Friday, August 23, 2013

My Take -> Preseason Week 3

Greetings, G-Force.

A win is a fun feeling. Regardless of circumstance, it's nice to win. And when the win is accompanied with GO PACK GO chant in a visitors stadium, it feels even better. Here are some kind vibes from the win over the Rams:

* Aaron Rodgers looks to be in full stride. That alone will make the Packers tough to beat.
* There's been a heavy emphasis on getting the OL to the 2nd tier of the defense. TJ Lang has clearly bought into this philosophy. Lang was consistently finding his way downfield.
* In the run game, Don Barclay seals the edge on the right side of the line.
* J-Mike reaping rewards from the play fake and then taking full advantage of his opportunities.
* It eased many fears when I watched Micah Hyde coming on the blitz. He's a natural at rushing out of the slot. It should come as no surprise that Hyde hasn't excelled on the outside. That isn't his game. Hyde is a slot CB who - much to my surprise - has displayed a lot of tools normally associated with a Safety.
* Jarrett Boykin in lock-step with Rodgers carries lots o' positive buzzes with it.
* Speaking of positive buzzes, Johnny Jolly. Man, in 2009, Jolly had 10 PD. since then, the Packers DL has struggled to get their hands on footballs. Instantly, Jolly has made an impact. Though he'll never be an elite pass rusher, this trait is nearly as valuable of an art as rushing the QB. Jolly should be a lock to make the roster.
* Andy Mulumba displayed some of the skills that I projected as possibilities as soon as the Packers signed him. He pays the run well. He also showed pass rushing skills.
* It was good to see Nate Palmer putting some energy into the pass rush.
* Nick Perry's closing speed impresses me. Wish Kevin Green could teach him a spin move though.
* Liked that Mike Neal was given an opportunity to rush the passer from the inside. While, I like his power on the outside, he can't drop into coverage.
* Led by BJ Raji, I liked the presence of the run defense.
* Chris Banjo plays with energy.
* Robert Francois should see playing time in the regular season. He's always seeking ball carriers with vicious pursuit.
* I like Sam Barrington. I'm pulling for him.
* Thought Terrell Manning had a decent game. Nearly blocked two punts. Showed hunger rushing the QB.
* Once again, David Bakhtiari didn't disappoint.
* CJ Wilson did well plugging holes.
* Lane Taylor brings nastiness. He's a bruiser. A fighter. I like his game. Pulling for him. He might have a future in the League.
* Micah Hyde showed great comfort on his punt return.
* Well done, BJ Coleman.
* Vince Young is still not comfortable, which shouldn't surprise. But, time is running out. I prefer him to Graham Harrell. If time allows.
* If Eddie Lacy keeps running that way, defenses will have to respect the run. And Aaron Rodgers will like what he sees.
* Yes, he had a poor performance against Arizona. But, I like Ras-House.
* In limited action, Morgan Burnett has been impressive covering crossing routes.
* Brandon Bostick is quietly making his move.

Things to improve upon:

* On both of Lacy's first two runs, EDS was beaten and there was a hand on Lacy prior to him getting to the line of scrimmage.
* Dezman Moses concerns me. Might not be worthy of a roster spot.
* Jamari Lattimore hasn't taken the leap that I thought he'd take. Still, he has great special teams talents and should make the team.
* MD Jennings and Jerron McMillan leave something to be desired.
* A week after offering hope on inside blitzes, AJ Hawk & Brad Jones left me yawning. I like how Francois pursues with unfiltered passion and intent.
* While Jeremy Ross hasn't flourished as a WR, he is the Packers best overall returner. He's decisive. He runs with conviction. He's a much better option than Franklin. I fear that if Ross isn't the returner, the special teams units might return to pre-Randall Cobb status.
* I've been on the Tyrone Walker bandwagon. I was disappointed that he couldn't hang onto two balls that hit him in the hands. Might be deal breakers.
* James Starks with a poor performance hurt his chances in a crowded backfield.
* I'm beginning to wonder if DJ Williams is playing himself off the team. Unbelievably disappointing.
* While the Packers didn't give up many points, they did give up big plays throughout. Need this to stop.

Here's my first attempt at unlocking the top 53. Until last week, I was feeling like the Packers might try to tuck Charles Johnson & Kevin Dorsey on the IR for the season. But, with their recent arrival at practice, those two are the most uncertain players on the roster. The next two weeks will be telling. Here goes:

QB: (2) Rodgers & Coleman. I wanted the back-up to be Young. He's yet to prove it. Neither has Coleman, but he's the better long term prospect. Harrell is not the answer.

RB: (4) Lacy, Harris, Franklin & Kuhn. Lacy & Harris could be a tandem we haven't seen in Green Bay since '03. Franklin hasn't lived up to expectations - thus far - but, he's a lock for the roster. Kuhn is a great utility player. Tough to cut Starks. I'll forever cherish him for his performances in the XLV run. Green never materialized. In part, due to injury. Pease is a logical practice squad candidate.

