Friday, September 04, 2009

Titans beat Pack 27-13 in final exhibition

To no one's surprise, the final exhibition game was a bit of a slopfest. That's generally what happens when a team such as the Packers pretty much has as its sole purpose the evaluation of back up players. The result was a game that didn't even hit the sloppy-but-entertaining level: Titans 27, Pack 13. The Packers finished their preseason with a 3-1 record.

So, what can we take from this game?

Well, back up QB Brian Brohm acquitted himself well in the two games in which he was featured prominently. Last night, other than the first series, he was the quarterback. And he played well, going 20 of 28 for 154 yards, no TDs and no INTs. He was throwing slant route passes to perfection. He seemed to be much more sure of himself. No surprise, though. As Brohm said in a post-game radio interview, when you get a lot of repetitions in practice and in a game you have an opportunity to improve. Brohm's performance over the last few weeks may actually have saved him a roster spot. There was talk circulating that without that improvement the Packers might go as far as to cut him. While he still could be traded at some point, it's this observer's opinion that the Packers will once again have three quarterbacks on the roster.

Offensive lineman Tony Moll didn't help himself last night, getting beat badly on a sack. There is scuttlebutt that the Packers are shopping him around to see if anyone is interested in a trade for a low-round draft pick. They'd rather get something than nothing and that's what will happen if they cut him. But cutting Moll is also a possibility given some of the other lineman the Packers would seem to wish to retain.

Kicker Mason Crosby again missed a long field goal, despite having his regular holder, back up QB Matt Flynn, back in place. He did finish 2 for 3, however. Still, given Crosby's failure to convert in several key situations last season, as well as his somewhat scattered performance in this preseason, it seems like we should keep our collective fingers crossed every time he attempts a field goal. That has to change or the Pack could once again be on the short end of the win column because of a missed kick. It's part of the game. But it can't be an ongoing situation.

Injuries among the Pack's defensive backs, before and during last night's game, meant that wide receiver Brett Swain wound up playing cornerback for a fair portion of the second half. He actually did a decent job considering he hadn't played in the defensive backfield since high school. Swain and Ruvell Martin are said to be battling for the fifth and final wide receiver slot. Both are capable receivers, with the experience nod going to Martin. Both can also be used as kick or punt returners. Martin can hold for field goals, although apparently not well enough given what was said after the Arizona game. Swain can play as a defensive back if needed. Hmmm...who gets the nod for a spot?

Speaking of injuries, the one which is most concerning is the ankle injury sustained by rookie defensive lineman B. J. Raji, who left in the second quarter. Raji wasn't talking after the game, but head coach Mike McCarthy said he didn't think it was serious. But when those big bubbas get ankle injuries, it can sometimes be something that nags them and affects performance the entire season. Let's hope that's not the case with Mr. Raji. The Pack is counting on him, and from what he's shown in his limited preseason play, Raji can definitely be a disruptive force.

Other injuries, as noted earlier, which might affect final roster spots seem to have hit the defensive backfield particularly hard. Aaron Rouse and Charlie Peprah have missed extensive time this preseason. In last night's game, Anthony Smith sustained a concussion, Pat Lee hyperextended a knee and Brandon Underwood had to leave to leave the game twice, first after getting the wind knocked out of him and finally with a neck stinger. Underwood was picked on all night long by the Titans' passing game. He did not fare well. Combine the poor play with his injuries and it may have been Underwood's last day in a Packers' uniform.

The Packers -- and all teams -- need to get down to 53 men by 3 p.m. tomorrow. Some of the cuts might be surprising, some not. Fullback and running back cuts will be interesting, as will perhaps some of the offensive and defensive line decisions. With a team this deep, some of those cuts will be very difficult. But in the end, you want the best 53 players possible. And if the Packers are able to keep those 53 players healthy through the season, this will be a good year.

It's great to be a Packer fan!