Friday, August 29, 2008

Packers 21 - Titans 23

The Packers' offensive starters were expected to play about 10 plays last evening. Ryan Grant was supposed to get a carry or two as at least a bit of a warm up to the regular season. Didn't happen. It was one and done. After taking the opening kick off, Aaron Rodgers connected with Greg Jennings on a sideline pass between double coverage that wound up turning into a 68-yard touchdown. Take a seat, boys, grab the baseball caps, you're done for the evening. And basically, the Packers were as well, losing 23-21 and settling for a preseason record of 1-3.

After the departure of the first team offense, it was fairly uneventful from the Packers' side of the ball for quite a while, as coach McCarthy shuffled in the two rookie quarterbacks and a host of other players. The most compelling note of the night, perhaps, was that Tennessee's first string offense played into the third quarter against the Pack's second and third stringers, got into the red zone at least four times with no TDs to show for it all. The biggest damage was done by Titans' QB Vince Young who used his running ability to gash the Packers repeatedly. The Titans first string defense played the entire first half against the Packers' backups.

McCarthy alternated back up QBs Brian Brohm and Matt Flynn every couple series. Flynn clearly looked better not only last night, but throughout the preseason. Flynn directed the Packers second and third scoring drives, with the last being a final second TD pass to bring the Packers within two points. The two point conversion pass to the corner of the end zone was caught but the receiver was only able to get down one foot before being pushed out of bounds (a rule change now allows the defensive back to push out the receiver, so no more judgement calls as to whether he would or wouldn't have gotten a foot down). Anyway, Flynn looked very good in directing the two-minute offense and helped himself and his team considerably with his scrambling ability. Brohm, on the other hand, looked like a deer in the headlights on occasion, failing to get rid of the ball under pressure several times and getting sacked instead.

Still, coach McCarthy wasn't ready to say after the game who would be the Number Two QB behind Rodgers. When interviewed on local radio this morning, he also left the radio hosts with the clear impression he was leaning toward Brohm. Based upon performance, one doesn't see how that would be justified. It is also unclear as to whether GM Ted Thompson will look to pick up a veteran QB to go into the season, just in case. Wayne Larrivee, the radio "voice of the Packers," said on-air this morning that while he has no way of knowing, he believes the Packers will start the season with Rodgers and the rookies. That's a pretty big chance to take. Although McCarthy is reported to have said that if Brohm or Flynn had to step in for Rodgers that the team would help pick them up. Sounds good for part of a game or two. But if something happened that sidelined Rodgers for the season? Hmmm...we'll see. Or better yet, hope we don't see. You can read an article about the two QBs here.

The other areas where competition is keen -- linebacker and running back -- were especially so again last night. LB Desmond Bishop had a great game last night and was seemingly all over the field. Abdul Hodge played well. Tracey White was solid before leaving with an ankle injury in the second half. At running back, Noah Herron, Vernand Morency and Kregg Lumpkin again all made statements as to why they should remain on the roster although it is likely only two of the three will do so.

There will be some tough decisions coming for the Packers staff over the next day or so as they trim down to the 53-man roster.

One of those decisions might be what to do about a long snapper. After about a zillion years -- give or take -- with Rob Davis at that slot, the Packers had undrafted rookie from Notre Dame, J.J. Jansen, at that spot. During the fourth quarter, after making a high punt snap to Jon Ryan, Jansen injured his left knee during Ryan's scramble. Depending upon the nature of Jansen's injury, the Pack might be looking for a replacement on the waiver wires this weekend. Of course, Rob Davis is still with the Packers, just at a desk job now. Could he be talked into "unretiring" if need be? Hey, it happened with Brett so why not? This is one to watch. Long snappers are like the Ed Nortons of football. When they do their job, you don't even know they are there. When they don't they really stink up the place. (Hopefully, there's enough readers out there to, first, know who Ed Norton is, and, second, to remember his occupation to make that "stink" reference meaningful.)

Another injury of note last night was to offensive lineman Junius Coston, who was carted off the field in the second quarter after taking a blow to the knee. In a deju vu type moment, Coston was also injured in the preseason finale against Tennessee in 2006, sustaining a medial collateral ligament injury.

One reporter's roster
And, no, that wouldn't be this humble poster. Rather, it's from Mike Vandermause, sports editor of the Green Bay Press-Gazette. He has an intriguing line up, and it might not be that far off from what Ted Thompson winds up doing. You can check it out here.