Green Bay Packers vs. Cardinals: 7 Lessons Learned from Preseason Week 2
The Green Bay Packers beat the Arizona Cardinals 28-20 at Lambeau Field in their second preseason game and benefited from touchdown passes from all three of their quarterbacks (the other coming on a touchdown run from rookie Alex Green).
The Packers' No. 1 offense played three series, resulting in a touchdown on their final series.
On the opposite side of the ball, many of the defensive starters played three series deep into the second quarter. Matt Flynn played into the fourth before Graham Harrell finished off the game.
Here are seven lessons learned from Week 2 of the NFL preseason.
1. Jermichael Finley Is Tuned in and Ready to Go
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Jermichael Finley started slow (along with many others on the Packers offense), but got some momentum before ending his night in the second quarter.
On the first two drives, Finley was targeted twice and brought in a three-yard catch. On the other pass, Rodgers' pass was broken up by Joey Porter.
Unexpectedly, Finley stayed in the game on the Packers' third possession and was extremely productive, catching three of Rodgers' five completions on the scoring drive. Finley's three receptions were responsible for 30 of the 78 yards on the drive.
Even with a slow start, Finley was Rodgers' first read on multiple passing plays. He was able to shake the initial rust off and looked great on his final drive.
If he can stay healthy, Finley could be in for the biggest year a Packers tight end has ever had.
2. Defensive Line Could Be a Weakness
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With Mike Neal out of the lineup due to a knee injury earlier in the week, the Packers came into the game already thin on the defensive line.
It got even tougher for the Packers as they saw fill-in C.J. Wilson carted off the field for a possible concussion.
It may be that the Neal scare is overblown, but the D-line concern is very real and could be a huge issue going forward, as the Packers lost a key contributor in Cullen Jenkins via free agency.
They need Neal to come back healthy and productive. If one of the starters—B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett or Neal—were to go down, the Packers would be very thin behind those guys.
The team could be looking to add a defensive lineman as the deadline for roster cuts approaches however. The New England Patriots are a team very deep on the line and could be forced to cut a very capable player who can potentially be brought to Green Bay.
3. Tori Gurley Disappeared, but Chastin West Stated Claim
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In the days leading up to this game, it appeared that if the Packers were going to keep five wide receivers, big Tori Gurley would be the guy. He absolutely disappeared against the Cardinals.
A player who did the opposite and stepped up big was Chastin West and was the recipient of a 97-yard, fourth quarter touchdown pass from Flynn.
Flynn hit West in stride after the receiver made a good move to spring open. West went about 75 yards after the catch in out-running the Cardinals defense.
West finished the game with five catches for 134 yards and one touchdown. Gurley, meanwhile, had three late catches for 31 yards; West was definitely more impressive.
It isn't known how many wideouts the Packers plan on keeping, but if they do keep six, West definitely made a big move toward being No. 6 in the game. Gurley however, failed to capitalize on the momentum he had built in practice and against the Browns.
If both fail to make the team, they are both good candidates for the practice squad and could replace Jordy Nelson next season if he leaves via free agency.
4. Backup Offensive Lines Continue to Struggle
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The Packers' second and third-string offensive lines struggled once again against the Cardinals. On Matt Flynn's first play, the line completely collapsed and Flynn went down for the sack—though a big screen pass play to Alex Green bailed the offense out of the tough spot.
This made things tough on Flynn and Graham Harrell as they battled constant pressure. Flynn was particularly a victim of many nasty hits as the game went on.
They didn't do much better creating holes for Green, Dimitri Nance and Brandon Saine in the run game either. Going into next week, the Packers need the lines to improve in order to properly evaluate the quarterbacks and the running backs.
Another week of practice should provide the Packers lines the opportunity to improve their communication and cohesiveness.
5. Alex Green Can Become the Third-Down Back
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Alex Green made his Packers debut as a kick returner in the first quarter. He was unimpressive on the return, hesitating for too long before finally deciding to take the ball out of the end zone.
There is potential as a kick returner, but Green needs to improve his decision-making.
In the run game, Green looked powerful as a runner and could provide a nice change of pace from Ryan Grant and James Starks. He didn't have the best blocking up front, but he did a great job falling forward for the extra yards.
He was extremely impressive on a second quarter screen pass from Matt Flynn, gaining 25 yards down to the Cardinals' 2-yard line. It took Green two carries from there to get in for the score.
The combination of speed and power sets Green apart from the others RBs on the roster. And displaying great pass-catching skills out of the back field, Green has a great chance to become the third-down back as the season progresses.
6. Green Bay's Offense Looks Much Better in the Hurry-Up
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Over the two preseason games, it is clear the Packers' No. 1 offense has looked much better in the hurry-up.
Over the five drives Rodgers has conducted, both of his touchdowns came on drives featuring the no-huddle.
On the two drives, Rodgers was perfect on each, completing all five of his passes, and looked a lot more confident and dialed in on the drives. Last week, Flynn's most impressive drive came in the two-minute against the Browns.
On Rodgers' last drive, the faster tempo really seemed to spark the offense as he completed three passes to Finley and found Greg Jennings on a beautiful back shoulder throw for a touchdown. The Packers offense finally looked like the machine they are capable of becoming.
It is quite early, but the Packers might utilize a good amount of no-huddle against New Orleans. This is definitely something to watch for going forward in the preseason.
7. Position Battles Taking Form
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As the Packers are now half-way through the preseason, leaders in the position battles—at left guard, right outside linebacker and running back—are starting to take shape, while others continue to rage on.
TJ Lang looks to be the guy at left guard after a decent showing (and a pretty dismal showing by Derek Sherrod). The latter gave up two big sacks on Rodgers and Flynn. It appears Lang has taken a firm grasp in the battle, and barring an injury setback, should start Week 1.
The battle for the Week 1 right outside linebacker spot is still fairly open for either Frank Zombo or Erik Walden. The two linebackers started the game on the right and left sides due to the injury to Clay Matthews. They both did some good things, but neither were able to pull in front of the other.
At running back, there wasn't much news, as James Starks was inactive from the ankle injury suffered against the Browns. Grant didn't impress, but he never really had an opportunity to build a rhythm.
Grant had a decent 23 yards on five carries, but looked slow making his reads. At this point, if Starks can get healthy, he has a good opportunity.