Green Bay Packers: What We've Learned Through Week 2 of Preseason
After falling to the Tennessee Titans in their first preseason game, the Green Bay Packers looked much better in Week 2. They were able to handle the St. Louis Rams quite easily on their way to a 21-7 win on Saturday.
Both preseason games for the Packers have taught us a little something about what we can expect from the storied franchise. For example, following Saturday's win we know that while the offense looks sharp, the defense still has some kinks to work out.
Today we're going to take a look at everything we've learned through Week 2 of the preseason in Green Bay.
Aaron Rodgers Doesn't Know What Rusty Means
After sitting out the first preseason game, it would be totally normal had quarterback Aaron Rodgers looked sloppy against the Rams. However, that was far from the case on Saturday.
Not only did Rodgers not look rusty, he looked to be in midseason form. Rodgers finished the game completing 11 of his 13 passes for 128 yards and a touchdown. Watching him knife through a very good Rams defense was humorous at times with how easy he was making it look.
With Rodgers looking as good as he did in his first preseason game, it's easy to get excited about a deep playoff run for the Packers.
Look for Eddie Lacy to Be More Involved in the Offense
We already know that running back Eddie Lacy is going to be a major part of the Packers' ground game. However, he showed against the Rams that he could also be a pretty important member of the aerial game, too.
In his brief time on the field, Lacy recorded two receptions for 22 yards. While those numbers aren't huge, they are quite impressive for the minimal time Lacy was actually in the game.
The Packers haven't been shy about hinting at the fact Lacy would get more touches as a receiver out of the backfield this offseason. However, it's still a good sign that Rodgers is actually looking for Lacy when dropping back to pass.
If Lacy can consistently become a threat in the passing game, the Packers offense will be even scarier than it was when Lacy was just a dominant runner.
Randall Cobb Is Poised for a Huge Season
Last year was supposed to be the year that wide receiver Randall Cobb broke out. Unfortunately, a broken leg in Week 7 put an end to that.
Now that Cobb is healthy, a breakout campaign is back on the docket. Cobb lined up mostly in the slot on Saturday against the Rams, finishing the game with three receptions, 34 yards and a touchdown.
What ultimately makes Cobb so dangerous are his sure hands and his ability to make plays after the catch. Rodgers has complete trust in him, and Cobb should see plenty of one-on-one opportunities with defenses needing to be worried about the likes of Jordy Nelson and Jarrett Boykin.
Don't be surprised if Cobb ends up as one of the most productive receivers in the league by the end of the season.
The Tight End Race Is Wide Open
Usually, when a positional race is wide open, it's a bad thing. That isn't the case for the Packers and their group of tight ends.
What we've learned about the tight ends through two preseason games is that Green Bay can't lose no matter who it starts. Andrew Quarless, Brandon Bostick and Richard Rodgers all look like key contributors during the first two preseason games.
Of the three, Quarless has looked most like the future starter. Against St. Louis, Quarless led all receivers with four receptions and 58 yards, making a number of big catches.
Even if Quarless ends up the starting tight end, don't be surprised if both Bostick and Rodgers see plenty of playing time.
Offensive Line Looks Like the Strongest It's Been in Years
If there's one thing absolutely certain about the Rams, it's that their defensive line is one of the most dominant in the league. That's why the Packers' starting offensive line holding them without a sack was so impressive.
In fact, if you watched the first handful of possessions for the Packers offense, you would have seen an offensive line that kept the pocket perfectly clean for their quarterback. While the group didn't play as well together against the Titans, it still looked good overall.
As long as the Packers can stay healthy along their offensive line, there's no reason why this group shouldn't be one of the best in the league. A dominant line should help the entire Packers offense be more dominant and in sync.
Run Defense Is Much Improved
The Packers' entire defense struggled last year, but it was especially difficult to watch them attempt to slow down the run as the season progressed.
The run defense didn't look much better against the Titans, as they gave up a number of big runs. However, that all changed against St. Louis in the second preseason game.
For starters, the Packers kept Rams running back Zac Stacy to only six rushing yards on six carries. There was even a stretch where they made consecutive stops in the backfield on Stacy for negative yards.
Moving B.J. Raji back to nose tackle and having athletes like Datone Jones, Mike Daniels and Julius Peppers all look like they'll be helpful moves for the run defense. It wouldn't be shocking at all to see this group get back to being one of the better run defenses in the league this year.
Undrafted Free Agents Make Some Noise
Throughout training camp, there have been a number of undrafted free agents making noise. From inside linebacker Joe Thomas to tight end Justin Perillo, the Packers have been blessed with talented UDFAs.
However, none of them have been as impressive in live games as outside linebacker Jayrone Elliott was against the Rams. Over a four-play period, Elliott recorded three sacks in St. Louis. For a team that desperately needs pass-rushers, Elliott could prove to be extremely helpful once the regular season starts.
While Elliott was the most impressive, UDFAs Adrian Hubbard and Mike Pennel also recorded sacks against the Rams. In fact, undrafted players accounted for five of the Packers' seven sacks on Saturday.
It's unknown how many of these undrafted free agents will make the final roster, but they definitely made some noise in the second preseason game.
The Packers Can't Lose with Who They Start at Safety
Much like the group of tight ends the Packers have assembled, the safeties in Green Bay look much deeper than anyone could have expected. In fact, the group looks so deep that they could role out a handful of different pairings and still be just fine on defense.
On Saturday, it was Micah Hyde and Morgan Burnett who played with the first-team defense. They both played well enough to look like legitimate starters once the regular season rolls around.
Once Hyde and Burnett came off the field, it was Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Sean Richardson and Chris Banjo who held down the position. Clinton-Dix recorded a sack while on the field, and Banjo had an interception that was called back for a penalty.
The point here is that the Packers can't lose with whoever they start at the safety position. Look for them to use all four preseason games before deciding on their starting group for the regular season.
The Defense Is Still a Work in Progress
While there have been plenty of good things to say about the defense through two preseason games, it's important to note that this group is still a work in progress.
For example, there's no reason why the Packers defense should let Sam Bradford complete 75 percent of his passes for 101 yards and touchdown. Sure, it was just a preseason game, but the defense still needs to look better.
One reason this group hasn't completely jelled yet is because of all the new parts and pieces. The defensive line trio of Raji, Daniels and Jones is made up of two new starters and a player at a new position. Then there is Peppers, who will be a new starter at outside linebacker.
Throw in either Clinton-Dix or Hyde, and possibly both, starting at safety, and it's easy to see why this defense is still a work in progress. It should get better with more time spent on the field, so look for this group to really perform well next week at home against the Oakland Raiders.
DuJuan Harris Should Be the Main Return Man
The Packers haven't had a dominant return man since Randall Cobb's rookie season back in 2011. That could all change if they put DuJuan Harris back there to return kicks.
Harris returned two kicks against the Rams for a total of 36 yards. However, on his first return, he was a broken tackle away from turning the return into a huge gain. Against Tennessee, Harris took his first kickoff 40 yards before being taken down.
Simply put, Harris has the speed and vision to be extremely dangerous as a return man.
*All statistics via NFL.com.