might have gotten LaFleur fired on the spot. Even Jermichael Finley in his prime? The Packers aren’t hiding that they have big plans for Musgrave. The rookie second-round pick is running end-arounds, go routes and everything in between as he flashes his potentially lethal combination of freakish athleticism and contested catch prowess (he’ll need to clean up a couple drops, however).

“Yeah, we did do that, yeah,” quarterback Jordan Love said smiling. “When you’ve got a guy that’s as fast as that, like Luke, just try to find different ways to use him. Yeah, it’s interesting. It’s a new play for us, something we haven’t been able to do in the past, but with his speed, like I said, just trying to find ways to use him.”

That wasn’t the only notable play involving Musgrave on Wednesday. On the first pass of a period near the red zone, Love, under pressure, found Musgrave with a perfect ball down the seam for a 25-yard touchdown. Musgrave wasn’t exactly tightly guarded, and that’s not the first time this summer we’ve seen the guy who might become Green Bay’s most dangerous pass catcher relatively wide open.

“That’s a really good play concept,” Musgrave said. “It’s kind of like the old scissors, where I’m in like that hip pocket of that Z receiver. He takes the corner angle and I just come off his butt to that high post, so that’s a really well-developed play and a really good throw by Jordan, so I don’t know if I necessarily beat somebody on that. Just a really good play, but I expect to get open. I’m fairly confident in myself and my ability to get open, so whether I get open or not, I expect to usually on those plays.”

Wide receiver Christian Watson scored his first career touchdown in the NFL on a jet sweep against, you guessed it, the Patriots. That came in Week 4 last season from 15 yards out, and he had another jet sweep go 46 yards for a touchdown against the Bears later in the season.

You’d think Watson, supposedly the fastest player on the team, is the designated end-around specialist in Green Bay. Right? It might be time to think again.

“I’ve been joking about it the last couple days,” Watson said. “I’m not getting any more of the jet sweeps. I’m not getting any more of the reverses or anything, so I would be lying if I said there wasn’t a part deep down in me that misses doing that stuff, but at the end of the day my number is still getting called in other areas and (rookie receiver Jayden Reed) and (Musgrave) are making plays out there, so the more people who can go out there, the more value we can create in other areas, the more open I’m going to be on something else, so I can’t complain.

“From the moment (Musgrave) stepped on the field, I’ve been in awe of the kind of stuff he can do — running down the seam, playing outside, running go balls, beating corners down the field. He’s definitely been a specimen out there, and I’m excited to see what he continues to do.”

Here’s what else of note happened during the first of two joint practices between the Packers and Patriots.

Love’s day

I watched Green Bay’s starting offense against New England’s starting defense all day, and I thought Love was clearly above average. That’s all the Packers need him to be this year, if that. He completed 16 of 28 passes, and the Patriots’ stingy defense made it tough on him for a stretch in the middle of practice, but Love certainly got his. He was accurate, tight with his spiral (again) with the exception of one wobbler incomplete deep down the middle, and he even connected on a couple big plays.

The three most notable ones? That 25-yard touchdown pass to Musgrave down the seam, a 15-yard touchdown strike to receiver Romeo Doubs, who made an impressive catch in the front-right corner of the end zone against rookie first-round cornerback Christian Gonzalez, and a 75-yard touchdown pass to Watson, who ran across the field before catching a pristinely thrown bomb down the left sideline past Gonzalez and safety Jalen Mills.

“We just ran a good concept right there,” Love said. “I was pretty much just looking at (Doubs) coming across on the left side, and the DB hesitated a little bit and it gave me the chance to be able to hit Christian over the top on a field post. It’s just a concept we run a lot. We haven’t had any success hitting the field post yet this year, so that was actually the first one we’ve hit, so it was fun to hit that for the first time.”

Most of Love’s passes to start team periods were of the short and intermediate variety. He completed bullets over the middle to Watson and Reed and a couple of swing passes to running back AJ Dillon before taking a shot deep down the left side to Watson with Gonzalez on him. The ball was put on the money, but Watson, who has struggled with drops at times this camp, had the ball go right through his hands for what might have been another touchdown.

