Tuesday, August 14, 2012

My Take -> Preseason Week 2

Greetings, G-Force.

Sure, it's always nice to see your team pull out a victory. Even if it's the 1st preseason game of the year. But, unfortunately, we'll have to wait a week to put on our victory smiles. With that said, here's some quick vibes that I have taken away from the last week of Packers football:

* Have to start with Ted Thompson. We're seeing a different Ted Thompson than we've ever seen before. And, I like it. Like he's normally done, he's put together key components of this team in a masterful way. We have an abundance of young talent. We have great depth at a number of positions. But, over the last two weeks, we've seen Ted Thompson get aggressive. It tells me that he's all in. He wants another Super Bowl Title. This year.

Injuries have decimated the roster. Especially at Tackle and RB. While it's nice to see Newhouse make his way back, Sherrod has yet to make an appearance. That's scary. But, in a fashion that is absolutely unlike anything Ted Thompson has done previously, he went out and signed Reggie Wells and his 9 years of NFL experience. It's worth mentioning that Wells has experienced what it takes to make it to the Super Bowl. In '08, he started 16 games for the Arizona Cardinals team that made it to the Super Bowl. Further, the Packers are down to 3 healthy RB's. Thompson responded by bringing in Cedric Benson. I'll get to Benson in a bit, but man, I was shocked to see Thompson go out and grab players in aggressive fashion. Some may point to when Thompson brought back players like Ahman Green and Mark Tauscher in 2009. But, this is a completely different situation. Green and Tauscher were familiar with the organization. The were well-respected in the locker room. Wells and Benson are foreign. This tells me that Thompson and McCarthy have absolute confidence in the camaraderie of this team. It's also interesting that Thomspon skipped over Ryan Grant in favor of Cedric Benson.

In familiar Thompson fashion, it was brilliant to see him sign TJ Lang to a 4-year extension. It's great to have Sitton and Lang locked up for the prime of their careers.

* The Desmond Bishop loss is devastating. There was one player in the NFL last year with 115 tackles and 5 sacks. His name: Desmond Bishop. Now, he might be lost for the season. Devastating. It's painful to think about.

* There will be some that wonder whether Benson has any legs left to him. I am not one of those guys. For three years in a row, Benson has eclipsed 1,000 yards. This year - he won't be asked to pound out that yardage. He won't need to carry the ball 250-275 times. He'll be in the rotation. He'll be asked to pound out tough yards. He'll need to keep the clock ticking after the Packers build leads in the 2nd half. My only concern is whether or not he'll hold onto the football. The Packers have become among the league's elite due to their ability to protect the football. Over the last 2 years, Benson has put the ball on the ground 12 times. That's scary. If Benson holds onto the football, he's going to be a huge addition to this roster.

* It was terrific to see Nick Perry get to the QB! That penalty was rubbish! HORRIBLE CALL! Really liked his effort on the next play when he drove Randy McMichael to the ground. When he's lined up against the TE and he's not asked to drop out in coverage, I'd like to see him not hesitate. Rather, I'd like to see him either attack the QB or I'd like to see him knock the TE off of his route. I've been asked whether Nick Perry will be nicknamed Super Nintendo Nick. Well, let's see how he progresses. He's got to earn that one.

* I didn't like seeing Aaron Rodgers on the field with Herb Taylor as the starting LT. I hope we never see that again.

* Loved how aggressive McCarthy was in his play calling with Graham Harrell. He didn't hold anything back. Wanted to see how he'd perform in a "real-life" situation. Harrell didn't impress me. I liked the drive right before the half, but I thought that Harrell missed a number of throws that he should have made. In his defense, he wasn't given many favors from his OL nor his receivers. I'm curious to see him play against Cleveland this Thursday.

* We didn't see much of BJ Coleman. But, when he was on the field, we saw what I figured we'd see. He stands tall in the pocket. He has a rocket. He's fairly quick to make decisions. He is hungry to look downfield.

* At RB, there were heavy issues.
1.) James Starks was a buzzkill. Straight up. Beyond the dropped pass and the fumble, one thing that caught my eye was how he reacted to contact. In '10, what I loved about Starks was that when he found contact, he fell forward. Last week, we Starks met a defender, he went backwards.
2.) We didn't see enough of Alex Green to make a judgment.
3.) Brandon Saine and John Kuhn need to get healthy.
4.) It was nice to see Marc Tyler run. He played like I expected. He runs hard. Looks for contact. Not going to run away from anyone, but he's going to hit the hole with a vengeance and more often than not, he's going to get positive yards.

* At WR, a couple of things stood out to me:
1.) Randall Cobb will be a focal point of the offense. Loved seeing the ball in his hands in the middle of the field. He's in for a big season. It's been widely reported that he's taken an occasional hand-off in training camp. I fancy that Mike McCarthy has watched the way the 'queens have used Percy Harvin and it's very possible that Cobb will be used in a similar fashion. He's a weapon and I'm looking forward to seeing him touch the football in a variety of ways.
2.) I really liked Jarrett Boykin. He instantly caught my eye. Looked the part. I want to see more of him.
3.) Sure, there was a penalty on the play, but regardless, James Jones has to catch the ball. 'Nuff said.
4.) Dale Moss looks like he's a prime candidate for the practice squad.
5.) Shaky Smithson should be the next player cut.
6.) If Borel and Gurley continue to have injury issues, it's possible that one of them may end up being tucked away on the IR for the season. Borel looked like he could continue to use some seasoning. I'm hoping to see Gurley running routes this week.
7.) Curenski Gilleylen is what he is: a training camp body.

