Sure, it was only the preseason. But, it was also terrific drama! It grand fashion the comeback was complete. With a fine last name like McCarthy, it's almost a certainty that the Green Bay Packers Head Coach has some Irish flavor to him. In Indianapolis, the site of the XLVI Super Bowl, the luck of the Irish shone brightly on the Green Bay Packers. If you're a die hard and you were watching each snap, you can't tell me you didn't jump out of your seat with excitement on the 4th down throw from Harrell to Ryan Taylor. If you know me, you know that I was standing up prior to the play, but that's beside the point. You also can't tell me that you sat down during the 2-point conversion. the onside kick was grand. Harrell to Gurley and we're in range. DJ Williams carrying a defender for an extra two yards to clearly place the Packers within Crosby's range. Crosby from 50 yards. BOOM! A preseason thriller!
Here are a couple of takeaways from the game:
* I can't believe I'm about to write this, but Pat Lee's special teams play could earn him a roster berth. He has shown solid KO coverage skills. I'm hopeful that Lee doesn't make the roster as his best hasn't been good enough and I'd like to see how a guy like Gordy might develop, but don't be surprised if Pat Lee's special teams play grant him a spot on the defending champs.
* If J-Mike stays healthy, he could produce numbers a Green Bay Packers TE has never seen before.
* When Charles Woodson comes on the blitz on the same side that Clay Matthews is rushing from, exciting things happen.
* Morgan Burnett intrigues me, but man, when he makes a mental error, it's an enormous mistake.
* DJ Smith has tremendous football instincts. Love his heart.
* So'oto has played himself onto this team. He's outclassed Brad Jones, by far.
* It'll be tough to cut Lattimore, but he'll be on the Practice Squad if he doesn't sign with another team. Great effort. Plays with speed and conviction.
* Bulaga has played well. Some might level the competition he's played against, but he seems to be moving his feet smoothly and he's been more patient than last year. For my eye, he's been the brightest spot on the OL.
* Rough day for Chad Clifton, but he'll be fine. If you have questions about Clifton, ask James Harrison how the XLV contest went against Clifton. I'm not concerned. Clifton can still play.
* If we protect Aaron Rodgers, this team could do SUPER things.
* Ryan Taylor continues to be a bright note in the preseason. He's going to have a role on this team - this year. That's possibly bad news for Tom Crabtree, who if you follow Twitter, is a funny, engaging, personable man. It's also potentially bad news for Quinn Johnson.
* Hard to imagine Graham Harrell not making the team. So, if we're keeping 3 TE's, a minimum of 4 TE's and possibly 6 WR's, the roster will be thin in other areas...probably keeping only 9 at the OL, 9 at DB and potentially only 4 RB's.
* Interesting to see Starks as the 3rd down back. I though Kuhn would win the job. But, fun to watch Starks showing us a glimpse of his receiving abilities.
* Chastin West or Tori Gurley? Both are deserving. But, there's only one spot. That's a good problem to have. While West is the better WR today, might Gurley's punt blocking skills be the difference? It's the type of threat that could alter a game.
* Aaron Rodgers feels very comfortable throwing the ball to Jordy Nelson. I foresee Nelson as having the 2nd most receptions out of a WR at the end of the year.
* When I watch the 2nd team OL, I see as much potential in Dominguez as I see in anyone. Hope he makes the team. Loved his celebration with Taylor after the TD!
The fourth and final preseason game is about the 53 man roster, so here's my prediction:
QB: (3) Rodgers, Flynn, Harrell. Props to Harrell. He's earned this spot. He's also rocking the handle bar 'stache, which tells me he wants to be a member of this QB fraternity. Rodgers looks to be taking him under his week based on their interactions.
RB: (4) Grant, Green Starks, Kuhn. It hurts me to cut Quinn Johnson. Johnson was huge against Philly in the playoffs. He played a major role in the XLV title as he dominated the Eagles. I imagine Ryan Taylor having enough versatility to drop into the wishbone attack when McCarthy goes to this formation. Brandon Saine is a talent. I hope he makes the practice squad.
WR: (6) Driver, Jennings, Jones, Nelson, Cobb, Gurley. West has earned the praise of Rodgers. Presently, he's a better WR than Gurley. Since it's doubtful that the Packers could slide Gurley to the practice squad, Thompson is forced to make a decision. He unloads West and gets something in return - either a 7th rounder, a Guard, or possibly an ILB. I hope Kerry Taylor gets a practice squad look, but I predict Borel gets the nod.
TE: (4) Finley, AQ81, Taylor, DJ Williams. I wholeheartedly believed that DJ Williams would be the training camp winner at TE. But, Ryan Taylor has stolen the show. It pains me to cut Crabtree. He'll find a spot in this league. He's a tough, gritty blocker. A solid special teams player. Good hands. Wish him well. Would love to keep him, but it's a numbers game. All preseason, I felt the Packers would keep 5 TE's, but I've had a change in thinking. In part, this is because So'oto has should great promise.
