I sit with excitement. A bold smile. The SOJA "Amid the Noise & Haste" vinyl spins softly in the background. Modern Reggae music that sets the head boppin' tempo to the night. A 2013 Russian River Consecration slowly opens in a snifter glass. After more than 2 years of age, this beer has lost a lot of its carbonation. It sips at a pleasantly powerful 10% punch. It's sour. It's sweet. It's a great sipper as the mind rejoices on a joyful exhibition opener.
I'm a Packers blogger. A Packers fan. A Packers loyalist. I have not researched this as I'm not a Packers historian nor a Packers journalist. I write with an attempt to offer a different perspective than what a reader would normally receive. With that, I ask: When's the last time you can recall the Packers looking so efficient throughout the duration of a 4 Quarter game in the exhibition opener? Also, when's the last time that the Packers rookies looked so dynamic in the exhibition opener? Personally, I can't recall a time. Ever. Thus, I'm walking with a genuine, newly found enthusiasm for the 2015 NFL Season. Trust me, I get it. It was only a preseason game. Week 1, at that. But, the signs were encouraging.
Here were the quick vibes that hit me:
* Mike McCarthy wants a fast start. He wants to play with tempo to start the season. He's challenging his team and his staff to play with pace. To play with aggression. I was stunned that the NFL's MVP saw an entire Quarter of play. But, McCarthy wants this team in rhythm.
* Sure, it was only a preseason game, but it was nice to see that Tom Clements appeared to be keeping the majority of the formations and offensive concepts in the same fashion as we've seen in past years. Loved the 4th & 1 shot from Tolzien to Janis!
* Rodgers to Adams on the 10 yard slant. Rodgers to Nelson on the back shoulder. Rodgers to Cobb on the short slant. The MVP looks like he's ready.
* EDDIE! Loved seeing him step out of tackles. It's a joy to watch him run. Wish he'd have muscled thru Collins' tackle near the end zone as I thought he'd fight into the end zone, but Collins is a baller.
* JAYRONE ELLIOTT!!! I've said it before. I'll say it again. The Packers need Elliott to have a monster campaign in 2015. He showed KGB-like quickness off the snap. He found the edge and turned the corner with excellence. A very, very encouraging first preseason game from Elliott. I loved how he used his length coming around the edge to swipe at the football. I loved how he used his length to get his arms up when he couldn't get to the QB. I loved how he extended his arms in the run game to hold the point of attack. Big time performance from Jayrone!
* Linsley, Sitton and Lang looked great. Bulaga as well. Bakhtiari will have better games.
* AQ81! was my goat of the game. Dropped ball. Poor blocking. Runs the route a 1/2 yard short of the sticks on 3rd down. These are the basics, AQ81!. Get 'em down. We're a team on a mission. And, want you as a part of it.
* Wish Adams would've caught the ball in the corner of the end zone. Nonetheless, he looks like he's running with confidence. He looked fluid. He looks like he's ready to be a major target in the offense this year.
* James Starks. I'm forever grateful, man. But, dude. New year. Same bounce to the outside that nets nothing. James, plant your foot. Go. Lower the shoulder. Take what you can get. Understand down and distance. I don't get why you try to spring things to the outside so quickly when there's nothing there. Frustrating.
* It was comical to see John Kuhn on the FB Dive.
* Donny Barclay will have better days. I'm not worried.
* Thought Matt Rotheram and Josh Walker both had really solid games. If they continue to play with that toughness, they'll be tough cuts. They're making life difficult for Lane Taylor.
* Thought Tretter did a decent job getting a push and directing traffic.
* Great game, Scott Tolzien. It's a crucial preseason for Tolzien's career. He wasn't perfect, but he was confident. He was in command. He showed mobility. He showed field awareness. When given time, I thought he played really well.
* Brett Hundley. Wow. Couldn't ask for a better first performance. His only two incompletions were perfect balls in which Montgomery didn't get his feet inbounds. Hundley was athletic. He was mobile. He's gifted. He needs to get stronger, but an impressive performance from the youngster. Hundley's reaction after his TD was absolutely wonderful. Sheer joy. I'm animated to see more of him in the preseason!
* Was expecting to see Richard Rodgers as a Red Zone target. I'm looking for him to score 6-8 TD's this year.
* ALONZO HARRIS! Looked like Starks during the XLV year. Pushing forward. Seeking contact. Fighting forward. Taking what he could get. Good to see him catch the ball as well. He runs a little too upright for my preference, but he's looking to deliver punishment. Exciting debut!
* Rajion Neal. Nice to see him fully recovered from the injury. Showed a slash to him.
* John Crockett. Fun to see him get in the end zone. Thought Crockett left a lot of yards on the field. He lacks the speed to get the edge. He ran with nerves. He didn't trust his initial judgment. He's a one-cut back, but he spent too much time dancing in NE.
* Aaron Ripkowski looks as though he might be able to make an immediate impact on special teams.
* Prior to the concussion, Justin Perillo looked to be a dependable target.
* Need to see more of Mitchell Henry, Kennard Backman and Harold Spears. Not able to give much of an assessment.
