Friday, August 17, 2012

It's only preseason. But it's still an ugly Packers' loss.

The score was 35-10 Browns over the Packers last night in Lambeau Field. It's just preseason, and Cleveland was using this game as its dress rehearsal while the Packers were...well, not exactly sure what they were doing as this game looked as shambolic as the first.

After the second game of the preseason, we saw some good things with the Green Bay Packers. Primarily Aaron Rodgers being Aaron Rodgers. After missing a wide open Jordy Nelson in the endzone in the first offensive series, he came back to him about two plays later in that same series and, with tight coverage, connected for a TD. The other stat of the evening for Rodgers is that he was the team's leading rusher. Now, that cannot be good. And it isn't. But it is also indicative of how the team played after Rodgers and the starters exited early on. Which is to say...oh...let's try sucky, shall we?

With only a handful or so of practices and two games remaining in the preseason, turnovers by the offense and missed tackles by the defense continue to be areas of concern. And after seemingly take a step forward in San Diego last week, backup QB Graham Harrell took two steps backward last night. Granted, he wasn't getting much help but he also wasn't making plays when he needed to. Had a bit of the deer-in-the-headlights look which we here in Wisconsin are quite familiar least when applied to scampering forest creatures crossing the roads in the Fall. It is less becoming when it's the guy you may be relying upon to fill in for the league MVP if he were to become injured and unavailable for any length of time.

This latter situation has the Twittersphere abuzz with speculation that the Pack may try to pick up a veteran backup somewhere along the way. Speculation was also flying last evening that the Browns in fact might have been showcasing their former starter and now backup, Colt McCoy. McCoy did acquit himself well last night. But whether Ted Thompson would go that route or not...? On the other hand, who would have thought that he'd bring in Cedric Benson because of obvious concerns about the running game? As mentioned earlier, with Rodgers being the leading rusher on the night that concern about the running game seems well founded.

Injuries have been and continue to be a big part of the Packers' training camp story this preseason. It has affected the running back situation in particular. But it has also taken away arguably the Packers best linebacker, Desmond Bishop, perhaps for the season. To be fair, D.J. Smith has played well in replacing Bishop. The coaching staff is high on him and he always seems to be in on plays. It changes the mix, though, and how it works out over the course of the season will be a key to the Packers' success.

I could say more but if you saw the game you probably have your own take on what worked and what didn't last night...and it was mostly what didn't. If you didn't see the game, read the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's report by Packers beat writer, Bob doesn't get any better than his writing.

Next Thursday night's game vs. the Bengals would be expected to be the Pack's dress rehearsal for the season opener, the game where the starters play into the second half to really get things in place for the regular season; the final preseason game is where those players on the bubble will have their final opportunity to make an impression. But given the team's injury situation and the fundamentals -- ball control and tackling -- which still seem to be lacking, who knows how McCarthy will approach the Bengals game.

The Packers are odds-on favorites to go to the Super Bowl and in some scenarios, win it. They have depth at many positions. But unless they can execute the fundamentals, and have a backup QB they can rely on to perform at a consistent level, those odds may drop. Too early to hit the panic button. As they say, it's not how you start but how you finish that matters in terms of getting into and making a run through the playoffs. That's a long way away. From where they are now, it's a very, very long way away.