OL: (9) Clifton, Lang, Wells, Sitton, Bulaga, Newhouse, Sherrod, Dominguez, McDonald. McDonald wins a spot over Diedrich-Smith as a back-up Center. McDonald's development has been a disappointment, but he is versatile enough to also play Guard. Either way, if Wells gets hurt, it'd be troublesome for the Packers. Dominguez gets the nod over Schlauderaff, which is probably wishful thinking. Schlauderaff is a Thompson draft pick. Thompson likes his draft picks, but it's important to note that Dominguez was a coveted undrafted FA, so that might carry weight in Thompson's eyes and trump his philosophy of keeping his draft picks.
DL: (6) CJ Wilson, Neal, Raji, Green, Pickett, Wynn. Wynn has come on as of late. He's been playing well as a pass rusher. It wouldn't shock me if Lawrence Guy is put on IR for the year out of fear that he might take an offer to join another teams practice squad.
LB: (9) Matthews, Walden, Jones, So'oto, Zombo, Bishop, Hawk, Smith, Francois. I really hope there is an ILB addition. I liked Francois coming out of college. He hasn't progressed. Apologies to Brad Jones, but it wouldn't surprise me to see him not make the squad. He hasn't been able to stay healthy. So'oto has shown me more than Jones. So, has Lattimore. Lattimore finds his way onto the practice squad. Elmore was a buzzkill. Let's hope Zombo doesn't end up on IR.
DB: (9) Sir Charles, T-Mon, Sammy Swagga, Nintendo Nick, Morgan Burnett, Charlie Peprah, Davon House, J-Bush, Pat Lee. Unreal, but yes, I just included Pat Lee on the roster once again. Gordy has provided an admirable run at a roster spot, but he loses out due to special teams skills. Brandian Ross, Anthony Bratton and MD Jennings all have shown enough to warrant practice squad consideration.
Specialists: (3) Crosby, Masthay, Goode. Masthay has Pro Bowl potential.
Practice Squad: (8) Schlauderaff, Saine, Borel, MD Jennings, Lattimore, Brandian Ross, Jay Ross, and Kerry Taylor. I suppose Elmore is also a candidate. I'm pulling for Kerry Taylor to get this spot! This is all based on the assumption of my prediction that Lawrence Guy will be placed on the IR for the year. Otherwise, he'll be an ideal candidate.
In my mind, 49 of the roster spots have been taken. But, there is an open spot at OL, in which I'm giving it to Dominguez. There is an open spot in the secondary, which I'm giving to Lee (regrettably). And then for the 52nd and 53rd spot, the battle is between Quinn Johnson, Tom Crabtree, Brad Jones, Tori Gurley & Chastin West.
This Thursday night - in the preseason finale - the Chiefs visit the most legendary stadium in American sports. The Lambeau crowd will be stoked to kick off the Labor Day weekend in winning fashion. It'll be a fun environment. If you're in attendance, litter yourself in the Fat Squirrel prior to the game. This game will feature a generic preview of a December date in which the Packers will go to Arrowhead. On a side note, I've got my tickets. You should get yours as well. And, on the Saturday before the game, I feel there should be a Packers party at the Boulevard Brewing Co. Just sayin'.
One thing to be fully cognitive of when watching this game: the Chiefs have placed an emphasis on the return game. It'll be a good challenge for the Packers. I'm curious to see how the Packers respond.
Aaron Rodgers gets one drive. This week - the Packers work on the run game to start. Starks gets some early work. And then it's play-action to Jordy. Rodgers on the roll-out finds AQ81. The offense is in motion. It's Starks on a screen. The drive ends with a Rodgers to Nelson TD. And a Lambeau Leap into the South End Zone.
The 1st team defense gets limited reps as well. There's a lot of work that needs to be done with the depth of the defense. DJ Smith needs reps. So does Davon House. This game is arguably as important for House as anyone else on the team. While House is a lock to make the team, his role is highly in question. Thus far, he'd probably be inactive for the season opener. But, if House can prove his worth in the final preseason game, he might warrant a look in the opener. Expect House to perform.
So'oto continues to impress with his endless motor. Lattimore uses his speed to get into Tyler Palko's face. Judging from Palko's college career, he's prone to making mistakes when he's pressured. This will mean opportunities for our secondary. It's time to be a ball hawk in the secondary!
Matt Flynn gets some solid work in. He targets West & Gurley who get extended looks as the WR core is depleted for this contest. Flynn finds riches in Ryan Taylor. Due to shoddy OL play, it's tough for Alex Green to find his way into the open field, so McCarthy calls the screen and the dreadlocks are flowing...
When Graham Harrell enters. He connects with Kerry Taylor on crossing routes. He gets DJ Williams involved as Williams runs down the seam and snatches the ball out of the air. Brandon Saine flashes soft hands as he's Harrell's outlet.
In the end, the Packers prevail. Once again. And it's a 3-1 preseason record.
Green Bay 27. Kansas City 23.
Have a Happy & Safe Labor Day. I'm off to see Phish for 3 days. And with that, to the NFL Season, I say "and I'm glad, glad, glad that you've arrived!"
Go Pack Go!