Packers Preseason: The Quick View
Let’s face it. Preseason football isn’t worth a Total View unless you are a coach being paid handsomely to sit around and watch film.
However, we all could use some warming up for the season. So, with that in mind, here we go with the quick step, which will focus on the Green Bay Packers game with the St. Louis Rams.
If we debate who was the star of the game, then we would be arguing from a short list. On the other hand, the goat, or goatherd if you will, from the contest is a matter of zero contention. I am not joking when I say that I would rather see the replacement refs from the Seattle game, then ever have to deal again with the referee crew that handled Saturday’s game. The jokers in striped shirts posing as NFL refs called 3o penalties in the game. THIRTY. That is more than seven penalties per quarter and well more than one penalty per offensive series (22) in the game. I highly doubt that the 1977 Oakland Raiders versus San Quentin could have produced so many flags.
The majority of penalties MAY have been warranted. I don’t care. The constant laundry on the field made the game unwatchable. I watched the game off a recording, and I would frankly even watch regular season games the same way if the game continued to be refereed in this same manner. The NFL has so far insisted that they won’t back off. I’ll believe that when I see it. After all, the last time we were watching real NFL games, last postseason, the referees were so intent on not throwing flags that pass routes resembled the MMA, which, of course, was much to the advantage of the Seattle Seahawks and their DBOUS (Defensive Backs of Unusual Size).
Regardless, the Packers, to no one’s surprise, also took the worst of the barrage, having two touchdowns called back on offense while the only score against the defense was greatly aided by a pass interference call on third down. Fortunately, none of it matters other than as a learning tool, but one has to wonder what is going to happen in Week 1 when the league’s most physical defense in Seattle plays a Packers defense that has been on the refs’ shit list for years. Flags are bound to fly.
The Rams had one of the worst starts for a preseason game imaginable. After suffering an injury on the opening kickoff, they watched the Packers offense roll through the stronger half of their team with relative ease, and then suffered another injury, a more serious one to reserve back Isaiah Pead, on the following kickoff.
Aaron Rodgers looks like he’s ready to play ball, and I’m not sure we really need to see anymore of him this preseason. He has shown a greater willingness to dump the ball to the running back, which combined with the running game itself is probably the best antidote for the cover-2 schemes that most defenses have been employing against Rodgers since the end of 2011.
If J.C. Tretter stays healthy, he appears to be an obvious improvement over Evan Dietrich-Smith, whose departure and the associated gnashing of teeth and rending of garments now seems much ado about nothing. Tretter is bigger, stronger, smarter, and younger. Enough said. EDS was curb-stomped by Ndamokong Suh once. So he does have that going for him.
With Tretter at center, Bryan Bulaga back and in good form on the right side, and David Bakhtiari looking like the real deal at left tackle, the Packers appear to have the best offensive line they’ve had during Ted Thompson’s reign. Through two preseason games, they’ve been impressive at opening holes in the running game. For having one of the best pass rushing defensive lines in the league, the Rams were neutered for two drives on Saturday. Robert Quinn is generally recognized as the best young pass rushing end in the league, and Bakhtiari handled him rather easily.
Of course, what could become the Achilles heal of the offensive line was also on display on Saturday. Once the starting five left the game, the pass protection reverted to something resembling the Chinese firedrill so often displayed last preseason. Scott Tolzien entered the game after Rodgers and was promptly given the Graham Harrell treatment. Both Derek Sherrod and Aaron Adams, the backup tackles, were terrorized by numerous Rams, especially Eugene Sims, who took turns abusing both. Lane Taylor and Corey Linsley have been serviceable in the middle. So, at least the Packers appear to have some depth there, but the tackle position appears dangerously thin unless Sherrod can show some radical improvement. Otherwise, as of now, it would appear that T.J. Lang is probably your best option if one of the tackles goes down, meaning the Packers are back to playing musical chairs if Bulaga or Bakhtiari get hurt.
At the quarterback position, Tolzien’s big chance to firmly entrench himself at No. 2 registered as an opportunity missed. Greatly hampered by poor offensive line play and penalties, Tolzien failed to generate any points while he was in the game. Though the coaching staff apparently doesn’t agree, I have yet to see any substantial improvement from Tolzien. It certainly didn’t help his cause that two of his best passes were dropped by Myles White and Kevin Dorsey, but whatever, go tell your sob story to Graham Harrell and B.J. Coleman.
