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After Green Bay’s first preseason game, I wondered aloud how the new head coach would address playing time during the remaining preseason games: would he give the projected starters much playing time or would he rest them in order to prevent injuries to his key players.

Following the loss to the Ravens, we got some clear answers, so there’s not much sense in getting into a big debate at this point. Coach LaFleur believes he can have the Packers ready for the 2019 season with a minimum of heavy hitting or game-time conditions.

The Packers’ first two preseason games – clinics on how not to tackle – strongly suggest that at least the team’s defenders have suffered from a lack of full-on tackling practice. Coach LaFleur, though, continues to believe that players should not be brought to the ground by tacklers during training camp. The most he had to say about the shameful tackling was:

“It’s not good enough. We gotta do a better job at practice. Probably up the intensity level a little bit, really wrap up on start.”

Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine went into greater detail on the team’s play-it-safe strategy. Here’s what he said about the Packers having, by LaFleur’s count, 42 missed tackles in the first two preseason games:

“We have to walk that fine line. Knowing a lot of the coaches around the league, most teams don’t do live work in the body of practice. That’s something you have to try to simulate the best you can. There’s no substitute for those live reps (in preseason games). A lot of our misses are with our young guys. I think some of it is just getting used to the speed of the game and some of the athletes they’re trying to tackle as opposed to what it was like for them in college. Understanding they have to take that extra step, they have to bring their feet and they have to make sure that technique part is right; that they’re wrapping with their arms. We’ve missed some where we’ve tried to hit guys and knock them to the ground and we’re just bouncing off. So, they’re figuring that out the hard way. But we’re going to continue to work it. We’re not going to panic and go to live tackling drills.”

As for QB Aaron Rodgers not suiting up against the Ravens, the head coach was asked if he needs to see Aaron play in the preseason. LaFleur again downplayed the missed opportunity:

“I think we’d like to see him, but you’re talking about a veteran quarterback that’s played a lot of football. I don’t think it’s a necessity, but it’s certainly something we’d like to see.”

Geronimo Allison - Packers Lambeau Field

Geronimo Allison (81) catches a pass for a touchdown against Chicago Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller (23) in the third quarter at Lambeau Field. Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Outlook Versus the Bears

Pettine is undoubtedly right when he says that most NFL times are taking the Packers’ approach, by limiting key players to a very few snaps during the four preseason games. In the team’s critical opener against the Bears, the Packers might just get away with their cautious strategy, because the Bears adhere to the same theory.

In 2018, these same two teams met on opening day – though that game was played in Green Bay. Last year it was Chicago who had the first-year head coach, and Mike Nagy immediately proved to also be a proponent of sparing his stars from physical contact prior to the start of the regular season.

Here’s how Nagy prepared his key offensive players during his four 2018 preseason games:

  • QB Mitchell Trubisky – 2 of 4, 4 yards in Game 1, and 9 of 14 for 90 yards in Game 2
  • RB Jordan Howard – 9 rushes for 32 yards in game 2
  • WR Allen Robinson – zero stats
  • WR Taylor Gabriel – 1 catch, 10 yards in Game 3

The corresponding numbers for Green Bay last preseason were:

  • QB Aaron Rodgers – 2 of 4, 35 yards in Game 2
  • RB Aaron Jones (under suspension for the first two regular season games) – 5 rushes for 18 yards in Game 3, and 9 rushes for 34 yards and 3 catches for 21 yards in Game 4
  • WR Davante Adams – 2 catches for 57 yards in Game 1 and 1 catch for 27 yards in Game 2
  • TE Jimmy Graham – 1 catch for 8 yards in Game 2

In the miracle comeback opening win last year, it’s an understatement to say the Packers’ offense was rusty: After three quarters they were behind by a 20 to 3 score. Aaron Rodgers then proceeded to throw three touchdown passes: a 39-yarder to Geronimo Allison, a 12-yarder to Davante Adams, and a 75-yarder to Randall Cobb with just over two minutes left in the game.

Preseason Game 3

If the Bears or Packers are to give their key players more than a token taste of real-game action prior to the regular season, it will be in their third preseason games. Green Bay plays the Raiders up in Saskatchewan on Thursday, while the Bears visit the Colts on Saturday.

Don’t bet on it though. Both of these young coaches subscribe to the theory that injury avoidance is the paramount preseason concern. Despite what you or I might think, it’s hard to argue with the success Nagy achieved last year following the conservative preseason approach that has swept through the NFL.

When the Packers face off against their rivals on September 5, it will be a crucial game and it might be as thrilling as was last year’s battle. What it won’t be, though, is a battle between two teams who are fully prepared to play their best. As a fan of watching great football, I find that unfortunate.

Rob Born

Smart drafters don’t select the best available players, they fill a team’s positions of greatest need.



  1. Troy Fancil August 21, 2019

    I’m going to go a step further and say that I believe that full padded practices and starters playing preseason games also gets their bodies used to full speed contact and results in less regular season injuries. I’ve been watching football for near half a century and it seems like season ending injuries are higher than ever and especially at the beginning of the season. Back in the old days, star players practiced full speed in pads, and play most of the preseason, then lasted an entire season. What gives??

    1. Rebelgb August 21, 2019

      I totally agree. Back in the “old days” it was the players who held out of camp and preseason who would last a whole game or 2 before getting injured during the regular season. Remember that? It was almost a given. It wasnt the guys who were at camp and played in preseason who got hurt (for the most part).

    2. stiggy August 21, 2019

      The running backs now would be offensive linemen 35 years ago. Thats the difference. pro football is a bunch of steroid swilling meatheads now. They tear their acls etc because ligaments arent designed to withstand the force of steroid heads cutting on a dime.

