Packers vs Bengals: Green Bay's Biggest Winners & Losers from Preseason Week 3
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The Packers' coaching staff will be happy with impressive performances on offense, defense and special teams as well. In the third preseason game in which the starters played the most of any game thus far, the Packers can only hope they carry over this streak of good play over to the regular season.
Despite the win, there were still a few subpar performances. We take a look at both the good and the bad...
Winner: Cedric Benson
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Considering that Cedric Benson has only been a member of the Packers for a little over a week, it probably would have been considered a positive performance as long as he didn't fumble. Benson, however, went above and beyond the call of duty when facing his former team on Thursday.
With six carries for 36 yards, Benson showed he could actually be a weapon in the Packers' offense in 2012 and not just play a supporting role. By averaging 6.3 yards per carry, a better debut couldn't have been expected.
After playing most of his career in a one-back system, Benson showed good awareness by following his lead blocker when there was a fullback or H-back in front of him. Furthermore, he made one-step cutbacks with ease.
Benson also had one catch for 10 yards, making a shifty move on the defender by turning his back and immediately turning upfield.
It was only one game, and it's difficult to put too much stock into what amounted to just a couple dozen snaps, but in the matter of one game, the Packers' running game looks like it could be in its best shape in years.
Loser: Graham Harrell
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In the first two preseason games, Graham Harrel had less-than-impressive outings that have put his future with the Packers in doubt and has raised questions about the Packers' backup quarterback situation.
Thursday's game against the Bengals didn't do anything to alleviate those concerns as Harrell, once again, had another recital that left a lot to be desired.
Legitimate arguments can be made blaming the offensive line for Harrell's performance as he was sacked multiple times and on the run for much of the night, but Harrell didn't do himself many favors either.
The final line for Harrell read five of 12 passes completed for a total of 26 yards and a passer rating of 49.3.
The reality of the situation is that Harrell has completed less than 50 percent of his passes over the course of the preseason for an average of around four yards per pass, neither of which will cut it in the NFL.
Winner: Aaron Rodgers
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Yes, Aaron Rodgers had an uncharacteristic interception on Thursday that didn't look good. But he also directed the Packers to three scoring drives in one half of play.
The Packers offense had done little to be positive about in the first two preseason games, so anything headed in the right direction was a welcome development.
Rodgers might have preferred his two touchdowns been through the air instead of on the ground, but either way, the Packers were finding a way to get into the end zone. At halftime when Rodgers exited the game, he staked Green Bay to a 17-6 lead.
Due to shoddy pass protection, Rodgers was on the run fairly often, but he showed great elusiveness and a talent to make plays with his legs and actually led Green Bay in rushing with 52 yards on six carries.
Given the way Harrell has played, the Packers can only hope Rodgers doesn't get hurt, so they don't have to rely on a backup quarterback for any appreciable amount of time.
Loser: John Kuhn
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In the Packers' final game of last season, a loss in the playoffs to the New York Giants, the normally sure-handed John Kuhn fumbled the football, one of three uncharacteristic Packers turnovers on the day.
Part of the Packers' winning formula under Mike McCarthy has been protecting the football both through the air and on the ground. The quarterbacks have limited interceptions and the running backs have avoided fumbling.
And considering the Packers really don't run the ball all that often, anyone who wants to see the football can't be coughing the ball up.
Thursday's fumble might technically have been chalked up to Graham Harrell, but it was Kuhn who couldn't corral the third-quarter handoff.
Kuhn's fumble against the Bengals is even more disappointing because it came one series after he had a typically Kuhn-esque rumble for nine yards. If Kuhn wants to continue to be trusted with the ball in his hands, the turnovers have to end.
Winner: Erik Walden
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In 15 starts last season, Erik Walden had only three sacks and would eventually lose his spot in the starting lineup.
Combined with the addition of first-round draft choice Nick Perry at outside linebacker, Walden has been mostly a forgotten commodity in Green Bay.
Because he was jailed for a domestic disturbance last year and has been suspended for the first game of the regular season in 2012, some people might speculate that the Packers will part ways with Walden. But if that's the case, it appears to have done nothing but motivate Walden.
The highlight of the game for the Packers' defense was a goal-line stand in the second quarter that ended on third-down when Walden sacked Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton. The drive ended in a field goal when it easily could have ended in a touchdown.
In the Packers' first preseason game, Walden got in the face of the quarterback to force an interception. With a sack in the Bengals game, Walden appears to have secured a spot on the 53-man roster, even if the Packers have to wait until after the first game of the season to utilize his services.
Loser: Pass Protection
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It didn't matter if it was Aaron Rodgers or Graham Harrel, both quarterbacks were on the run on Thursday.
The Packers gave up four sacks to the Bengals, and most the blame can be placed on the offensive line.
The interior of the offensive line was particularly vulnerable as each of the starters––T.J. Lang, Jeff Saturday and Josh Sitton––got beat by the pass rush at one time or another. Thanks to Rodgers' ability to elude defenders, he was able to bail them out on several occasions.
When the second-team was in the game, Greg Van Roten failed to pick up a second-half blitz, which ended in a sack.
While the interior of the offensive line had their struggles, they weren't alone. Left tackles Marshall Newhouse and Reggie Wells had their own share of difficulties, too.
Winner: Jamari Lattimore
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For all intents and purposes, Jamari Lattimore iced Thursday's win over the Bengals when his interception return for a touchdown put the Packers up by two scores with less than three minutes remaining.
Lattimore made the position switch from outside linebacker to inside linebacker during the offseason, and his fourth-quarter pick-six was his biggest play since making the transition.
It was a pretty good bet that Lattimore would make the Packers' 53-man roster because of his special teams ability alone, but if there was any doubt he'd make it, they've probably been put to rest.
With Desmond Bishop likely out for the season due to injury, Lattimore will be looked at to provide depth at inside linebacker, so his nicely-timed interception helped to ease the pain of Bishop's loss.
Because Lattimore can also play outside linebacker in a pinch, he's becoming a very versatile member of the team.
Loser: Diondre Borel
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Along with fellow wide receiver Tori Gurley, Diondre Borel was a hot commodity coming into training camp. People pointed to his courtship with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last season as proof of his value.
Unfortunately for Borel, he's done little to stand out so far in 2012, and Thursday's preseason game didn't help his roster chances.
Most egregious was his drop of a third-quarter pass from Graham Harrell. On the evening, Borel was targeted for passes six times but only caught a third of them (two receptions) for a total of only eight yards.
On special teams, he didn't look much better. Borel had five punt returns for 22 yards, which worked out to be an average of 4.4 yards per attempt.
To an extent, there's only so much Borel could do. He can't help it when a pass is off target if his blocking in front of him isn't adequate. But he hasn't looked like a special, can't-miss type of player either.