Coupled with those drops by fellow competitors, Jeff Janis was probably the overstated winner at receiver. He turned a busted coverage and a short pass from Matt Flynn into a 34-yard touchdown, showing the speed we know he has and little else. However, his surest path to the 53-man roster might be as a punt returner. He was showcased in that role on Saturday and had no issues, including on a fair catch smoothly made in traffic.
I believe the Packers have every intention of rotating at tight end, and therefore, who starts is virtually irrelevant. Richard Rodgers WILL get a chance to contribute as a rookie, while Brandon Bostick and Andrew Quarless get their snaps as well. Bostick’s injury might open the door for someone else to shine a little, such as Jake Stoneburner or Ryan Taylor. Otherwise, both those guys are in danger if the Packers decide to go light at that position for once.
In regards to the defense, for one game at least, in a dome where quickness is accentuated, the Packers’ defensive line looked more than up to the task against the run. Using their quickness, Datone Jones, Mike Daniels, Mike Neal and Josh Boyd all spent time in the Rams’ backfield, busting up plays. With the line causing some chaos, Brad Jones and A.J. Hawk were able to play aggressive and meet ball carriers in the backfield on several plays.
It may be somewhat of an optical illusion caused by the stark contrast between playing on grass in a torrential downpour versus playing on turf in a dome, but the Packers defense appears noticeably quicker than the last couple years, perhaps finally getting back to the speed of the 2010 defense. Micah Hyde and Ha Ha Clinton Dix are very quick in run support, the nickel is quicker with Hayward in the slot and Hyde at safety, and the defensive line is obviously a more mobile and athletic unit.
And the speed isn’t just relegated to the starters. Sam Barrington, who I continue to be impressed with, may be the quickest inside linebacker the Packers have, and when he, Mike Neal, Demetri Goodson, and Clinton-Dix are in with the twos, the Packers remain fast and athletic at all three levels.
I was concerned about the amount of snaps that Nick Perry was given and watched him closely. Playing deep into the third quarter of a preseason game is a long fall for a guy who was a starter last season. It suggests to me that either the coaching staff needs to see something from this guy, or they are hoping he shows something to someone else. Either would indicate to me that his place on the roster is not guaranteed. I generally consider him the Packers’ best run contain, but his performance this preseason has not supported that opinion. At least twice in the second quarter, Perry got suckered inside and gave up the end. However, his performance improved as the game went on, perhaps helped by a decline in competition. On one play in the third quarter, he discarded the blocker in front of him and buried for no gain the back who tried to get around his end.
That was a quality play by Perry, who also picked up his pass rush as the game went on. However, it remains a concern that Perry has no sacks this preseason even though he has played almost entirely against second and third stringers.
Perry’s failure to show improvement could be an open door for a guy like Jayrone Elliot. Elliott’s three-peat sack performance might have had more to do with the bumbling fool trying to block him, but the Packers have immediately moved him ahead of Nate Palmer on the depth chart. Elliott needs to show he can get to the quarterback against better competition. If so, he has a good shot to make the roster.
With the trade of Jerel Worthy to the Patriots, the door has been clearly thrown wide open for fellow undrafted free agent Mike Pennel. Thanks to Mike Neal and some good hustle, Pennel got a sack to continue his strong preseason performance. With Ryan Pickett and Johnny Jolly no longer around, Pennel is one of the few big men left on the defense. Sure, the Packers are trying to get quicker, but you still need SOME big guys around. Advantage Pennel.
The Packers will finally play a game at Lambeau on Friday, welcoming James Jones, Charles Woodson and C.J. Wilson back to town with the lowly Raiders. Allegedly, the Packers will take the normal dress rehearsal approach and play the starters in this game. Personally, I don’t think Rodgers, Eddie Lacy, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Clay Matthews or Julius Peppers need to see the field, but hey, I also haven’t spent money on a ticket.
The Packers really need to concentrate on their twos and threes, as that is where there are still many interesting decisions to make.
Shawn Neuser attended UWGB and lives and works in Green Bay. He enjoys long walks on the beach and being intimate with game film.