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Packers new LBs make strong first impression at rookie minicamp

It was only two rookie minicamp practices in early May, and as Matt LaFleur made sure to point out, there’s a long way to go. However, rookie linebackers Ty’Ron Hopper and Edgerrin Cooper made strong first impressions out on the practice field.

“I thought they really stood out in my opinion,” said LaFleur on Friday. “It was a great Day 1, but there’s a long way to go, and they’ve got a lot to learn.”

An emphasis for GM Brian Gutekunst as he went through the draft was getting faster on the defensive side of the ball. From a straight-line speed standpoint, both Cooper and Hopper have that. Cooper ran a 4.51-second 40-yard dash, while the Packers clocked Hopper in the 4.5s as well.

On the practice field, both Cooper and Hopper showcased that speed in the run game, flowing towards the sidelines to fill running lanes, as well as in coverage. On one play, Cooper was tight in coverage on tight end Joel Wilson on a deep corner, while Hopper was in on some pass breakups.

“Obviously, a lot of speed, right,” said Gutekunst after Day 2 of the draft about Cooper, Hopper, and Javon Bullard. “They bring a lot of speed. These guys are really good football players. They run and hit.

“Cooper,” added Gutekunst, “the speed that he brings to the table at the linebacker position is rare. So I think we got a lot faster, which I wanted to do this weekend.”

From an alignment standpoint, Hopper was often at middle linebacker for the Packers’ defense with Cooper outside–although that could very well change as they get deeper into offseason programs.

Along with speed, another point of emphasis at the linebacker position for Gutekunst was on adding versatile players who are “interchangeable” and able to wear a variety of hats.

Gutekunst mentioned that he didn’t want to pigeonhole a player into a specific role. Instead, the linebackers are going to be expected to know the responsibilities for each of the Sam, Mike, and Will roles that comes with a 4-3 defense.

“That’s one thing I take pride in myself, being versatile,” Cooper said. “I feel like I can be at any spot. Outside, that’s my go to. But if I move inside I’m sure I can handle that, too.”

Naturally, each player is going to take on more or less responsibilities within each of those specific positions, but the Packers are a ways off before determining that, and as LaFleur often says, they’ll remain fluid when it comes to assigning roles.

“It’s just new right now,” said LaFleur of Hopper playing middle linebacker, “so I think it’ll kinda happen organically, where those guys end up, just like I’m sure you guys are gonna ask why Jordan was at left tackle only. Everything’s fluid around here.”

As I mentioned at the start of this, it’s May, and the practice field was comprised of rookies, practice squad players from 2023, and 18 tryout candidates. Everything should be taken with a grain of salt and nothing is set in stone.

However, first impressions are important, and the duo of Cooper and Hopper made strong ones, particularly showing-off that speed that each of them possesses.

“Just learn as much as I can and prepare myself,” said Cooper about what he wanted to accomplish during rookie minicamp. “I made a promise to myself, we’re going to go 110 percent every day and just try to wait for me on Sunday nights.”

Story originally appeared on Packers Wire