Saturday, August 24, 2013

Packers lose to both Seahawks and injury bug

Friday evening's preseason game versus the Seattle Seahawks at Lambeau Field was not a great one from the Green Bay Packers perspective. There was the final score, a 17-10 loss. Which is not a biggie in the preseason. Of more concern was the level of play and the rash of injuries that hit the Packers.

Let's start with the latter first.

Injury report
Morgan Burnett -- the Pack's starting safety and signal caller in the defensive backfield -- was lost to a hamstring injury. Inside linebacker Brad Jones, who registered a sack on the elusive Russell Wilson, also left with a hamstring injury. Cornerback Casey Hayward re-aggravated the hamstring injury that has kept him sidelined for most of training camp. RB DuJuan Harris, who got his first action of the preseason after being sidelined throughout camp, left during the first series after re-injuring his knee. All week, head coach Mike McCarthy was saying how excited he was to see Harris back in action. So much for that. OLB Jarvis Reed also sustained a knee injury.

While all of these injuries are a concern, of course, there is more depth at linebacker and running back than there is at safety. If Burnett is lost for any amount of time, M.D. Jennings, Jerron McMillian, or perhaps free agent Chris Banjo (who was in on several plays last night) will be called upon to fill the gap. A veteran free agent could also be added. The Packers could get by, but Burnett's return is key to the defensive backfield's performance.

These new injuries, of course, are on top of the current injury list: Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Matthew Mulligan, Andy Mulumba, Tramon Williams, James Nixon and Jarrett Bush all sat out last night's game with injuries.

The season opener against the 49ers is just two weeks away. The Packers need to get all these guys healthy, and soon. With them, the Pack is a force to be reckoned with every week. Without them, the team becomes average.

Backup quarterback still up for grabs
Coach McCarthy was trying to get some clarity on the backup quarterback situation last night. He gave Graham Harrell every chance to solidify a hold on the number two spot behind Aaron Rodgers. Harrell worked for a good period behind the first team offense. His performance was less than stellar, although to be fair the penalties and entire lack of rhythm exhibited by the offense at that time were not totally Harrell's fault. His lack of passing precision downfield, however, was. He did not inspire confidence, despite his supposed knowledge of the offensive scheme.

Veteran QB Vince Young, though, did inspire confidence despite his lack of knowledge of the Packers' system at this point. He led two series in the second half, including an 11-play, 80-yard touchdown drive. In addition, Young displayed the ability to break the pocket when needed; he scrambled three times for 39 yards. He's got the legs and he's got the instincts that Harrell doesn't have.

B.J. Coleman did mop up duty at the quarterback position and didn't generate much with the backups.

The early guess from this pundit is that Coleman gets cut or put on the practice squad, while Young and Harrell make the regular roster. And while the game plan for Young would of necessity be sparse early in the season compared to Harrell, the best option to win -- if, God forbid, something happens to Rodgers -- is for Young to be the first man in.

Level of overall play was not good
While the Packers were not as flat as for the first game, they didn't show the same level of performance as they did in beating the Rams last weekend. Of course, the Seahawks are much better than the Rams and it showed. They gave the Packers problems on both sides of the ball last night, despite the defense registering several sacks on 'hawks quarterbacks.

While it shouldn't be a concern given the weapons available, the fact that the Packers number one offensive unit has yet to score a touchdown is at least starting to be a discussion point. The unit moves the ball but stalls out without crossing the goal line. That leaves things on the leg of kicker Mason Crosby, who has been less than steady. You know this will get worked out. But it would be nice to see some TD production clicking with the first unit. So far, we haven't seen it.

RB Eddie Lacy wasn't able to get any running room last night. Even the best back needs blocking, and that wasn't readily present particularly with the backup line operating. On defense, there were some good individual moments, but there were often huge gaps up the middle on both running and receiving plays.

Bottom line: the Packers still have a lot to get straightened out before the start of the season. They also need to get their key players healthy again. That would go a long way to making things click.