  2. Brian E McLain August 21, 2019

    Well I can say for certain the second game had no comeback and when Mack had all his gas Rodgers was running like a school girl on fire. Btw it’s the Packers that suck and by the looks of it for the next 4 or 5 years till you develop a new Qb and build a new team. No hard feelings yall had a great ride it’s just time to rebuild the engine. Rodgers ego eclipsed his playoff records. To win you need to get int sometimes. Honestly I respect you guys even if I wanna run you over on sundays. I hope the guy stays healthy again. I want back to back years with no one to blame but 12 so he hits rock bottom comes down to earth about his age n record and not his ability to win. He needs to restructure his contract so you guys can win now. Aaron looks like a 45 year old pornstar and he can’t be counted on to stay healthy so he needs to let you guys get a good back up not Kiz the Bears 12 man and two good backs so you can crunch out some wins if he gets hurt and keep a playoff spot with the hope he can play after weeks of treatment. When Mack broke his knee it was a soft play he doesn’t try to hurt qbs he likes yet he still broke pornstaches lil leggy like a chicken bone. Now I actually think Aaron is coming out pissed and will be a top 3 qb this year but again can he hold up for 16 games and will he will like flower on the crest of a volcano.

    1. PF4L August 21, 2019


    2. Howard August 21, 2019


    3. Brian E McLain August 22, 2019

      I can’t tell if the second comment is a huh or a honest IDK but I agree it was written like a Raven’s player tweet. I guess what I was getting at is I didn’t think 12 would slow down so soon and I am shocked he did what he did to Mike M. When have you heard of a SB winning QB call out the offensive gameplan of his coach let alone the coach of a historic team like GB. He toasted his butt and let’s be real he played a little less like Aaron and more like a drone some of those losses. He changed the play almost every time anyhow so how was that Mike’s fault? Mike M didn’t have bad draft after bad draft. It’s pretty telling about the house cleaning that 12 was the issue and not Mike. I know the pop corn will be flowing over at my castle when the season starts because you guys have the injury prone expensive QB with the leadership and people issues for once. If 12 don’t lite the league on fire this year I’d send em to Jerry for a Kingly ransom. Build a team for 3 years n Develop a good qb and fast youthful team get a qb that will put team before self. The money is not worth one ring boys. Go get a younger R Wilson before no one will trade a ham bone for the glass man.

    4. Ferris August 22, 2019

      Ask the Queens what money they would pay for one ring? I’ll take an older Rodgerswith a new coach (finally) over an unknown less expensive someone every day. For every 1 P. Mahomes there are 10 Ryan Leafs.

    5. Mitch Anthony August 22, 2019

      (Aaron looks like a 45 year old pornstar and he can’t be counted on to stay healthy)

      So, shaving the mustache and maybe a daily orange juice and multi-vitamin regime could change things in a positive direction? Okay then. I could get on board with that.

    6. PF4L August 22, 2019

      Damn it…i love you guys :)
      Psstt….Brian? Do you think Rodgers quipping about the offensive game plan last season was the first time that it was brought up by anyone? I seem to remember it for some years, from the fans, to the talking heads around the NFL. If that was the first time you’ve heard about it, i don’t know what to tell you my man.
      Also…you seem to lay shame on Rodgers for calling out McCarthy, apparently because McCarthy is(was) the head coach of a “historic team” like Green Bay? Are you sure you don’t work in upper management at 1265 Lombardi Ave? Because with your lackadaisical approach to accountability, you might fit in perfect working there.
      I don’t know about you….Brian. But if one of Rodgers worst years is throwing for over 4,400 yards, 25 TD/2 Int with a mostly unproven receiving corps sans Adams. I think most teams would roll with a guy like that.
      I wish you the best, which ever team you are a fan of….Give em hell Sparky.

  3. Howard August 21, 2019

    The NFL is the ones playing it safe. It was just this spring that the NFL indicated three drills could not be conducted in training camp any longer, Oklahoma, half line, and ring drills. Last off season or the year before the NFL had to sit down with 8 teams plus or minus one or two and tell them they needed to reduce the physical activities in training camp to reduce injuries.
    That does not mean teams including the Packers can’t play starters more in preseason games, but the rookies and fringe players do get to experience their share of contact in preseason games. In addition starters who have had the NFL experience do get to play enough to come close, but not quite get in football shape. It is the same with almost all the NFL teams.
    The thing that suffers is tackling and to maybe a lesser extent offensive line/receiver blocking in the run game. You need live game action to fine tune those two very important phases of the game. To be sure tackling the rolling doughnut does not cut it. As a great NFL coach said, in part, football is about blocking and tackling.

  4. Kato August 22, 2019

    I don’t think Jordan Howard is on the bears. He got traded

    1. PF4L August 22, 2019

      Yes he did get traded, after the season, I think Robs point was how little some players participate in pre-season these days.
      Although i’m one who thinks Rodgers needs to be out there, more for other players than himself. I can’t really blast a team for not wanting to risk losing a key player with the Kings ransom they are paid these days.
      I think a season ending injury to any of the BIG 3, derails the season. The big 3 consisting of Rodgers, Adams, and Bakhtiari.

  5. PF4L August 22, 2019

    Am i in the twilight zone? No one in the NFL gave any thought to the length of the field, until 15 minutes before game time?

  6. PF4L August 22, 2019

    Who has turned the game off yet? Holy shit.

    1. Stiggy August 22, 2019

      They need to open a triage center. Looked like a neck for Gary… and eq is fucked.