We don’t put a lot of stock in preseason football, but it’s clear after the Green Bay Packers 27-24 loss to the Cleveland Browns on Saturday night the Packers defense needs to address some issues.
By the time the starters departed in the second quarter, the Browns had a 21-14 lead. The game seems eerily similar to the Packers’ losses at Pittsburgh, Minnesota and Arizona last season, when the opposing offenses marched up and down the field on the Packers defense in what would become three shootouts and ultimately, losses.
On the positive side, it should be noted that defensive coordinator Dom Capers did almost no blitzing and the Packers were without starting outside linebacker Clay Matthews. Of course, the Cleveland Browns offense is never going to be confused with that of any of those teams mentioned above, either.
On the Browns opening series, quarterback Jake Delhomme completed 6-of-7 passes for 66 yards, on an 80-yard scoring drive.
The 35-year-old Delhomme threw 18 interceptions last season against only eight touchdowns before losing his starting job in Carolina to Matt Moore and getting cut. Kurt Warner he is not.
Even though he’s been impressive in practice, rookie strong safety Morgan Burnett had a shaky debut.
“I would say some good and some things we need to correct,” Capers said, referring to Burnett’s play. “A couple of the run fits we’re going to have to take a look at. There’s two or three plays he’ll really learn from. He didn’t play that well.”
No one expected Burnett to be flawless, but he looked more like Jarrett Bush than LeRoy Butler. Fortunately for the Packers, Burnett has a little while to work out the kinks.
Meanwhile, at linebacker, the supposedly rejuvenated A.J. Hawk looked a lot like A.J. Hawk, getting burned in coverage and giving up a 20-yard touchdown pass to Benjamin Watson. The play came on third down.
Things will probably be different when the Packers unleash their full defensive game plan, but this wasn’t a very promising start.
“Part of our plan was let them go out there and play, and we didn’t do near as much (blitzing),” Capers said, “but that’s no excuse, you have to be able to execute sound, fundamental football with what you’re doing. That’s the biggest thing. There’s a lot of coaching to do off this tape. If you have to start relying on the blitz too much in the preseason, you have problems. You have to be able to line up and play football.”
The Packers defense should be able to at least make the occasional stop playing only their base defense, especially against the Cleveland Browns.