Sunday, August 14, 2011

Packers preseason game #1 review

So the first chance the Green Bay Packers have to smack guys in other jerseys around came up a tad short on the scoreboard. The Pack dropped their first preseason game 27-17 to the Cleveland Browns. Big whup.

As tens of thousands of NFL fans across the nation know, these games don't count. Hence the not-even-half-filled Cleveland stadium last evening. It was an entertaining game only if you're OK seeing starters for just a few series of plays, and watching veteran backups and rookies battle for roster spots. In the abbreviated evaluation period teams have this season, every play that these backups and rookies get may be their only chance to show the coaches and management "what they got."

So who stood out for the Packers last night? Rookie WR/KR Randall Cobb is a keeper. He not only did a good job on kick returns but flashed good hands and explosive speed on three receptions for 60 yards. The Packers have to have the most dangerous receiving corps in the league: Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, James Jones, Jordy Nelson. Now throw Cobb into the mix. And we haven't even mentioned the tight ends yet.

Jermichael Finley did not suit up last evening, although he says he will be ready for the next game. That gave second-year tight end Andrew Quarless the start and he acquited himself admirably, making a couple catches...which was a problem for him last year. He did leave with a groin injury, however. Quarless is in a battle for the spot behind Finley with Tom Crabtree and a few newcomers including rookie D.J. Williams and Ryan Taylor, both of whom made catches last night. In fact, lots of different players made catches last evening: 18 by final count.

Holy post route, Batman! Perhaps the Eagles aren't so crazy after all mortgaging the farm to transform their defensive backfield to try to hold the Packers in check. Still...good luck with that.

On the offensive line, both first-round draft pick Derek Sherrod and veteran T.J. Lang got lots of looks at left guard. And left tackle. The duo was being rotated just about with every series, including with each other flip-flopping the slots. Both looked just fine. As has been the case in Green Bay for a long time, the idea is to put the best five offensive linemen out there. The Pack's O-line will be OK.

As to running backs, it was nice to see Ryan Grant get a couple carries. Nothing major, but he did show some nice burst on a couple runs around the corner. James Starks also showed some speed and power, but he finished with an ankle injury of unknown severity...although don't think it was anything serious. Whew! Rookie Alex Green did not suit up last night so we'll have to wait another week to see what he brings to the party.

For the quarterbacks, Aaron Rodgers found his rhythm in the second series, Matt Flynn engineered a 2-minute drill drive nearly the length of the field for a TD, and Graham Harrell got extended playing time...and needs more. He had three fumbles on the evening, one a blind side hit where a lineman or tight end failed to pick up the outside rusher; that was returned for a TD by the Browns.

The defense didn't do much of note either, really, particularly in the way of getting pressure on Browns QB Colt McCoy who, as a result, looked pretty sharp last evening. It was nice to see second-year safety Morgan Burnett stick his nose in on a few tackles; it was his first contact since the leg injury which ended his promising rookie season last year. And rookie D-backs Josh Gordy and M.D. Jennings both got interceptions to help them get noticed, if not by the Packers perhaps by some other teams.

Mention should also be made that punter Tim Masthay did an outstanding job last evening. He had five punts averaging 52.2 yards each, with a long of 60 yards. Granted, it's not punting outdoors in December, but you still like to see this kind of consistent performance out of your punter especially so early on. His hang times were also tremendous. Special teams tackling, however, left a bit to be desired. But, hey, it's early and lots of young players are playing special teams perhaps for the first time in a long time...or ever. They'll get the hang of it...or they'll be gone.

One player who probably didn't take advantage of his opportunities was undrafted rookie kick returner and wide receiver, Shaky Smithson. He did have three returns for an average of about 24 yards each, with a long of 25. His lone punt return went for three yards. Not bad, but not enough to win the wows that are needed to land a spot on the roster or practice squad. The youngster has a great personal story and he's a young man you have to root for. So this writer will. I hope he takes one all the way back Friday night at Lambeau Field versus the Cardinals.

There might be a few more observations which could be made, and perhaps will be. But in the meantime...enjoy your day.

And remember: it's great to be a Packer fan!