Saturday night, we began to see just what kind of team the Green Bay Packers might be this season.
There were a lot of signs that the Pack could be pretty damn good as they blanked the Cleveland Browns 17-0 at Lambeau Field.
Still, there were some areas that were cringe-worthy (for the first preseason game, anyways).
With respect to the great Clint Eastwood, here were the good, the bad and the ugly from the evening:
- Aaron Rodgers. Not much has been written of Rodgers’ actual showings so far in camp, as far as I know, so I was interested to see how he would look in his first actual game action. Rodgers showed that he is still very much on-track to becoming a top-level quarterback, going 5-for-10 for for 102 yards, one touchdown and no picks. His touchdown was a thing of beauty, too, a 53-yard strike to Donald Driver that Rodgers threw while on the move to his left.
- The running game. The five Green Bay running backs totaled 44 carries for 231 yards with all the backs averaging at least 3.8 yards a carry (DeShawn Wynn had that low number). Ryan Grant looked solid, running six times for 28 yards and a two-yard score, as did Kregg Lumpkin (eight carries, 48 yards) and Brandon Jackson (8 carries, 41 yards). The real surprise was Tyrell Sutton. The undrafted rookie out of Northwestern ran 16 times for 91 yards, albeit late in the game. He’s looked solid in camp thus far and, apparently, is making it a three-back race for the No. 3 RB spot. Can the Pack actually keep four backs? I wouldn’t have thought so before, but maybe now. One thing’s becoming very clear: At least one talented runner will be available for another team at the end of camp. That running dominance led to a nearly 20-minute difference in time of possession for the Pack, as well.
- James Jones. Three catches for 43 yards, with some nifty moves along the way. If Jones can stay healthy, he will be the No. 3 wide receiver as he is dominating Jordy Nelson in the battle for that spot.
- The defensive backs. This figured to be the strength of the defense at the start of camp and, so far, so good. The DBs picked off three passes, with the INTs going to Charlie Peprah, Tramon Williams and Anthony Smith. They looked good when called upon to blitz for the most part as Smith and Will Blackmon had sacks with Blackmon also forcing a fumble. The latter is key as DBs blitz fairly often in the new scheme. This was all accomplished without Charles Woodson and Al Harris, both of whom were healthy scratches.
- Desmond Bishop. Bishop has been wreaking havoc in camp so far and that translated into a strong showing against the Browns. Four tackles, one sack, one pass defended and he was all over the field. He’s going to force this team to play him somewhere.
- Matt Flynn. At least one Packer backup QB looked solid as Flynn went 5-of-6 for 50 yards. This team is still dead if Rodgers goes down for any extended length of time, but at least Flynn is showing signs of becoming a capable backup.
- No major injuries. In fact, let me state that a little more clearly: NO INJURIES!! YES!!! For a team that was really hurt by injuries last preseason, Saturday night was a welcomed change.
- Mason Crosby only going 1-for-3 on field goal attempts. I know, I know, I’m probably looking too much into this, seeing as though the two he missed were from 55 and 60 yards, respectively, and the one he made was from 45 yards. Still, Crosby is going into year three and for him to become a mainstay on the roster, his accuracy has got to get better. Just being able to boom kicks doesn’t mean much.
- Brady Poppinga and Nick Collins whiffing on containing Joshua Cribbs’ 29-yard run on an end around. The Packers gave up way, way, way too many big plays last season and it looks like they’re still working that out.
- Brian Brohm. Looks like Adam might have to write a sequel to the Brian Brohm conundrum. The former second-round pick went 3-of-10 for 18 yards (only 18 more than I had and I didn’t even play) with two interceptions. And that was against third-string talent. Yikes. It doesn’t appear as though he has any feel for running a pro offense, which is always a plus. That was okay last year as he was a rookie. But now? It’s a dreadful sign. After all, Flynn looks like he’s picking things up.
- Tony Moll. Moll should get comfortable on this list; in fact, he should look into leasing a spot on this list because I get the feeling he’ll be here a lot. With an offsides call and a pressure allowed because he was, yet again, off balance (Does he have Vertigo or something? Maybe an inner-ear infection? What is wrong with him?), Moll continues to show his true mediocrity. In fact, that’s too much praise. He’s a total stiff.
- The penalties. The Packers were the most-penalized team in the league last season and they still have a long ways to go in cleaning that up, with nine penalties for 52 yards, including four in a very short span in the first half. I like that Mike McCarthy preaches an aggressive style of play. I really do. But this has got to stop. Penalties kill success. Teams like Pittsburgh and Baltimore are also aggressive, but those teams don’t kill themselves with penalties. There’s a balance you have to find and, clearly, Green Bay isn’t anywhere near finding it.
In the end, the positives far outweigh the negatives as the Packers are off to a smashing start. And if that isn’t enough to make you feel good, remember this: Woodson, Harris, Clay Matthews, Jeremy Thompson, Pat Lee, Justin Harrell and B.J. Raji (RAJI!!) didn’t even play. Enough to make any true fan smile.