* At TE, it was nice to see Crabtree grab the 3rd down pass to keep the chains moving. Wished I would have seen more of DJ Williams. I'd like to see Williams dominate these preseason games. This unit needs a healthy J-Mike.

* On the OL, there are both health and depth concerns:
1.) Herb Taylor is not a LT in the NFL.
2.) Marshall Newhouse is a key to the Packers success.
3.) Derek Sherrod & Ray Dominguez must get healthy.
4.) I'm excited to see Reggie Wells this week.
5.) Andrew Datko wasn't as bad as he's been made out to be in the media throughout the preseason.
6.) It's worth repeating: STOKED to have Lang & Sitton locked up.

* The Packers DL is going to be much improved from last year.
1.) I'm ecstatic to see a well-rested BJ Raji.
2.) It's a total treat to see Jerel Worthy jab OL like they are punching bags.
3.) Make note: Both Philip Merling and Mike Neal made tackles for loss!
4.) Anthony Hargrove got his hands on a ball and knocked it down.
5.) I even liked the play of Lawrence Guy. Played with good speed and activity.
6.) Unless injuries come in abundance, I can't see a scenario in which Wynn makes the team.

* Outside of the Bishop injury, there were plenty of positives at the LB position as well.
1.) You can't replace Desmond Bishop. He's a beast. But, man, DJ Smith looks legitimate. He plays on his toes. He's active. He's our best tackler in space. He needs to be on the field. He did get turned around on the TD pass to Gates, but he'll improve in that area.
2.) I thought Erik Walden was terrific. Granted, he was playing against the 2nd stringers, but Walden looked like he wants to see significant playing time this year.
3.) Vic So'oto! Man, he's a preseason stallion! Quick off the ball. He looked like he was thinner.
4.) I was disappointed when Terrell Manning got caught inside and took a bad angle to the ball on the run to the left side of the OL. I have high hopes for Manning. Want to see him perform this year. He hasn't shown that he is up for it yet.

* Once again, the secondary was stalking the football!
1.) Loved seeing T-Mon jump the route! Played like he's ready to return to his XLV form.
2.) Poor Ras-House. Can the guy stay healthy? House looked like he was ready to run away with the starting role. The 3rd & 3 play against Malcolm Floyd - I mean, are you kidding me? We didn't see a CB make that play ALL YEAR in '11. Great hand work. Turned his head. Knocked the ball away. Additionally, other than Sir Charles, who have we seen make that tackle for loss play? He flew into the backfield. He was reckless. And, right when he was offering hope, the shoulder pops. Unreal. We need him back. ASAP.
3.) Anthony Levine was a highlight. Beyond the interception, he led the team with 5 tackles.
4.) Thought there were some positives that came out of Casey Hayward's play as well. He's physical. I was surprised that he didn't swing his head. In the future, it'll happen. It's in his instincts. But, in the future, we can expect to see more of what the Chargers did to Hayward: double moves and deep routes. Hayward can be caught with his eyes in the offensive backfield as he looks to make a big play.
5.) Morgan "Heritage" Burnett showing up a step late. Let's hope this isn't a trend. He's intimidating in stature. He's still so young and learning. I have high hopes for him in '12.
6.) MD Jennings also got turned around by Gates. But, like DJ Smith, I hope this is only part of the learning curve.
7.) I was hoping to see more of Jerron McMillan.

This week, it's the Browns. In some ways, this might be the battle between a couple of Texas QB's: Colt McCoy vs Graham Harrell. McCoy went to Texas. Harrell went to Texas Tech. While Brandon Weeden is expected to play throughout the 1st half, it might be a chance for the Browns to showcase McCoy. It's been rumored that the Packers have interest in him. If Harrell fails to perform this week, it's possible that Thompson and McCarthy will look outside the organization for a back-up QB. Presently, McCoy might be the #3 QB in Cleveland. Might it be a match?

With Marshall Newhouse playing, look for Rodgers to have more time. With additional time, he'll have more success. And more confidence. We'll see Rodgers put points on the board. Rodgers to Nelson for 6 points.

It'll be nice to see Alex Green running with the 1st team. Look for McCarthy to try and get him into space with a designed screen play early in the game.

We could also see a small wrinkle with Cobb in the backfield as McCarthy continues to tinker with the offense.

With safety being of the utmost importance, look for Robert Francois and Jamari Lattimore to see increased playing time. Francois has been getting looks with the starting dime defense. This is an important role in the Packers defense.

Weeden isn't the most mobile of QB's. He's not a sitting target. But, he has limited range. Look for Perry's bull rush to disrupt the Browns offense.

I'm expecting a Casey Hayward interception this week.

I'm excited to see Sir Charles' season debut at safety.

Look for BJ Coleman to see more snaps than he did last week. And, he'll put points on the board. Thought it'd happen last week, but I'm calling it this week. Coleman to Boykin for a TD and a Lambeau Leap to go with it!

Green Bay 27. Cleveland 13.

Go Pack Go!

Talkin' S-Mac.

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