In their preseason game against the Cleveland Browns last night, every Green Bay Packers player had a chance to shine, and while some struggled with the opportunity, others shined. Players like Aaron Rodgers and Greg Jennings went out on the field to pick up where they left off, while players like Randall Cobb and Josh Gordy went out to prove themselves and fight for a starting spot.
Here are the top 10 best individual performances by the Packers in their 27-17 loss to Cleveland in the first preseason game.
Jarrett Bush has frustrated Packers fans in the past with his soft coverage and his tendency to give up big plays. However, Bush has steadily improved, and last year, was primarily assigned to special teams, where he performed much better than he had on defense.
Bush finally did get some playing time on the defensive side of the ball after Charles Woodson was taken out of Super Bowl XLV with an injury, and played very well, even recording an interception. And last night, he picked up where he left off, leading them team in tackles with six total, and four solo.
Jarrett Bush may not be the most popular player among Packers fans, but he is certainly improving as a football player, and may end up being a solid contributor in 2011.
Tim "Ginger Wolverine" Masthay showed last year that the Packers' struggles in finding a punter might finally be over, and that feeling was reinforced last night. Masthay recorded a total of five punts with an impressive average of 52.2 yards per punt.
Last night, Masthay was one of several special teams players that helped prove that the long-struggling Packers special teams is steadily improving, a positive sign for a team that wants to repeat.
Rookie tight end Ryan Taylor was drafted in the seventh round by the Packers in 2011, and many wondered why the Packers brought in yet another tight end after they already had Jermichael Finley, Andrew Quarless, Tom Crabtree, and Spencer Havner, and in addition, had already drafted a tight end in D.J. Williams in the fifth round.
However, Taylor proved that he was well worth the pick, as he played much of the second half with Graham Harrell and the third-string offense, where he recorded two receptions for 30 yards. Although he was only targeted those two times, he made the best of those opportunities, and certainly made a positive showing in his first game as an NFL player.
Jennings doesn't have much to prove; he just needs to build on the success he's already had, and he did that last night, as he had two receptions in his limited playing time, one of them a 21-yard touchdown reception.
Jennings certainly sets the bar high for his fellow receivers, but with Jennings' help, the receiving corps looked solid, even in a loss.
After showing promise in 2009, Spencer Havner had a tumultuous 2010 season after getting cut by the Packers in the preseason. Havner was picked up by the Lions soon after, but in October, suffered a hamstring injury and was promptly cut. The Packers ended up bringing him back, but he was soon placed on IR and did not see the field last year for the Packers.
Last night, Havner returned, and even though he only recorded one reception, it was a big reception, one that proved that Havner still had a spot on the crowded tight end position.
At the end of the second quarter, Matt Flynn was driving the ball down the field for a score right before the half when he threw a ball that was tipped by a Cleveland defender, and fell right into the hands of Havner for a touchdown. Havner may have been in the right place at the right time, but he made the most of his opportunity, and scored in a big moment.
It's always fun to see a young, unknown player make a big play, and M.D. Jennings did just that against Cleveland, as he picked off a Seneca Wallace pass as the Browns were driving for a score. Although the Packers weren't able to cash in on the interception, it certainly prevented the Browns from scoring, as they were within field goal range at the time.
It's hard to say whether or not Jennings will actually get a spot on the roster, given the depth of the Packers' defense, but he definitely made a case for him being on a roster somewhere in the NFL.
The Super Bowl MVP showed that he had no hangover, and no dropoff from last year, as he went onto the field and picked up right where he left off, completing six out of eight passes including a touchdown to Greg Jennings. While Rodgers received very limited playing time, he made the most of the time in which he played, and got the Packers offense off to a good start.
Another young unknown, Gordy proved himself a double threat as he recorded both a sack and an interception for the Packers. Gordy is not actually a rookie like many of the other Packers players that are trying to prove themselves; he was on the Packers' practice squad during their 2010 Super Bowl run. Before then, he played for the Jaguars. If Gordy continues to play well in the preseason, he could certainly make a case to move up from the practice squad and onto the Packers' final roster.
Matt Flynn proved last night that he is one of the best young backups in the league. Completing 11 of 18 passes, Flynn threw for 126 yards and a touchdown, but that doesn't tell the whole story. Down 14-10 with two minutes left in the half, Flynn led the second-string Packers offense down the field for a touchdown, completing several third down passes and throwing a touchdown pass to Spencer Havner with about 20 seconds left in the second quarter.
Flynn moved the two-minute offense very impressively, and has shown obvious improvement during his time in Green Bay. If Rodgers were to go down, the Packers would be in good hands with Flynn, especially as he continues to gain experience and confidence.
Randall Cobb was drafted in the second round of the 2011 draft by the Packers, and is already showing the potential that many thought he had coming out of Kentucky. Cobb is not only a solid receiver, but an explosive return man and even a wildcat QB.
Cobb played as a receiver and a returner in Cleveland, where he caught three passes for 60 yards, leading the team in receiving, and returning two kicks for 32 and 26 yards in that order.
Cobb is certainly one of the most promising young players on the Packers roster, and with time, could add to the Packers' already deep and explosive offense.