Packers vs. Bengals: 10 Things We Learned from Green Bay's 27-13 Win

Matt SmithContributor IIIAugust 23, 2012

Packers vs. Bengals: 10 Things We Learned from Green Bay's 27-13 Win

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    Coming off a big loss to the Cleveland Browns in their second preseason game, the Green Bay Packers headed to Cincinnati in search of their first preseason win.

    The team did just that, improving to 1-2 on the preseason after beating the Cincinnati Bengals 27-13.

    Having said that, in the preseason, it's not the score that matters. It's how the players perform both by themselves and as a unit that matters most.

    Here are 10 things the Packers can take away from Thursday night's preseason matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals.

The First-Teams Looked a Lot Better...

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    In the past two preseason games, the Packers had made a number of sloppy plays. They still made a few tonight, but the overall result was better.

    It was nice to see Greg Jennings suited up for a preseason game after dealing with the concussion he suffered on Family Night. His mere presence helped.

    Rodgers threw an ugly pick to Bengals CB Terence Newman and missed a throw here and there, but he picked up yards on the ground at will.

    The first-team defense was good all night, as players got pressure and made life hard for a visibly upset Andy Dalton. 

...But the Second-Team Offense Didn't

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    After the first-team offense put up 17 points in the first half, the second-team offense couldn't find its rhythm and had to settle for a field goal.

    Graham Harrell didn't look comfortable behind a shaky offensive line, and when he made a few nice throws, his receivers couldn't bring them in.

    Not a good night for the second-team offense.

Cedric Benson Looks Fresh and Ready to Contribute

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    In his Packers debut, Cedric Benson ran six times for 38 yards and caught one pass for 10 more.

    He entered the game behind Alex Green, but that was likely Mike McCarthy's way of dangling the carrot in front of Benson.

    The passing game opened up holes in the run game and Benson took advantage of them.

    With Alex Green unlikely to take on a big early-season role, and James Starks sidelined with turf toe, Benson proved he should be the Packers' No. 1 back.

James Starks Is on the Hot Seat

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    If Brandon Saine was healthy, Starks would have been squarely on the roster bubble, but he's not.

    Saine's injury was hugely unfortunate, as he was clearly ahead of all of the Packers' running backs in third-down territory.

    When Starks comes back after missing a few weeks of action, he could find himself third in the pecking order behind Cedric Benson and Alex Green.

    Being an injury-prone running back buried on the depth chart is not the way to make your mark on this team.

Marshall Newhouse's Presence Is a Welcome Sight

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    Newhouse has now played in two of the Packers' three preseason games, and he's made a big difference.

    He had back-to-back penalties tonight, but other than that, he's a massive upgrade on any of Green Bay's other tackles.

    Newhouse can't get injured this season. If he does, it will be a massive blow. That's for sure.

The Outside Linebackers Were Stellar Rushing the Passer

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    Whether it be Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, Dezman Moses or Erik Walden, the Packers were getting pressure from their outside linebackers.

    Matthews recorded a half sack, Perry forced Dalton to throw the ball away on multiple occasions, Moses was playing well and Walden recorded a sack (even if he was unblocked).

    At this point, Matthews and Perry are roster locks, while Moses and Walden are close to it. This group was excellent.

Graham Harrell Should Be Worried

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    Another preseason game, another similar outcome for Graham Harrell.

    As the second-team offense sputtered, Harrell was at the helm.

    Yet again, Harrell seemed bothered and rolled out at the slightest hint of pressure.

    He wasn't helped by either of his receivers or the offensive line, but Harrell didn't help himself either.

    Luckily for Harrell, Rodgers probably won't play another down and he'll get some work with the No.1 offense next week if Ted Thompson hasn't swung a deal by then.

Jamari Lattimore Punched His Ticket to the 53-Man Roster

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    An undrafted, slender pass-rusher out of Middle Tennessee State, Lattimore showed just enough promise at outside linebacker to make the roster last year.

    This year, he bulked up and was switched to inside linebacker.

    As we know, versatility helps your chances.

    Lattimore seemed to have the inside track to a roster spot, but nothing was secured until he picked off Bengals rookie QB Tyler Hansen and returned it 27 yards to put the game out of reach.

    Big plays in preseason games earn roster spots.

    Lattimore made a big play.

Tori Gurley Now Owns the Slight Edge for the Sixth Receiver Spot

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    That is, if a sixth receiver spot still exists.

    Gurley didn't do anything big to stand out, but his newly owned edge is more of a product of Diondre Borel's bad game.

    Borel missed two very catchable balls with one bouncing right off his hands.

    On punt returns, Borel hesitated before moving forward with the ball which led to a paltry 4.4 yards per punt return.

    Meanwhile, Gurley secured his only target on a short pass from Graham Harrell that went for six yards.

We Really Need the Real Officials Back

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    I feel for the refs, I really do. Most of these refs are pulled from the low divisions of the NCAA and are simply used to the game going at a much different speed.

    Still, this is the NFL, and the NFL needs the highest level of refs possible.

    There were multiple questionable calls or no-calls, ranging from holding to pass interference.

    The NFL needs its refs. I hope they realize that.