Report Card Grades for Green Bay Packers Positional Units so Far This Preseason
Not that one preseason game is the be all, end all tool to measure progress, but for a team coming off a 15-1 regular season last year, a better outing was expected.
For an offense that was as good as any in the NFL last season, scoring more than 13 points should be a given. As for the defense, tackling woes were the same as a season ago.
Thankfully, a game against the Browns in Lambeau Field on Thursday is a chance to turn the page. But as far as the first preseason goes, the report card grades aren't flattering.
Aaron Rodgers didn't do anything of note in the loss to Chargers and actually exited the game with a 0.0 passer rating after completing only two of eight passes for 16 yards and an interception.
Certainly the argument can be made that any fault of Rodgers was actually that of left tackle Herb Taylor who was thoroughly beaten by Chargers rookie Melvin Ingram and put more pressure on Rodgers than should have been allowed.
After three series, Rodgers was out and Graham Harrell started slowly. That was until the Packers' final possession of the first half when Harrell completed five of six passes including a touchdown to wide receiver Randall Cobb to pull the Packers within one score of the Chargers, 14-7.
It was on that series when Harrell was at his best, directing the Packers' two-minute offense, which may bear some resemblance to the offense Harrell ran in college at Texas Tech under Mike Leach.
Rookie B.J. Coleman came in for the Packers' final possession of the game down by one score and completed four of eight passes that covered 36 yards, but ultimately didn't allow the Packers to tie the game.
Running Backs: D
On the first play of scrimmage, James Starks looked like he knew what he was doing when he got himself open for a pass from Aaron Rodgers with the quarterback scrambling to keep the play alive. Unfortunately, Starks dropped the short dump-off pass from no more than a handful of yards away, and his night didn't get any better from there on out.
The Packers' first series ended when Starks couldn't handle a handoff from Aaron Rodgers and possession went to the Chargers.
Even when he wasn't fumbling or dropping the ball, Starks carried the ball five times for a pedestrian 16 yards.
Alex Green spelled Starks for much of the second quarter, but didn't do anything of note, getting only three carries for three yards. Coming off a torn ACL last season, however, it should be considered a positive that Green played at all.
Marc Tyler got the bulk of playing time in the second half for the Packers and looked good until his final carry of the night when he fumbled and ended any chance of the Packers tying the game with less than a minute to play.
Before the fumble, Tyler actually looked decent. He may have only averaged 2.5 yards on 13 carries, but it included a touchdown, and he looked acceptable running between the tackles.
Wide Receivers: C+
Several of the biggest names among the Packers wide receivers made little to no impact in the team's preseason opener.
Greg Jennings and Tori Gurley didn't even play as they sat out with injuries. Both Jordy Nelson and Donald Driver played briefly, but neither ended up with so much as a single catch.
James Jones, meanwhile, had one reception, but also had a pass slip between his fingers.
The best performance of the evening was turned in by Randall Cobb who finished with four catches, including one for a touchdown. He also led the team with eight targeted passes, which showed the trust he's developed among the Packers quarterbacks.
Diondre Borel, Dale Moss and Jarrett Boykin all finished with three catches apiece, but none of them averaged more than 10 yards per catch.
With the exception of Cobb, no one stood out.
Tight Ends: C+
The Packers were hit especially hard by injuries to their tight ends heading into the Chargers game.
Jermichael Finley sat out with a quad injury, Ryan Taylor with a concussion, and Eric Lair has since been placed on injured reserve and, subsequently, waivers after missing the preseason opener with a knee injury.
That left D.J. Williams and Tom Crabtree as the only tight ends with any experience playing in Thursday's game.
Williams finished with two receptions, and Crabtree had one. Both performed fine, but neither of them did anything notable when the ball was in their hands.
Neither Brandon Bostick and DeMarco Cosby had a catch.
Out of all the positions on the Packers’ roster, the tackles may have performed the worst.
Without the services of Marshall Newhouse or Derek Sherrod, the Packers were forced to rely upon veteran Herb Taylor at left tackle, a decision that could have gotten Aaron Rodgers injured had he played any longer.
Taylor was thoroughly beaten by Chargers rookie defensive lineman Melvin Ingram, and on the Packers’ third possession of the game, allowed Ingram to hit Rodgers as he released the ball, resulting in an interception. On the play before, Taylor was penalized for holding.
Bryan Bulaga fared well, but in only three series with the starters, didn’t play very much.
Taking over for Bulaga was seventh-round draft choice Andrew Datko, who—after a slow start—seemed to get better as the game went along with the Packers’ driving to their only scores of the game with Datko in the contest.
Shea Allard played sparingly.
Compared to Herb Taylor, fellow starters Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang performed suberbly.
Like most of the starters, Sitton and Lang were taken out of the game after only three possessions. And while the Packers failed to score while they were in game, there was little to pinpoint as to the fault of the guards.
When the starters exited, Tommie Draheim and Sampson Genus rotated at right guard, but Don Barclay got exclusive playing time at left guard, which perhaps shows the trust the Packers have placed in the undrafted rookie.
The Packers went on their only two scoring drives with the second-string offensive line on the field, which constitutes a notch on their belt.
Considering last Thursday’s game marked Jeff Saturday’s first in a Packers jersey, it can only be considered a success, even though the center did little of note.
It was a minor victory to simply see Saturday integrate into the Packers’ offensive line without any problems such as fumbled snaps or communication issues.
When Saturday left the game with the rest of the starters, Evan Dietrich-Smith got the majority of the playing time at center.
Given Saturday’s age, it could be a case of the coaching staff wanting to get Dietrich-Smith prepared to play center in case Saturday’s body breaks down this season.
