Green Bay Packers: What We've Learned Through Week 3 of Preseason
The Green Bay Packers handled their business against the Oakland Raiders in Week 3 of the preseason. Even though the final score was 31-21 in the Packers favor, the game wasn't nearly as close as the score might suggest.
It was the Packers' first-team offense that took care of business like usual. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers finished the game with two passing touchdowns and running back Eddie Lacy also found the touchdown on the ground.
This was a great warmup game for the Packers as they prepare for the Seattle Seahawks in Week 1 of the regular season. Let's take a look at a handful of things we've learned through Week 3 of the preseason.
*All statistics courtesy of NFL.com.
Scott Tolzien Once Again Proves He Deserves Backup Job
While Matt Flynn was the first backup quarterback in the game against the Raiders, it was Scott Tolzien who proved he deserves the backup job once the regular season starts.
It's easy to compare just the stats from both quarterbacks. Flynn completed only 40 percent of his passes for 37 yards and an interception while Tolzien completed 73 percent of his passes for 107 yards and a touchdown.
However, it was more than just the numbers that proved Tolzien is the answer as the No. 2 quarterback. Tolzien simply looks way more comfortable running this offense with a full offseason in the system. He just looks like a legitimate No. 2 quarterback.
Flynn still has a great chance to make the final roster, but it's hard to see him doing so as the backup quarterback to Rodgers.
How Will the Packers Use DuJuan Harris on Offense?
With Lacy and James Starks, the Packers have an extremely talented one-two punch at running back. However, Green Bay may need to figure out how to add a third wheel to that duo.
DuJuan Harris has been making noise all preseason, but it's mostly been on special teams as a kick returner. Against the Raiders, Harris was given extra touches in the backfield, and he wasted little time proving that he can be a valuable asset for the offense during the regular season.
Harris finished Friday's game with 56 rushing yards on only 12 attempts. He also led all receivers with 42 receiving yards on just two catches. It was his 31-yard reception that demonstrated how he can be so dangerous with the ball in his hands.
Harris might only get a handful of touches each game, but don't be surprised if he makes the most of those touches.
Has Andrew Quarless Won the Starting Tight End Job?
One of the most exciting battles for the Packers this year has been with the tight ends. And for Andrew Quarless, the battle might finally be over...in a good way.
With Brandon Bostick dealing with a leg injury, Quarless has seen more playing time with the first-team offense. Against the Raiders, that extra playing time turned into a second-quarter touchdown reception.
Quarless needed this performance in the worst way. He's been losing practice time to both Richard Rodgers and Jake Stoneburner, according to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
With Rodgers still struggling with his blocking and Stoneburner doesn't possess quite the athleticism of the other tight ends, Quarless appears to be the front-runner for the starting job as of right now.
Injuries Take Hits on Offensive and Defensive Line
The Packers had done a pretty decent job of staying away from major injuries so far this preseason. Of course, that was until Friday night against the Raiders.
First, it was nose tackle B.J. Raji who left the game with torn biceps. It was later reported by Ian Rapoport of NFL.com that Raji's injury would be a season-ending one. Raji's loss puts a major hit on the depth of the defensive line.
After Raji's injury, it was reported that starting center JC Tretter would miss 5-6 weeks with a knee injury, according to Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com. Now the Packers will likely turn to rookie Corey Linsley to handle starting center duties.
Losing both Raji and Tretter is a hard pill to swallow for the Packers. They were already a little thin at both nose tackle and center, and now they're even weaker.
Keep an eye on both these injuries, as they could have a huge impact on the overall success in Green Bay this year.
Pass-Rushers Start to Step Up
It hasn't been a great preseason for the newly acquired Julius Peppers. Heck, it hasn't been a great preseason for any of the Packers' top pass-rushers.
Well, that all changed against the Raiders. Peppers finished the game with one sack, coming against starting quarterback Matt Schaub. Outside linebacker Nick Perry also recorded a sack that resulted in a forced fumble, easily his best play of the preseason.
Finally, it was undrafted free agent Jayrone Elliott who got to the quarterback later in the game. That make's four sacks in two games for Elliott, who is making a late push to be a member of Green Bay's 53-man roster.
If the Packers defense wants to be successful this year, it is going to need to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks. This was a great game to show that it is actually capable of doing that.
Missed Tackles Remain a Huge Issue
It was one play specifically where the Packers looked like the team last year that missed so many tackles.
It was a handoff to Raiders' running back Maurice Jones-Drew. Jones-Drew would end up taking that ball 40 yards for a touchdown.
Five different Packers, including inside linebacker A.J. Hawk and cornerback Tramon Williams, all had the chance to bring down Jones-Drew—and they all failed to do so.
One thing that killed the Packers last year was big plays given up because of missed tackles. If Friday's game was any sign of things to come, we could be seeing more of that during the 2014 season.
Turnovers Should Come Sooner Than Later with Improved Secondary
The Packers didn't record a single interception against the Raiders on Friday night. However, they were close on a handful of plays.
There was one play in particular in which cornerback Sam Shields had his hands on the ball but failed to secure the turnover. While an interception would have been nice, it's still great to see the Packers' secondary at least getting into position to make plays.
With Casey Hayward back from injury and the play of the safeties improving, turnovers should start to come sooner than later.
Still Room for Improvement on Both Sides of the Ball
It wasn't all sunshine and lollipops for the Packers in their Week 3 preseason game.
While Rodgers threw for two touchdowns, he finished the game by completing less than 50 percent of his passes. Rodgers had only nine completions in 20 attempts, a surprisingly low rate for the usually accurate veteran.
Then there was running back James Starks, who gained only nine yards on seven attempts. Finally, the second- and third-string defenses gave up two late touchdowns through the air. With the way injuries have been hitting the defensive side of the ball lately, a lot of those second-team players might be called upon on to step up.
Simply put, there is still plenty of room for improvement on both sides of the ball before the regular season kicks off.