The Green Bay Packers fell to the Kansas City Chiefs 17-13, Thursday night in their preseason finale. The game wasn’t easy to watch. The starters played only one series and veterans Aaron Rodgers, Ryan Grant, Donald Driver, Chad Clifton and Charles Woodson were healthy scratches.
There were some interesting developments in the game, however, and the Packers final roster seems to be taking shape.
Jarrett Bush continued to play ahead of Pat Lee at cornerback and for the first time in history, actually looked like a decent NFL cornerback. Bush intercepted a pass in the first quarter and had solid coverage on Dwayne Bowe on a deep ball, which is an area he usually fails in. A month ago it seemed like Bush was a good candidate to be released. Bush’s play on Thursday was a clear signal that isn’t going to happen.
Charlie Peprah made a nice stick on Jamaal Charles and ripped the ball out in the first quarter. Charles was ruled down, but the play is the type that’s likely to get Peprah a roster spot. Then again, Peprah was the guy who got beat on the Chiefs first touchdown when he bit on play action.
The second-team defensive line leaves a lot to be desired. Justin Harrell, Jarius Wynn, Ronald Talley, C.J. Wilson and Anthony Toribio don’t look like they’ll be able to help the Packers in any phase of the game this season. Fortunately, three of them will be released on Saturday.
Brett Swain nailed down a roster spot and the No. 5 receiver slot with his performance Thursday. Swain finished with six receptions for 130 yards, including a 77-yard reception.
Matt Flynn looks like a real, live NFL quarterback. Not only did he look poised in the pocket, but he delivered balls accurately, often into tight coverage, and was impressive in making his reads. Flynn finished 23-of-37 for 304 yards. The only complaint about Flynn’s night is he didn’t throw a touchdown and he could have done better in the red zone, but his receivers could have done better, too.
Brady Poppinga looked like crap. Granted, he was playing with scrubs and didn’t get much help, but he gets blocked out of running plays or overpursues far too often. If Poppinga has to be anything more than a situational pass rusher, the Packers are in trouble.
T.J. Lang started at left tackle for Clifton. Bryan Bulaga was also out. Lang’s performance can probably be described as shaky, at best.
Jason Chery got a huge opportunity coming into the game, getting all the work as the Packers punt and kickoff return man. Apparently, he’s not quite ready for prime time. Chery dropped the ball on his first kickoff return and had averages of 16 yards on three kickoff returns and nine yards on three punt returns. He also ran east and west far too much. Chery needs to get his resume ready because he’s going to be out of a job by the end of the weekend. The real question is what the Packers are going to do in the return game. Jordy Nelson and Brandon Jackson are your likely kickoff return men. Punt returner is up in the air. Will Blackmon, who didn’t play on Thursday, is still having knee problems and may not even make the team. Nelson is probably next in line.
It seems increasingly likely the Packers will again keep three fullbacks and will probably only go with two halfbacks. John Kuhn has shown he can fill in at running back and Kregg Lumpkin, who is currently the third halfback, hasn’t shown much at all. Lumpkin finished with 36 yards on 11 carries, which is a 3.2-yard average. Both Kuhn and Korey Hall are solid fullbacks and special teamers and Quinn Johnson, the third fullback, is a better blocker than both of them.
Rookie guard/tackle Marshall Newhouse didn’t do himself any favors by committing two penalties. The first was a blatant hold after he got badly beaten on an inside move. Newhouse is fighting for a roster spot and his play Thursday was more practice squad than opening-day roster.
It may not be with the Packers, but Graham Harrell has a future in the NFL. Harrell still has a lot of work to do and he doesn’t have a huge arm, but he’s smart, has a quick release and he’s tailor made for the west coast offense. He reminds me a little bit of Rich Gannon — he’ll kill you seven yards at a time. Despite some poor throws on Thursday, Harrell shouldn’t have to worry about playing in the CFL again.
Let’s put the competition to rest. Tim Masthay has won the punting job. He hit a long of 51 yards on Thursday, while Chris Bryan’s long was only 37. Masthay also kicked off and it seems he could fill that duty more than adequately once the regular season begins.