Defensive Tackles: C-
The best play of the evening from the defensive tackles came when free agent-signee Daniel Muir sniffed out a Chargers screen pass in the second half, which resulted in a busted play.
Other than Muir's one moment in the spotlight, however, the defensive tackles were mostly quiet.
It was perhaps disappointing that second-round draft choice Jerel Worthy didn't make an impression. On the other hand, Worthy didn't do anything to draw the scorn of observers, but clearly a lot is expected of him.
B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett played sparingly with starters. Pickett made one tackle, and Raji had none. They'll get more playing time as the preseason progresses.
Defensive Ends: D
Like the defensive tackles, the ends didn't have a big impact in the Chargers game, and were probably even more invisible.
C.J. Wilson, Lawrence Guy, Jarius Wynn, Mike Neal and Anthony Hargrove all saw playing time and did very little of note.
If you're looking for a smallest of silver linings, it might be that free agent Phillip Merling looked like he belonged.
After a slow start to training camp in which he's done nothing remarkable, Merling looked passable against the Chargers in making a handful of tackles.
In addition to snaps at defensive tackle in the nickel defense, Jerel Worthy also played some end in the base defense.
Outside Linebackers: A
Clay Matthews played all of one series in the first preseason game, but the outside linebackers didn't need his presence to turn in a good outing.
On just the second play from scrimmage, first-round draft choice Nick Perry beat the Chargers' right tackle with a bull rush and hustled to sack quarterback Philip Rivers for a loss of six yards.
Perry's sack was a sign that observers of the Packers were hoping to see. The rookie had been off to a quiet start to training camp, and last Thursday was a sign that he was finally starting to make an impression.
Vic So'oto continued his solid preseason play dating back to last year when, on his first play of the game, also got a sack on quarterback Jarrett Lee.
For whatever reason, So'oto seems to play his best when the lights are on even if he underwhelms during practice.
Erik Walden showed some good pass rush during the fourth quarter when he forced a hurried throw by Lee that was intercepted by safety Anthony Levine.
Finally, the box score might only read one tackle next to Dezman Moses' name, but his impact was much greater. He showed a hustle on every play and also got involved in special teams.
Inside Linebackers: C+
Unfortunately the Packers may have lost Desmond Bishop for the season when he tore a hamstring early in the Chargers game.
D.J. Smith replaced Bishop and looked reliable just as he did last season when forced into the lineup because of injury.
More than anything, Smith is a sure and solid tackler, and he'll see a lot more playing time now that Bishop is out for a couple months at the minimum.
A.J. Hawk recovered a fumble a first quarter of the game, and not to take anything away from that particular play, but observers would rather see Hawk force fumbles rather than recover them, which is more a product of luck by being in the right place at the right time.
Jamari Lattimore only received a few snaps at inside linebacker, but like Smith, he figures to see even more playing time with Bishop out as well.
Tramon Williams couldn't ask for a better start to the preseason. After a rough 2011 when he fought through a significantly injured shoulder, Williams perfectly read Philip Rivers and intercepted a pass intended for Robert Meachem.
Davon House also had a standout night before having to leave the game with an injured shoulder suffered on special teams.
Before exiting, House broke up a long pass intended for Malcolm Floyd down the left sideline and then followed that up by making a three-yard tackle for a loss on running back Curtis Brinkley.
Had it not been for injury, House may have cemented his role as a starter.
Casey Hayward had a learning experience on Thursday that included both ups and downs. On one hand he got beat deep on a double-move by Vincent Brown but later broke up a pass in the red zone and provided some good coverage.
Jarrett Bush and Otis Merrill also got beat on deep passes.
Charles Woodson didn't play in the preseason opener, which was good for the young safeties on the team because they received increased playing time. Unfortunately, they did little positive.
M.D. Jennings, who's expected to be the starter in the Packers' base defense, got beat by tight end Antonio Gates for a touchdown up the seam and later missed a tackle on Vincent Brown that went for a touchdown as well.
It was a disappointing performance from Jennings, and Packers fans can only hope it was a learning experience rather than a sign of things to come.
Rookie Jerron McMillian didn't look much better. The fourth-round draft choice also missed a tackle on Brown and missed another coming up in run support.
The biggest positive on the evening was an interception by Anthony Levine, although it was basically an easy play that anybody could have made as long as they didn't drop it.
Kicking Specialists: A
Because the Packers offense couldn't score, kicker Mason Crosby didn't get much of a workout last Thursday, not even getting an attempt at a field goal and having one extra point taken away from him when the offense went for a two-point conversion.
Tim Masthay, however, got more work than he probably wanted in an exhibition game by being asked to punt eight times.
Masthay looked in midseason form by averaging 49.5 gross and 44.1 net yards, although none of them could be pinned inside the 20.
Kick Returners: F
Diondre Borel didn't help his cause on the Packers' first kickoff return of the game when he fumbled and gave possession right back to the Chargers.
The Packers are clearly comfortable with Randall Cobb as their kick returner and were just looking to give their backups some work. And from that standpoint, Borel failed.
Curenski Gilleylen took the Packers' last kickoff for 22 yards.
Punt Returners: D
In his only attempt at a punt return, Shaky Smithson muffed the catch and the only redeeming quality was that he managed to recover it.
Smithson also got injured on the same play, and his chances of the making the team probably took a big hit.
Randall Cobb got two turns at punt return in the second half and wasn't about to risk getting injured. At least he didn't fumble in two fair catches.
Diondre Borel had one yard in his only attempt at a punt return.