* JEFF JANIS! Sure, the TD was EPIC. The speed off the line of scrimmage, you just cannot teach that. But, how about the grab on the crossing route when the ball was thrown behind him? That was special. I didn't know that was in his arsenal.
* Myles White had his chance. Two bad drops from White. Janis has to be far ahead of White on the depth chart and White didn't do himself any favors with respect to forcing the Packers to keep a 6th WR.
* Larry Pinkard. Kid looks the part in the uniform. Has some shake to him. Appears to be a prime target for the practice squad.
* Ty Montgomery showing an elusive step to him. He's confident. He looked tough running through the middle of the field. A fearless approach as he pursued extra yardage. He's a natural with the ball in his hands.
* Fabbians Ebbele held his own. He's a big dude. Used his frame well. Worth a look. He's squarely in position to make a run at the practice squad. And, with the injuries at OT, he'll get a heavy look this week.
* Datone Jones played way more snaps than I anticipated he would. He looks like he's put on some weight. He was dominant against the 2nd and 3rd teams. He was playing with purpose. Liked to see his push.
* Christian Ringo played well. Thought he had a great push. Understood leverage. Really encouraging debut from the rookie.
* Mike Pennel came to camp to win a job. Looks to be in excellent shape. He was active throughout.
* Good to see BJ Raji in uniform again. The FREEZER had a quick first step on a couple of plays.
* Bruce Gaston had great energy. He was forceful up front. Consistent in his pursuit. Played angry. He was disruptive.
* Khyri Thornton. All hope is not lost. He played with more desire than I recall him offering last year. He even offered a push. Played with a will to win his individual battle. He's still facing an up-hill climb to make the roster, but that was a positive step in the right direction.
* Andy Mulumba! Super fun to see him on the inside blitz. Strong game from Mulumba. Looked good on the outside as well.
* Really disappointing play by Nate Palmer on the outside. Didn't contain the play. Showed that he's still learning the position. The Packers cannot expect Palmer to be the #3 ILB this season.
* YELLOW JAKE! What a performance! 6 tackles. 2 Tackles for Loss. 1 Sack. 1 QB hit. If that's YELLOW JAKE, then we're in for an exciting season.
* Sam Barrington looked really comfortable. He carried himself as though he was a leader of the defense. He was in attack-mode.
* It brought a large smile to my face when Carl Bradford got home on the sack. But, man, seeing him trying to tackle James White in space was a sore sight for my eyes.
* Adrian Hubbard. Hope he's tough enough to play in the NFL. Gets nicked up often. I'm pulling for him. Really enjoy his style. 1 sack. 1 Tackle for Loss. 1 QB hit. Puts himself in position to make plays. But, need more from him.
* Really wanted to see Tavarus Dantzler. Nothing to note.
* Joe Thomas wants to be a punisher. He gets sideline-to-sideline. But, he looked lost, at times. Wasn't as confident in open space as I thought he'd be.
* Jermauria Rasco has the physique. Looked to have decent burst off the line of scrimmage. 1 sack. 1 tackle for loss. 1 QB hit. Liked what I saw. Has great reach. Practice squad target.
* QUINTEN ROLLINS! SPECTACULAR! I'm surprised that he was only credited with 2 passes defensed. I counted 4. He plants and he attacks the football. Wish he'd have grabbed the two balls that hit him in the hands. Nonetheless, an extremely exciting initial performance from the 2nd round pick.
* LaDarius Gunter! My boy! Da _! He has to be a lock to make this team! He has to be. He was beat deep on two plays and will require over the top help, but he sure seems as though he's one of the top 53 players on the roster. Fantastic play on the interception. Willing tackler in the run game.
* Kyle Sebetic won't make the team, but he played well. Sure tackler. Assignment ready.
* Thought HaHa was out of position in the run game on a couple of plays. Especially on the long TD run. Between HaHa and Palmer that was a fully disheartening play. Both were in position to make play. Neither did. I expect better than that out of HaHa. The Packers need him to be a force in the secondary. He wasn't in the preseason opener.
* Jean Fanor won't make the team, but I like his athleticism. He was present on nearly all of the special teams throughout the game.
* Hey TT, time to wake up, man. Why would we only carry 87 players on the roster with all of the players that we have being nicked up? Doesn't make sense to me. It's time to bring in a couple of Tackles off of the street. Even if it's only from a numbers perspective.
This week - I'm headed to Pittsburgh for the preseason game. My wife's family lives in Wheeling, WV, which is about an hour from Heinz Field. I'm stoked to catch my first in-person glimpse of the 2015 Packers in an XLV exhibition rematch. Just like NE, Pittsburgh will offer a tough match-up for the Packers. I view the Steelers as the AFC favorite this year.
Look for Rodgers to play into the 2nd Quarter. Once again, he's in rhythm. He uses all of his targets. Then, he gives way to Tolzien who - once again - engineers a TD drive. Go get paid, Scott. Hundley comes in and continues the efficiency. He's in lock-step with Pinkard. Pinkard continues to make plays and scores on a deep ball from Hundley. Alonzo Harris bulls forward for big yardage. Jayrone Elliott notches another sack. YELLOW JAKE plugs more holes. This time - Rollins hangs onto the interception.
Packers 27. Steelers 16.
Go Pack Go!