After Doubs’ touchdown in the red zone, Love and the offense hit some bumps. Backing up and under pressure, Love threw incomplete near the goal line to Doubs. He hit Reed on a perfectly thrown ball in the back of the end zone where only Reed could get it, but cornerback Marcus Jones pushed Reed out of bounds before he could get two feet down while holding onto the ball. After the end-around to Musgrave followed, safety Adrian Phillips blanketed tight end Josiah Deguara for a nice pass breakup on a crosser just short of the goal line.

To start the next move-the-ball period, Love uncorked one to Doubs down the right side that fell barely beyond his reach after Doubs cleared two defensive backs. Then came the dead duck deep down the middle with Love under pressure that luckily fell incomplete. Then a Matthew Judon “sack” and a pass to the flat that turned around Dillon before falling incomplete and the Packers’ progress on offense from earlier in practice had vanished.

That’s when Love unleashed the bomb to Watson for a touchdown and later marched the Packers down the field from their own 30-yard line in a two-minute drill with five completions, three to Doubs and two to Watson, before Anders Carlson missed a 40-yard field goal.

All in all, it was another impressive day for the 24-year-old, especially facing another tough test in Bill Belichick’s defense.

“I think it was a good day,” Love said. “A lot of things to clean up, to work on and then obviously a lot of good things. But once again, I think it was just good for us to go against a new defense, see some new looks. They threw a lot of stuff at us today. It’s just really good for our development to keep seeing new looks, different things and just go back and look at the film and see what we did.”

Carlson made his first five kicks of the day, a PAT followed by makes from 42, 44, 49 and 51 yards. He then missed that 40-yarder wide right at the end of the starter’s two-minute drill and was well short from 43 yards into the wind during a two-minute drill, clock-isn’t-stopping period in which the field-goal team rushed onto the field. I have Carlson at 43-of-61 on field goals this camp, (not so) good for 70.5 percent.

One of the connections of the day came to win the two-minute drill for the Packers’ No. 2 offense, when Sean Clifford connected with receiver Malik Heath deep down the right sideline for a touchdown. Clifford put it on the money and Heath, who continues to state a strong case for 53-man roster inclusion, made a diving catch while colliding with the pylon.

New injuries: Inside linebacker De’Vondre Campbell missed practice with an ankle injury, and wide receiver Bo Melton was a DNP because of a hamstring issue. Cornerback Jaire Alexander returned to team drills in a limited capacity after nursing a groin injury. Defensive standouts, according to my guy and Sports Illustrated’s Bill Huber, included cornerback Rasul Douglas, safety Tarvarius Moore (starting alongside Darnell Savage Jr.), rookie defensive lineman Karl Brooks and defensive lineman Jonathan Ford. Defensive lineman Kenny Clark (back) also didn’t practice for the second consecutive day. Left tackle David Bakhtiari didn’t practice Wednesday, but LaFleur said he’s expected to on Thursday.

Rasheed Walker, the 2022 seventh-round pick, got more work at left tackle with the 1s on Wednesday (so did Yosh Nijman with Bakhtiari out). The fact that Walker is at least getting some reps there implies that he’s a roster lock and in contention for the swing tackle spot that Nijman has held down recently.

Here was the synopsis from The Athletic’s Chad Graff after watching New England’s offense against Green Bay’s defense.

And one more thing: For some reason, chatter of Bakhtiari getting traded to the Jets resurfaced on my timeline Wednesday. Stop with the nonsense. The Packers aren’t trading an elite left tackle to a team that they want to be bad this season for draft pick’s sake. It would take an ungodly offer for general manager Brian Gutekunst to even entertain the thought. Not only that, but having one of the best in the league at his position to protect Love’s blind side during his first season starting seems rather important. Oh, and then there are the financial reasons trading Bakhtiari this season makes no sense. Let’s revisit this topic after this season. Deal?

(Top photo of Luke Musgrave: Patrick McDermott / Getty Images)

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Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams is a writer and editor. Angeles. She writes about politics, art, and culture for LinkDaddy News.

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