WR: (5) A lot of depth. No one has elevated to a spot worthy of demanding a roster spot. Jones, Cobb, Nelson, Boykin, Ross. Ross is the best returner on the roster. Have to keep him. Walker's two drops might have been the difference. Walker, White, Gillett & Hines are all practice squad candidates.

TE: (4) J-Mike, Mulligan, Williams, Taylor. For now, Taylor & Williams make it as Quarless hasn't been seen and Bostick could likely be stashed on the Practice Squad for another year. If Williams has another poor showing, Bostick could be reignited.

OL: (8) Bakhtiari, Sitton, EDS, Lang, Barclay, Newhouse, Taylor, Van Roten. All but Taylor are assumed to be locks. Taylor has brought a level of intensity worthy of a roster spot. When I watch the 4th Quarter of these preseason games, I watch and wonder if anyone belongs. Taylor makes me believe that he has a home. He shows promise and the ability to be a future starter in the NFL.

Specialists: (3) Goode, Masthay, Crosby.

DL: (8) Pickett, Raji, Wilson, Neal, Jones, Jolly, Boyd, Daniels. A lot of DL for a 3-4, but there's great versatility and a lot of contracts to get figured out after the year. Boyd isn't necessarily deserving, but his status as a 5th Round pick grants him a year of development. Pena and Miller are practice squad candidates.

OLB: (4) Matthews, Perry, Mulumba, Palmer. The hardest cut is Moses who played admirably in '12. But, Mulumba has outperformed him and Palmer is a coveted draft pick.

ILB: (6) Hawk, Jones, Francois, Lattimore, Manning, Barrington. Barrington has been too good to release or hide on the practice squad. Dude can play. ILB will play a prominent role on special teams.

DB: (9) T-Mon, Shields, Hayward, Ras-House, Hyde, Bush, Jennings, McMillan, Burnett. Hyde gives versatility. I never envisioned him as a safety. I see it now. Banjo is an ideal practice squad candidate.

This week - the Packers take on the Seahawks, which has developed into a really nice rivalry over the last 15 years since Holmgren departed. The Seahawks are loaded with depth and it's been put on display during the preseason as their play has been convincing. Both teams will approach the contest with high octane intensity. It's the tune-up game for the Regular Season.

The Packers match up well with Seattle. With DuJuan Harris returning, look for the Packers to give the Seahawks a heavy dose of Lacy & Harris. With Rodgers out of shotgun, I anticipate Rodgers making a bundle of adjustments at the snap. After the snap, he will have options to either hand it off or to throw it. It allows for enhanced flexibility for Rodgers. And, it could lead to big plays by the TE's based on Rodgers' reactions to the movements of the ILB. Look for the Packers to attack the middle of the field.

Matching up with Richard Sherman & Brandon Browner, the depth of the Packers WR units will be tested as they'll be playing without Jordy & possibly Cobb. Shine on, Boykin & Ross. It's definitely a chance for someone to elevate and earn a roster spot as the #5 WR. It is also an opportunity for DJ Williams to reestablish himself as a viable pass catching option. I feel it'd be wise for McCarthy to put Williams in position to make a play early in the game, just as he did J-Mike last week. Williams needs a confidence builder. In the past, McCarthy has attempted to put players in position to succeed after underwhelming performances. Being the players coach that I view him as, I wouldn't be surprised to see Williams as the target of an early Rodgers pass.

Largely, expect the Packers to pound the ball at the interior of the Seahawks defense. John Schneider did a nice job of digging for valuable depth in the '13 Draft by selecting Jordan Hill in Round 3 and Jesse Williams in Round 5. They'll be put to the test this weekend. Other than Brandon Mebane, I'm not fond of the interior of the Seattle DL. They can be punished. It'll be up to Hill & Williams to perform as rookies. I'm aware that Hill has an injured bicep, but I don't know the severity of it.

If Russell Wilson continues to develop, there's reason to believe that Seattle is the favorite to win the NFC. Even with Breno Giacomini as the starting RT. And JR Sweezy at RG. Regardless, look for the Packers to attack the left side of the Seahawks OL. They should pair Hyde's blitzes with Clay's relentless pursuit. I fancy good results will come. BJ Raji will be tested in us match-up with Max Unger.

At the skill positions, the Seahawks will provide a real test for the Packers defense. Marshawn Lynch, Christine Michael, Golden Tate, Sidney Rice, Doug Baldwin, and Zach Miller all bring a healthy presence to the offense. Jermaine Kearse and Luke Wilson further the depth. They'll bring energy for 4 Quarters. The Packers couldn't ask for a better 3rd preseason game opponent.

The 1st half is a tug of war. Matching FG's until Lacy pounds one in from 7 yards following a Rodgers bullet to J-Mike across the middle. The Packers hold a 13-9 lead at the half.

Trailing 19-13 late, BJ Coleman takes over. He hits Myles White over the middle. He finds Bostick on a roll-out. Alex Green pounds forward. It's Coleman to Bostick for the winner!

Packers 20. Seahawks 19.

Lambeau, be loud. Treat this one like it is real.

Go Pack Go!

Talkin' S-Mac.

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