Green Bay Packers: 5 Lessons Learned from Packers vs. Browns
The Packers started their title defense with their first preseason game in Cleveland. Most of the Packers starters on offense and defense only played two series and Green Bay fell to the Browns 27-17 as the Packers failed to score in the second half.
The Packers were without key contributors Charles Woodson, Jermichael Finley and Sam Shields and many other important players played very sparingly, leaving plenty of time for players on the roster bubble.
Here are five things that we learned from the first preseason game; some positives and some negatives. It's important to note that there is plenty of time before the season starts for improvements for both the team and individual players.
1. Randall Cobb Will Contribute
Rookie WR Randall Cobb is as quick as they come. Cobb opened the game as the Packers kick returner and impressed right off the bat. He took the opening kickoff out of the end zone for a 32-yard return and following it up with a 26-yard return deep out of the end zone on his second return.
Cobb was impressive running routes as he saw the field at multiple wideout positions and saw the most time for a receiver.
He had catches from each Green Bay's three quarterbacks, leading the team with three catches for 60 yards.
Cobb has speed that no other player on the Packers roster can match and will serve to create mismatches for McCarthy's offense. He will see the field as the team's punt returner and will fight his way onto the field as the fifth receiver.
2 . James Starks Is Competing with Grant for Starting Role
James Starks took the league by storm down the stretch and into the playoffs. He has shown enough last season and early in camp to create a competition between himself and Ryan Grant.
Grant opened the game at running back for the Packers, but Starks quickly came in on the second possession and alternated possessions until the second quarter.
The two only combined for five carries, but Starks showed great vision on his two carries picking up nine yards on the first and five on the second. Grant had three carries for 13 yards.
Neither player had enough carries to really pull in front of the other, but the big story is that Starks is definitely competing for the job.
3. Pat Lee Needs Significant Improvement to Make Team
Because of an injury to Sam Shields and a resting Charles Woodson, Pat Lee saw the field early and often. One thing he didn't see much of was the ball.
He missed a big opportunity as he was repeatedly beat down the field for big plays. Pat Lee's showing was completely unimpressive.
He was absolutely abused by Joshua Cribbs on Cleveland's first score. Lee was initially in good position as he stuck with Cribbs stride for stride, but as Cribbs went up to snatch the ball out of the air, Lee failed to turn around and stood by as Cribbs completed the catch for a touchdown.
Pat Lee will have an uphill battle to make the team after this showing. He will need to improve and contribute on special teams until the final cuts.
4. Right Outside Linebacker Race Is Wide Open
As the Packers search for an outside linebacker to play opposite Clay Matthews, Frank Zombo got the start against the Browns and Erik Walden also saw time on the first defensive possession.
Zombo, Walden and Brad Jones all saw time rotating in and out, but none of really stood out over the other two. Walden struggled heavily against the pass, getting beat by Benjamin Watson multiple times.
All three players bring different aspects to the table as they specialize in different things. The Packers may not find a definite starter out of this competition and may continue rotating the three unless one player really impresses to take the position.
5. Flynn Is Ready to Compete for a Starting Job
Matt Flynn picked up right where he left off following his spectacular performance last season against the New England Patriots. He dazzled after Aaron Rodgers' two series and played through the second quarter.
He was extremely impressive as he led the Packers on a nine-play, 89-yard drive for a touchdown in the two-minute offense. His touchdown pass was initially intended for Tori Gurley, but was luckily deflected to Spencer Havner for the score.
The biggest improvement for Flynn was his pocket presence. He was notably more calm and collected in the pocket. Last season he understandably looked erratic against the Patriots. This is a big improvement.
With continued success throughout the preseason, Flynn is readying himself to compete for a starting job elsewhere. He will be an unrestriced free agent after this season, and if the Packers feel comfortable with Graham Harrell as Rodgers' backup, they may entertain trade offers for Flynn.