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PACKER NOTEBOOK: Guards Taylor, Evans shore up Packers line

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Max McCaffrey (13) is tackled by Philadelphia Eagles defensive back Aaron Grymes (38) in the second quarter in a preseason NFL game at Lambeau Field. (Adam Wesley/Green Bay Press-Gazette via USA TODAY Sports)

Rob Reischel

The Sports Xchange

DE PERE, Wis. — In the spring of 2005, Green Bay Packers Pro Bowl guards Marco Rivera and Mike Wahle departed in free agency. Green Bay’s offensive line play was atrocious that season and it took until 2007 before the Packers recovered.

In the last 12 months, Green Bay has lost Pro Bowl guards Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang. But the Packers seem to in far better shape with the emergence of left guard Lane Taylor and the signing of unrestricted free agent Jahri Evans.

“I’m very happy,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “I think our offensive line will compete to be one of the best lines in the National Football League. We’re early in the process.

“Lane Taylor is having an excellent training camp; he’s clearly having the best camp of his career. He’s really solidified the left guard position, he accomplished that in my view during last season. And Jahri, he’s playing good football for us.”

Packers general manager Ted Thompson, who arrived three months before Wahle and Rivera exited, said there was no great lesson from those 2005 departures. Instead, Thompson just hopes he’s better at his job than he was 12 years ago.

“Certainly we hoped that we’d get better and grow and mature as personnel guys and managers of men here,” Thompson said. “And I think we do. I think we anticipate things a little bit more.”

Will Rodgers play?

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers took only 26 snaps during preseason games last summer. Rodgers didn’t play in Green Bay’s preseason opener, and seems likely to sit out this week’s game, as well.

“I would assume this year with Denver being the third preseason game, I’ll play for sure in that one,” Rodgers said. “And that altitude will help with the conditioning because it’s tough to play out there. It’s preseason.

“Mike (McCarthy) wants to look at the other guys for sure (with some) extended time, he feels good about what we’ve got, we’re trying to work our timing in practice with the young guys and the new tight ends. We’ll figure it out as we go.”

Bennett brothers

Seattle defensive end Michael Bennett refused to stand during the Seahawks’ preseason game last week. Packers tight end Martellus Bennett — Michael’s brother — did stand, but had no issues with his brother’s actions.

“I support Michael in everything he does,” Martellus Bennett said. “He’s very well-educated on what it is he wants to happen in the world and what he’s trying to communicate, and I think he does an awesome job. I love him to death, and I think he’s very courageous in the position he’s in and the things that he says, and I’m very proud to be his brother and to see him make the impact that he does — not just with stances like that, but the work that he does in the community, the type of father that he is.

“If there’s anybody you can look up to, it’s Mike. I know sometimes he may come off a little abrasive, but man the dude is such a great guy. He’s always working in the community, he’s always trying to better the young and he’s a progressive thinker. I think it’s awesome.”

Camp surprise

Wide receiver Max McCaffrey, son of former Denver Broncos star, Ed McCaffrey, and the brother of Carolina rookie running back Christian McCaffrey, has been one of the surprise stories of training camp.

Max McCaffrey, an undrafted free agent in 2016, had a team-high seven targets in the preseason opener and finished with three receptions for 60 yards.

“It’s tough coming in as an undrafted guy,” Max McCaffrey said. “I came in later in the year last year, so I definitely want to come out and prove every day I love this game, so every day I get a chance to do it, do it to the best of my ability.”

Linebacker troubles

The Packers have two solid starters at outside linebacker, Clay Matthews and Nick Perry. But Green Bay’s top backups — Jayrone Elliott and Kyler Fackrell — both have had unimpressive camps.

After losing veterans Julius Peppers and Datone Jones in the offseason, the Packers’ depth at outside linebacker is a huge concern.

“I think Fackrell and Jayrone are clearly the next two guys,” Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. “You’re going to see those guys play a lot here through preseason. We’re going to give them opportunities. I think both of them have the ability to make plays.”

Improved corners

LaDarius Gunter’s drop down the depth chart shows just how much better the Packers should be at cornerback this season.

A year ago, Gunter finished the year as Green Bay’s No. 1 corner and was brutalized in the postseason by players like Dez Bryant of Dallas and Julio Jones of Atlanta.

Today, Gunter is no better than Green Bay’s No. 5 corner.

“I think you need to ask him how he’s handled (his demotion) because I don’t really concern myself with how guys are handling those types of issues,” Packers cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt Jr. said. “I’m trying to make sure we have the right six guys to go win games.

“I know he’s a great football player, I know he’s going to help this football team, whichever role that we have him in. And the thing is, if anything that last year taught us is we can’t have one or two guys ready. We need a room of guys ready. So if he starts the year off at No. 1 or he starts the year off at No. 6, it doesn’t matter. The entire room needs to be ready.”

Most improved

One of the Packers’ most improved players this summer has been defensive end Dean Lowry, a fourth round draft pick from Northwestern in 2016. Lowry played sparingly most of last season, came on late in the year, and projects as a starter this season.

“He’s very smart and he does a good job of not repeating mistakes and he’s very coachable,” Packers defensive line coach Mike Trgovac said. “I think he’s just doing the natural process that we thought he would do and obviously where we picked him we thought he was a good football player. That’s probably the biggest thing. Some guys see it fast when they see it live and that probably describes him pretty well.”

NOTES: Long snapper Brett Goode signed with the Packers last Saturday and he’s the odds-on favorite to win that job. Derek Hart struggled at that position earlier in camp, before Green Bay re-signed Goode — a Packer from 2008-16. ... Rookie wideout Malachi Dupre and cornerback Damarious Randall are in the concussion protocol and won’t play Saturday at Washington. Offensive lineman Don Barclay (ankle) also won’t play. ... Rookie fourth round outside linebacker Vince Biegel has yet to practice or play this summer. Biegel had foot surgery in mid-May, and his chances of being ready for the season-opener are in jeopardy.

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