Friday, August 27, 2010

Packers blow out Colts in preseason game #3

Wowie kazowie, Batman! Did anyone see that coming? A 59-24 whupping of the Colts? Yowza! Sure, it's just preseason...but still...ya gotta like it, Packer fans!

There were no doubts coming into this game about the explosiveness of the Packers' offense. And no doubts emerged after the game. If anything, we should feel very good -- at least going into the regular season -- that the ol' veteran tackles, Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher, held up very well indeed against the Colts' two Pro Bowl defensive ends. And with rookie Bryan Bulaga held out because of a hip injury, Daryn Colledge got extended time at left guard and no doubt secured the starter's role going into the season. He may not have been spectacular but he did what he needed to do which was help keep QB Aaron Rodgers upright.

And speaking of Rodgers, he not only stayed upright during his half of play but also played superbly. He connected on 3 TD passes during his time on the field. He missed on a couple of long throws, but even the ESPN booth crew was commenting on how Rodgers is now one of the elite quarterbacks in the league. They were particularly impressed with his ability to get the ball out quickly and without even having his feet set. His arm strength, delivery and decision making were tremendous.

Backup QB Matt Flynn also demonstrated his command of the offense during his time in the game, also looking very sharp. You could see last night why several personnel guys around the league have said that Flynn is a player they'd like to have on their teams as the best backup in the league.

As to the defense, coordinator Dom Capers dialed up the pressure a little bit more than what we've seen so far in the preseason. Despite missing a handful of starters due to injury or precaution, the defense did a good job holding its own against Peyton Manning and the Colts. Well, OK, there was that two-play, 22-second touchdown "drive" to start the game. That looked as if the defense was asleep. And they did give up 17 points while Manning was at the helm. Some of the d-backs looked out of position at times. But there was some pressure on Manning and that obviously made him uncomfortable. He was probably most uncomfortable when rookie free agent LB Frank Zombo -- who played virtually the entire game for all intents and purposes -- stripped him of the ball after which LB Robert Francois scooped it up and took it down to about the five yard line. Zombo has played himself through an ankle injury and onto the roster; there is no way he will not make the team after his performance, especially over the last two games.

Another undrafted free agent, CB Sam Shields might have also secured himself a spot on the roster. He had a great interception in the waning minutes of the game where he showed great anticipation and even greater athleticism in going up for the ball. He is also a speed demon on special teams...just don't use him as a returner!

Yet another rookie, S Morgan Burnett, has also demonstrated the ability to start. He nearly had an interception early in the game and later on, while Manning was still at quarterback, read the play perfectly and jumped in front of the receiver to make the pick. Great instincts.

WR Jason Cherry might have gotten a spot on the roster not in the crowded wide receiver corps but perhaps as a punt returner. He scored late in the 4th quarter on a tremendous 75-yard punt return to close out the Packers scoring.

In the punting competition, Tim Masthay probably has the edge on Chris Bryan thanks to one punt in the second quarter. He booted a 53-yard punt with 5.06 second hang time. It was at least in part that hang time that perhaps flustered returner Brandon James who muffed the ball inside the Colts' 10-yard line. The ball rolled into the end zone, where special teams standout Korey Hall recovered it for a touchdown. Been a while since there's been that kind of excitement -- at least going the Packers way -- on special teams. But at least on this night, even the special teams play was an asset and not a liability.

Tuesday teams have to cut down to 75 players, while Sept. 4 is the final cut down to the 53-man roster. It won't be hard to get down to 75. But as even the ESPN guys noted last night, the Packers are going to face some difficult decisions getting down to 53. There is a lot of talent on this team at many positions. It's one reason many pundits are picking the Pack to play in the Super Bowl at the end of this season. With some of the players, moving them to the practice squad won't accomplish much in the way of protecting them as other teams can claim them. Dang. Whether or not GM Ted Thompson receives any trade offers for any of these players remains to be seen.

One player who observers just have to think will finally be on the cutting block is Justin Harrell. He played again last evening in a very undistinguished performance. He was either on the ground being blocked or was not near the play at all. Looked very slow and unaggressive. For someone who is literally playing for his NFL career you would think there would be a sense of urgency. Maybe there was. But it sure didn't come out in terms of his play. Harrell by all reports is a nice young man. But he was damaged goods coming out of Tennessee, should never have been drafted at #16 in the first round, and has had nothing but health problems since joining the Pack, including in the week prior to this game. It's time for Thompson to make that roster spot available for someone else. Sorry, Justin.

There's more to chew on and discuss about this game and the upcoming season. But for now...enough.

Go Pack Go!!!