The 2011 NFL season has finally began and the first game of the season did not disappoint. The Green Bay Packers and the New Orleans put on an offensive fireworks show last Thursday night. The Packers pulled out a 42-34 victory over the Saints, who could not convert on a last second play from the one-yard line.
Although the result was a big victory for the Packers, the Saints also exposed several areas that Green Bay needs to work on before next week's game. Let's look at four things the Packers must improve on for Week 2.
Green Bay must have felt good about their punting game before the game against New Orleans. Punter Tim Masthay looked very impressive in the preseason after stringing together dominant performances in the 2010 playoffs.
But on Thursday night Masthay seemed to struggle a bit. One mistake he made even cost the Packers a touchdown. In the second quarter Masthay hit a punt 52 yards with decent hang time. The problem was he sent the ball right down the middle of the field. The coverage units were not downfield in time and a few players were out of position. Darren Sproles fielded the ball and took the ball 72 yards to the end zone for a touchdown. The kickoff coverage wasn't much better, yielding a 57-yard return to Sproles.
The Packers cannot afford those types of mistakes. It could end up costing them a win later on in the season. The coverage units need to be shored up before their Week 2 matchup against Carolina.
The Green Bay Packers did not kill themselves with penalties. With only six infractions for a total of 48 yards, things could have been much worse. The problem was that half of the penalties were simply mental miscues.
Starting guard T.J. Lang was whistled twice for false starts. Those are the types of penalties that could end up killing drives for the Packers. It may have been a case of the jitters for Lang, as he was making his first career start, but he needs to improve his concentration.
A holding call brought back a phenomenal punt return by rookie Randall Cobb. Cobb showed the potential to be a great return man, but if the Packers keep making mistakes then his return abilities will be worthless.
Although the Packers did record three sacks, they did not consistently put pressure on Saints quarterback Drew Brees. Brees had all day to look for open receivers for much of the game.
The Packers' rush failed to generate effective pressure on one of the league's premier quarterbacks and at the end of the game, Brees had the statistics to prove it.
Jarius Wynn played a good game and should be given more time from here on out. He made a couple of big plays down the stretch and applied pressure to Brees on several occasions. If the Packers can generate a more consistent pass rush, the defense will not get shredded again by opposing quarterbacks.
The Green Bay Packers found mild success rushing the football in their first game of 2011. Ryan Grant and James Starks both had decent rushing averages and found room to run throughout the game.
But anyone who watched the game can tell who is the Packers' best runner right now. James Starks looked much more effective than Grant did running the ball. Starks was decisive and ran with power, falling forward on nearly every carry and making sharp cuts.
There were numerous plays that Starks made that Grant cannot. Starks has more potential to help the Packers right now and should be getting at least half of the carries in the Packers' backfield. Coach Mike McCarthy would be wise to call Starks number more often in Week 2.