The 2009 season taught us that the preseason is not a valuable indicator of what to expect from your team when the regular season begins. However, while we can't necessarily judge the performance of a team, we can certainly assess the talents of an individual player & whether he is capable of producing. Therefore, Aaron Rodgers' play was the most positive aspect of the 1st preseason game. If Rodgers is kept upright in 2010, we'll will win more than we lose regardless of how pathetic our special teams might be.
Rodgers will have a plethora of options this year. When our playmakers are lined up in single coverage, we'll dominate. If teams decide to blitz us, we'll be an offensive juggernaut - assuming we're skilled enough to both recognize the pressure & skilled enough to protect against it. Major props to B-Jack who did a great job with regards to pass protection against the Browns. Additionally, as Rodgers has shown in the past, if teams drop back in coverage, he'll pick 'em apart.
I watched the game in an airport bar and to catch my plane shortly before the end of the 3rd Quarter. Throw in approximately 8 beers & a none HD TV...and needless to say, it was tough to evaluate.
Some small observations:
* The U-HAUL appears to have grown tremendously. I like his development. He was aggressive. Attacking the ball. Good to see him with a pick. He seems energized & appears to believe that he belongs. He gives a sense that he's a part of the team. I liked his energy.
* Good to see the Greg Jennings of 2007 & 2008.
* I was pleased with the play of the #1 OL unit.
* I miss Johnny Jolly already.
* Though I miss Jolly, Mike Neal showed good awareness - recognizing the screen. Dropping in coverage. Making the tackle. Getting us off the field. Word.
* Frank Zombo showed enough for me to want to see more.
* I miss Johnny Jolly already.
* Though I miss Jolly, I was happy to see Ryan Pickett shed a blocker & make contact on a ball carrier in the backfield.
* Lumpkin & Porter. 2 men. 1 spot. Fighting for every yard.
* Did we "win" a play on special teams against the Browns? Maybe when Cleveland shanked a punt. Again, I didn't see the end of the game, but from what I've gathered, special teams was the difference between winning & losing.
* How many players do you keep because they are good special teams players? Derrick Martin. Havner. Bishop. Willie B. Poppinga. Swain. And if we're classifying them as "good" special teams players, why can't anyone find the ballcarrier prior to a decent return? Frustrating!
* Seems as though the Packers are giving Crabtree every chance of winning a spot. Playing him early in the 2nd Quarter. Putting him on the 1st special teams units. I was hopeful that he'd close the gap and make the tackle after the Packers 1st TD on the kickoff return. Not to be. Didn't have the quickness and took the wrong angle.
* Morgan Burnett = a young Darren Sharper. Not just because they both wear 42. Not because Burnett has dreads & Sharper wore corn rolls. Not because Burnett is 6-1, 209 & Sharper is 6-2, 210. Not because they look similar in uniform at first glance. Think back to Sharper in 1997. Missing tackles in the open field. The same happened to Burnett last Saturday. Remember Sharper on Sunday Night against the Lions at Lambeau? Tight game. Scott Mitchell drops back to pass. Throwing a short-out to his right. Sharper jumping the route. Returning it 50 yards for a TD. At some point, in 2010, Burnett will do the same. Granted, Sharper was playing as a nickel or dime back for the majority of 1997, while Burnett will be inserted into the starting line-up at S. Nonetheless, to me, there are striking similarities.
* Surprised that Chastin West did not have a catch. Like his approach. Standing, sitting next to Jennings during breaks. You know that Chastin is picking Greg's mind. I'm pull for Chastin.
* It's mighty disappointing that we did not play well in the first 7 minutes of the game. It's even more disappointing that we played poorly in the last 3 minutes. Lets hope this is not a precedent for the future.
* The Brandon Chillar/Brady Poppinga combo at OLB in the 3-4 doesn't work. No need to try it out with the 1st unit anymore. I understand that Chillar is still a work-in-progress at OLB, but he doesn't look to be a natural when it comes to rushing the QB from the outside.
* Giving up two 3rd down TD passes hurts. Need more defensive intensity. Did I mention that I missed Johnny Jolly?
Clearly, the Packers have things to clean up. I believe Mike McCarthy will do so. He'll get it done. We'll be better prepared. We'll see improvements this week in Seattle.
I expect the Packers to be able to control Seattle's first unit. I foresee Dom Capers utilizing a variety of blitzes with our 1st team defense and carrying an aggressive approach. He blitzed on less than 18% of the downs in the first game. I look for this number to increase early in the game. A team cannot proclaim "Super Bowl or Die" and then come out flat 2 weeks in a row. Even if it is the preseason.
I've been impressed with Brad Jones thus far. Look for him to help get us off the field as he hurries a Hasselbeck throw after beating Sean Locklear around the corner. He gets a push and swims underneath Locklear. Incomplete pass.
Rodgers & Company go to work. With Grant seeing limited to no action post the concussion. They prepare for the possibility of a game or two without Grant. B-Jack sees an early work load. Additionally, they try to shore up run-blocking issues with the 1st team OL. B-Jack plugs for yardage.
Rodgers standing confidently in the pocket. Hits Jones across the middle. A-Rodge finds J-Mike over the top of Aaron Curry. He finds Jordy down the right sideline for 6!
Again the defense gets a stop. Raji grabs a hold of Julius Jones at the line of scrimmage as he throws Chris Spencer into the backfield. A 3rd down completion to TJ Houshmanzadeh leaves the Seahawks short of 1st down yardage. Packer ball.
Our offense appears unstoppable. Rodgers to Jennings for 22 yards. Kelly Jennings cannot guard Donald Driver in the slot. It's Thank God It's Finley for 6!
The Packers 1st team leaves with a 14-0 lead. The statement is made.
And now, the evaluation begins. Is Frank Zombo better than Brady Poppinga? CJ Wilson or Jarius Wynn? Can Bulaga fill-in, if necessary? Who to keep at TE? Can somebody PLEASE beat out Charlie Peprah? The Seahawks 2nd unit will provide a stiff test for the Packers. Prior to the draft, the Seahawks traded for Charlie Whitehurst. They gave up a 2nd & a 3rd in exchange for San Diego's 2nd & Whitehurst. Further, Whitehurst performed in the 1st preseason game throwing 2 TD's.
Whitehurst experiences some success with the Packers getting little to no pass rush. All day to throw, he finds Anthony McCoy in the heart of the Packers defense as McCoy beats Bishop up the middle.
But, this is about the Packers...
And so is the 4th Quarter. Lumpkin. Porter. Lumkin. Porter. Lumpkin. Porter.
And, I'm calling it...it's gotta happen! It's Harrell to West for a TD! West is 6-1, 216! Just throw the ball in the air & let the guy get it!
Packers 27. Seattle 23.
It's Time. Time for a victory. I want to taste it.
Go Pack Go!