Green Bay Packers: What We Can Take from Crushing Cleveland

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Green Bay Packers: What We Can Take from Crushing Cleveland
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

The Green Bay Packers unveiled their new 3-4 scheme in style on Saturday, shutting out the hapless Cleveland Browns 17-0 at Lambeau.

The defense wreaked havoc on the Cleveland offense, and the Green Bay running game pounded the Browns to the tune of 230 yards on the ground, looking like a hungrier, more physical team than the 2008 version.

But before people start printing off their playoff tickets, let us remember that it is still just the exhibition season.

Remember, the Lions are undefeated in the preseason over the past two years.

That said, here are a few positives and negatives to take from Saturday's game.

 

Good: Depth

The preseason serves as an excellent litmus test for roster depth, and after one game the Packers appear to have options at several key positions. 

Playing without both starting corners and their two first-round draft picks, the Packers still had guys on the field making big plays from start to finish.

The running backs all had success moving the ball for the Packers, with Tyrell Sutton particularly turning heads with his shiftiness and cutting ability.

Sutton scooted for 91 yards on 16 carries, and looks to be the most elusive of the Packers' rushers.

While it is important to note Sutton was gashing a defense comprised mostly of third-stringers and street free-agents, Green Bay appears to have an excess of capable backs.

Picking between DeShawn Wynn, Brandon Jackson, Kregg Lumpkin, and Sutton is a nice problem to have.

The Packers showed great depth at linebacker as well, with Brandon Chillar and Desmond Bishop stepping up in a big way without Clay Matthews and Nick Barnett available.

There isn't much more you can say about Bishop other than he needs to be in the game somewhere on the interior of this defense.

The guy has been all over the field in camp, and he carried that over to the opener, collecting a sack, a pick, and forcing another interception on a blitz.

Chillar is also having a nice camp on the inside filling in for Barnett, and looks capable of stepping in if Barnett can't get healthy for the regular season opener.

Safety Anthony Smith also made some nice plays, collecting a sack and an interception as well, as the entire secondary played a solid game without Al Harris and Charles Woodson.

To survive the long NFL season and the inevitable rash of injuries along the way, depth is essential to staying afloat.

The Packers appear to have the kind of depth to weather the injury bug in 2009 and push through.

 

Bad: Brian Brohm

It's a good sign when one of the negatives of the game concerns the Packers' third-string quarterback.

But Brohm was bad enough on Saturday night that I could smell his performance all the way down here in Milwaukee.

Brohm went just three of 10 for 18 yards and tossed two interceptions after both Aaron Rodgers and backup Matt Flynn looked solid against the Browns, following up his poor preseason of 2008 with another stinker.

Worse yet, he looks like the same confidence-shattered over-thinker he was in his rookie season.

For a guy that some thought could challenge Rodgers for the starting spot heading into last season, Brohm is starting to look like a bust.

One has to wonder where the guy that lit up secondaries and set records during a sparkling career at Louisville went?

Or did his game leave with Bobby Petrino?

 

Good: Defensive Chaos

The first game of the Dom Capers regime couldn't have went much better, with the defense pitching a shutout and forcing a bunch of big plays against a struggling offense.

Capers scheme is predicated on bringing pressure from any and every angle, and the Packers were able to put heat on all three Browns quarterbacks.

Green Bay got two sacks from defensive backs against Cleveland, and the four interceptions were by and large a product of the pressure Capers was able to force on the quarterback.

Another key is that the defense got pressure without suffering any major breakdowns in coverage.

It's fundamental, but Capers talks a lot about being able to make big plays and force turnovers without breaking down defensively and giving up the big plays going the other way.

Heavy pressure can open up holes in coverage down the field, but Green Bay kept that to a minimum against the Browns.

On top of the big plays, you really get the feeling watching and listening to guys on the defense that they love playing in this scheme.

Players like to attack instead of react, and it didn't seem as though everyone bought into Bob Sanders and his vanilla 4-3 set last year.

If the first game of 2009 is any indication, there is no doubt they buy into Capers and the potential of his attacking 3-4.

 

Bad: Penalties

For a team that led the NFL in penalty yardage a year ago with 984, Green Bay struggled yet again to avoid shooting themselves in the foot at times, collecting nine flags against Cleveland.

While the penalties resulted in only 52 yards of damage, they were partially to blame for the Packers mustering only a field goal after Aaron Rodgers left the game.

I'm not sure why the Packers have such a jumpy offensive line, but those extra yards are often the difference between Crosby sticking a field goal, or missing two long ones like he did on Saturday.

With penalties being a bugaboo for the Packers since McCarthy arrived, it would have been encouraging to see a bit more disciplined performance.

 

Good: Getting Physical

Head coach Mike McCarthy and his staff have set a more physical tone in training camp this season, and it showed on Saturday night as the Packers owned the line of scrimmage.

They out-gained Cleveland 230-59 on the ground, and the defense was able to get heat on Cleveland quarterbacks all game long.

The Packers were clearly the more aggressive, physical team on Saturday, and will need to carry that over against rugged teams like Pittsburgh, Baltimore and the divisional slugfests.

For a team looking to shed its finesse label, they took a solid step in the right direction on Saturday.

 

Bad: Competition

Eric Mangini's Cleveland Browns couldn't have looked much worse on Saturday night.

They don't know who their quarterback is, they are short on playmakers, and they really lack a discernible identity.

Moreover, they played with little passion and intensity, and really don't seem to buy into their coach and his philosophy.

In short, they looked like a 3-13 football team.

It was exciting to see Green Bay handle its business out of the gate, but Saturday's game with Buffalo will paint a far clearer picture as to where the Packers are as a team.

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