GREEN BAY – It was one play in the Green Bay Packers’ first day of practice in pads, so Kyler Fackrell wasn’t looking to make a big deal out of what he’d done.
But considering what an important season the third-year outside linebacker is facing – after two years of limited defensive production as a former third-round pick – beating All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari in the first 1-on-1 pass-rushing drill of camp Saturday qualified as an accomplishment.
And, Fackrell hopes, a harbinger of things to come.
“It always feels good to beat Dave, because it doesn’t happen very often,” Fackrell admitted with a smile. “Anytime you win any one-on-one it feels good. But to win against Dave is really the highlight of the practice.”
For Fackrell, feel-good moments have been too few and far between in his first two seasons. He’s seen action in 32 of a possible 35 games (including playoffs) since the Packers took him with the 88th overall pick in 2016 NFL Draft, and he has only five sacks to show for it.
Fackrell saw his most extensive playing time last season, when injuries allowed him to play in all 16 games (two starts) and log 447 defensive snaps (42.5 percent) after playing primarily on special teams as a rookie. He finished second on the team in quarterback pressures (20) and did have productive games against Cincinnati early in the year (five pressures, two QB hits), against Baltimore at midseason (seven tackles, one sack, two additional tackles for loss) and against Minnesota near the end of the year (a sack, three pressures and one QB hit).
But because he was a relatively high pick and his production has been intermittent, Fackrell knows this season is an important one.
“I wouldn’t say ‘make or break,’ but I definitely think there’s a high sense of urgency for me to produce and just improve and get better every day,” said Fackrell, who has gotten extensive first-team snaps in practice with Nick Perry (ankle) on the physically unable to perform list and the coaches monitoring Clay Matthews’ practice snaps. “I do try to keep a calm demeanor, but there’s no doubt since Day 1 I’ve felt pressure. You always feel pressure to perform. So yeah, I think there’s pressure (this year). There’s pressure now as much as there has been.
“I know Year 3, there’s supposed to be that jump from Year 2 to Year 3, and I expect that from myself and I know that’s expected from the coaches as well.
Fackrell certainly didn’t take as noticeable a second-year leap as fellow defensive players Kenny Clark and Blake Martinez last season, but coach Mike McCarthy suggested Saturday morning that Fackrell likely had further to come after leaving Utah State needing to bulk up and adjust to NFL-style defenses (and offenses). Fackrell said he added about five pounds of muscle this offseason to bulk up to 250, but he also admitted that adding weight is a struggle for him.
“When players come into your program, they’re clearly on different levels in the first year (based on) whatever their experience was in college, their transition, whether they’re playing a different position – all those things. You’ve got to factor that in,” McCarthy said. “So when a guy doesn’t make that jump the second year, you go ‘Whoa.’ But it’s really in the second year of his development, not as far as just his timeline of (if) this is his second year here.
“In Fackrell’s (case), he has great understanding of what we’re doing, he’s playing all four downs. And I think to play the position and do the things we’re asking him to do, he’s had to put on some weight. So really now coming off of this second offseason program, I think you’re seeing a lot different player clearly than when he was a rookie.”
Said Fackrell: “I think from (Year) 1 to 2 they expected a big jump, and from 2 to 3 they also expect a big jump. (But) nobody has higher expectations for me than I do.”
Kumerow’s big break
Following a strong practice Friday, former UW-Whitewater wide receiver Jake Kumerow got a number of snaps with the first group and quarterback Aaron Rodgers – showing that McCarthy’s “Every opportunity is earned” mantra rings true.
“He’s really stood out throughout the spring. He’s been extremely productive with his opportunities. He’s still climbing and scratching,” McCarthy said of Kumerow. “That’s really nothing new for us. I’ve seen what he’s done here. But like anything, practicing in helmets is a lot different than practicing in pads, so we want to see everybody make progress today.”
Jones sits out
Running back Aaron Jones sat out the first in-pads practice of training camp with hamstring tightness, but he said afterward that the medical staff isn’t too concerned. And neither is he.
“Just being cautious,” Jones said.
With Jones out, Jamaal Williams and Ty Montgomery got the bulk of the first-team running back reps, while Devante Mays and Joel Bouagnon got additional reps, too.
The Packers have a league-mandated off day Sunday before returning to practice Monday.
After two days of practices in shorts, the energy certainly was up for the first day of padded work. “When the pads come on, you can just really cut loose,” defensive lineman Mike Daniels said. … McCarthy said he had no update on the whereabouts of fifth-round pick Cole Madison, who was placed on the reserve/did not report list and has yet to arrive at camp because of what the team termed a personal matter. … Right tackle Bryan Bulaga once again did work on the side with an athletic trainer during practice and reiterated how good he feels. …