Between the tailgating party and the fireworks, there was actually a little football played at the Green Bay Packers Family Night. For many, it was their first time beneath the big lights of Lambeau Field, and for some, it was a great chance to make a strong first impression.
As I said before, the running back battle will be decided in the preseason. However, Eddie Lacy easily has the lead to the first turn. He was the clear star of the scrimmage, rumbling through the defense for 61 yards on 8 carries. That lofty average was helped by two long runs up the middle after the line ripped the kind of gaps in the defense that Lacy was used to running through at Alabama. However, what I really like about Lacy, and what I suspect Mike McCarthy will love, is his ability to turn zero yards into four.
Similar to Cedric Benson, Lacy has the ability to find soft spots in the line and press them. This allows him to gain yardage even when nothing is seemingly there. Lacy may have been overshadowed a bit or even mocked when the pads were off, but as soon as you force defenders to actually have to tackle him, the story changes.
Though no other back had the night that Lacy did, the Packers offensive line consistently got a good push and opened holes. It appears that the second team offensive line is far superior to last year’s sorry crew. If anything, I may actually be a little concerned that the Packers haven’t improved their run defense like they need to.
In fact, altogether it wasn’t a stellar night for the defense. The only QB they managed to stop was B.J. Coleman. Aaron Rodgers had one series and scored a TD. Graham Harrell had two series and scored 10 points. Even with Coleman, the offense moved the ball well between the 20s.
Of course, neither Clay Matthews nor Morgan Burnett played beyond the first brief series, and no one was allowed to hit the QB. The defense appeared to get reasonable pressure on every series, but they struggled to stop the run and had some issues with covering guys.
I was impressed, however, with linebackers Sam Barrington and Terrell Manning. Both are quick guys who are willing to hit. Cornerback Micah Hyde looks similar to Casey Hayward in the slot, and with Sam Shields and Davon House on the outside, the Packers look pretty good in the secondary even without Hayward or Tramon Williams on the field.
Datone Jones is as fast as advertised and used that speed to run around two blockers and sack Coleman once. However, Jones did not stand out against the run, and that was slightly disappointing.
Johnathan Franklin looked like a third down back. He made a nice catch and run on a swing pass, but he did not excel from the backfield. He also continues to struggle with catching kicks, while Jeremy Ross looks very natural as the punt returner.
Ross did not distinguish himself as a receiver, but besides him, the Packers do have some interesting depth even without their two seventh round picks participating. Omarius Hines is a HUGE guy, and Tyrone Walker had some nice plays.
James Nixon had the play of the night with his pick six. He jumped a hook by Ross, got rewarded when Coleman rushed the throw instead of reading the play, and showed some speed in taking it the distance. Brandon Smith also showed great athleticism when he out-jumped Ross for an interception in the end zone.
Graham Harrell quickly silenced the talk of B.J. Coleman moving past him on the depth chart. Harrell was fully in command of the offense, and had an answer for everything the defense threw at him. It is Harrell’s fourth year in the offense — the year Mike McCarthy’s quarterbacks typically take off. Harrell looked similar to Matt Flynn. He doesn’t throw the ball like Coleman does, but he knows where and when to throw it.
Because Mason Crosby has the contract, the stronger leg, and the experience, he’ll get the opportunity to reverse his fortunes in the preseason. However, as far as I’m concerned, he should be gone. As soon as Crosby careened one kick off the goal post, you could feel the pressure on him start to mount. As the pressure mounted, as usual, he got worse. That makes him D-E-A-D, dead as a kicker in the NFL. Adios.
Giorgio, my man, Tavecchio doesn’t have the leg that Crosby does, but he makes kicks. Enough said. The kickoff is no concern, since Tim Masthay can take over those duties. He is the best of the three at it anyway.
On Friday, we’ll get to see the difference that playing against another team makes. Can the defense stop the run? Can the offense run? However, don’t expect to see anyone important for any amount of time. For the most important question remains — can the Packers get through a game without anyone getting seriously hurt?