The 34-28 defeat to the 49ers stung for the Packers, but it was a lot closer than the 45-31 beating they suffered in San Francisco in January. While Colin Kaepernick didn’t kill Green Bay with his legs this time, he did a lot of damage with his arm. Kaepernick finished the game with 412 yards and three touchdowns, with wide receiver Anquan Boldin getting over half of those yards.
As for the Packers, it was a tough pill to swallow. They had prepared all offseason for this game and fell short yet again. When looking at the game tape, you see a hard fought battle and a Green Bay team that gave a valiant effort against arguably the best team in the NFL.
Despite that fact, a loss is still a loss. Did this defeat at the hands of San Francisco cost any starters their jobs?
Well, the Packers were particularly victimized in the secondary by Boldin and Kaepernick, but Green Bay was also down their best safety and cornerback in Morgan Burnett and Casey Hayward, respectively. Jerron McMillian, taking Burnett’s place, looked lost and was getting beat consistently. Rookie Micah Hyde struggled at times, but that was to be expected.
That said, there were two players who may have put their starting jobs up for grabs.
KR Jeremy Ross
Kick returner Jeremy Ross was not the clear-cut winner of the return job during training camp, mostly due to his issues handing the football. Despite not fumbling on Sunday, Ross made two incredibly bad decisions to return kicks deep out of his own end zone.
By doing so, he pinned the Packers deep in their own territory, and one time even inside their own 10-yard line. Ross’ second return from the end zone followed another return brought out despite fullback John Kuhn screaming at Ross to take a knee. Ross' overconfidence in his own abilities cost Green Bay.
The Packers don’t want to expose budding superstar receiver Randall Cobb to the risks of returning kicks, but the team really has no choice at this point. Johnathan Franklin didn’t show much in camp, so Cobb is the best bet until Green Bay can find another solution.
RB Eddie Lacy
The other starter in danger of losing his starting job is running back Eddie Lacy. To be clear, Lacy is the best back currently on the Packers roster, but you can’t put the ball on the ground early like he did. It’s inexcusable.
Coach Mike McCarthy sent Lacy a message early by sitting him for the rest of the first half. It’s a painful lesson for the rookie to learn, but Lacy needs to realize turnovers are not tolerated in the high-octane Green Bay offense.
Even if Lacy loses his starting role, he probably will still see plenty of action. Thanks to the loss of DuJuan Harris for the year, McCarthy had to scrap his previous plan for a resurgent Green Bay running game. Judging by comments from the coach after Harris was placed on IR, McCarthy was planning on leaning heavily on the running back before he got hurt.
James Starks showed some promise against the 49ers, so McCarthy easily could go to a running back by committee approach if Lacy continues to struggle. With such an increased focus on an improved running game, the Packers can ill afford foolish mistakes.
With such a tight game from start to finish, it’s really tough to definitively say a Packers starter will or should lose their jobs. It’s only one game in a marathon of a regular season. Green Bay faces Washington this Sunday at Lambeau Field, a winnable game for the Packers. The loss to the 49ers was borderline expected.
If the Packers lose their home opener, eyebrows will be raised. Until then, Green Bay is probably better off keeping Lacy at the top of the depth chart and making a change at kick returner.
It’s a long season. Panic time doesn’t come in Week 2.