Saturday, August 20, 2011

Packers vs. Cardinals preseason game recap

The Green Bay Packers defeated the Arizona Cardinals 28-20 at Lambeau Field last night in the second of four preseason games.

What were this writer's observations? Probably the same as many who either were at the game or saw it on TV: it's a preseason game. In other words, there was some good, some bad and lots of so-so. How's that for an insightful analysis? Actually, it must be on target because many of the folks who get paid to cover this stuff have said basically the same thing. (By the way, for any media enterprises out there that would like to pay me to relate these pithy commentaries to your readers/viewers/listeners...let's talk...and now, back to your regularly scheduled programming....)

On offense, the first few series for the number one unit were pretty lackluster until things shifted into gear with the no-huddle offense. QB Aaron Rodgers seemed to get into more of a rhythm, connecting with multiple receivers and finally hitting on a great back shoulder endzone toss to Greg Jennings. It was nice to see TE Jermichael Finley back in the lineup and he looks ready to go. Ditto for Ryan Grant, although head coach Mike McCarthy made it clear in his post-game comments that he knows Grant needs more reps this next week at Indianapolis. Second-year RB James Starks was held out, which helped set the stage for our first look at rookie RB Alex Green. Green didn't disappoint. He reeled off a 25-yard gain on a screen play and two plays later powered into the endzone for a two-yard touchdown score. Green needs help on his Lambeau Leap, however. That'll come around. As, hopefully, will his blitz pick ups; he missed one which resulted in backup QB Matt Flynn taking a hit.

But Green wasn't alone in the missed-blocks area. More concerning were the hits and sacks allowed by the starting offensive line on Aaron Rodgers. T.J. Lang, starting at left guard, missed an assignment. But to be fair, so did the usually steady RG Josh Sitton. When rookie Derek Sherrod took over at left guard it became clear he is not yet ready to start. His pad level was too high, his foot work was slow, and he did not use his hands well enough. It would seem that trying to make Sherrod into a guard when he appears to be more naturally suited to the tackle position is an experiment worth trying, but also ending. Let the youngster apprentice behind Chad Clifton.

Another standout on offense last night was WR Chastin West, who wound up converting a sideline route into a 97-yard touchdown from Matt Flynn. The Packers already have 5 receivers that are locks to make the squad: Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Randall Cobb. But West's performance will sure give coaches something to think about. Would they carry six receivers? Doubtful. But we didn't think they'd carry three fullbacks last season either.

Third-string quarterback Graham Harrell also had an impressive performance. Given that Matt Flynn will be a free agent next season, it's great to see Harrell really step up his grasp of the offense and decisive play. He had some great throws, as well.

On defense, C.J. Wilson, filling in for the injured Mike Neal, who was replacing the departed Cullen Jenkins, had to leave the game early with what was reported to be a concussion. That meant Jarius Wynn and others got more playing time at defensive end. Asked about the injuries, GM Ted Thompson indicated that he still didn't think he'd have to look for a free agent to help bolster the D-line.

Defensive back Josh Gordy continues to get playing time and make an impression. He's giving Pat Lee, and maybe others, a run for the money in a backup role.

The defense played things pretty vanilla last night, and at times seemed to be a bit lost, especially in coverage by the backups. Starting outside linebackers were giving the corners far too easily on the runs by Beanie Wells in particular. Not much on this side of the ball to write home I said at the outset, so-so.

But the bottom line was a win. It doesn't really count, of course. But on a beautiful August evening in Green Bay, Wisconsin -- Titletown -- the fans got to see some of the favorites for a few plays and then got to take a look at some of the young players competing for a handful of spots on what still looks like a championship caliber team.

All that can be said a the moment is that it's great to be a Packer fan!

Go Pack Go!!!