Sunday, August 12, 2007

Packers 13 - Steelers 9

The Packers won their first preseason game versus the Steelers last night. Was it a great game? No. It's preseason, after all. Was it interesting? Yes. Not because there were a lot of fantastic plays -- there weren't -- but because there was an opportunity to see some of the many young players on this squad compete. Last year, the Pack had the youngest roster in the NFL. This year they are still young. But, it's that youth which makes things interesting. Will players emerge and make names for themselves? Will this young team be able to build off the momentum of last season's four straight wins down the stretch? Lots of questions. No real answers at this point.

But...some observations of the game, in particular order:

  • The first string offense looked awful. Brett was 2 of 7 for 7 yards, in four three-and-out situations. The running game was non-existent. Receivers were unable to get separation on their defenders (which might explain Brett's completion stats). Not good.

  • The first string defense looked in fairly good form, especially the line and linebackers. Neither Al Harris or Charles Woodson played, so the team was able to get a good look at the plethora of defensive backs looking for work. Atari Bigby did not have a good night, giving up a couple big plays and missing tackles.

  • Individually...Aaron Rodgers looked...actually very good. He ran the two-minute drill with authority, setting up a 32-yard field goal by Dave Rayner to close out the first half, Steelers 9 - Packers 3. He moved well in -- and out of -- the pocket. He wound up the night 18 of 27 for 168 yards and 1 TD, a nice fade route pass in the endzone to Carlyle Holiday.

  • Bubba Franks -- carrying on a disturbing trend from last year -- dropped a wide open pass for a first down. He was visibly upset, as he should have been. If Tory Humphrey hadn't been lost for the season already, and with the emergence of Donald Lee, Bubba might be looking for work elsewhere. As it is, the Packers are pretty thin at tight end and Bubba might wind up sticking by default.

  • Rookie RB Brandon Jackson, filling in at starter for the injured Vernand Morency (and the departed Ahman Green...sigh), had mixed results. He did next to nothing with the first string offense against the first string Steelers' defense. Although to be fair, no one else did much either. However, in the third quarter and against second and third string defenders, Jackson made some nice cuts, broke some tackles and had runs of 16 and 14 yards after having only 14 yards total on eight carries in the first half; Jackson wound up with 16 carries for 57 yards, or a 3.6 yards-per-carry average.

  • Rookie receiver James Jones appears to be the real deal. Made some nice moves, showed great hands, and had six first-half receptions for 58 yards.

  • Defensive end Cullen Jenkins had two sacks, KGB had one, as did rookie DE Larry Birdine. Jenkins also stripped Pittsburgh starting QB Ben Roethlisberger of the ball as he dropped back to pass and recovered the fumble. First round draft pick Justin Harrell also got one, and showed flashes of being able to generate a real pass rush. Nice to see.

  • Special teams -- both coverage and returns -- still seemed to be where they were last year. In other words, not good. This is an area that HAS to shape up, and soon.

  • The kicking game still looks like a draw. Dave Rayner made a 32-yarder at the end of the first half, and Mason Crosby drilled a 52-yarder in the third quarter that had room to spare. He was also nailing his kickoffs. Perhaps a slight edge to Crosby on the night

  • Best news: no major least that are known of at this time.

Next up: Seattle and ol' Coach Holmgren return to Lambeau on Saturday.