So, the Packers lost their pre-season opener Saturday night, 27-17, to the Cleveland Browns. Of course, they lost to the Browns in the pre-season last year, too, and the season worked out pretty well anyway.
I did not see anything to get me too concerned. Sure, it would be great if they looked in post-season form, but that is not too likely in a first pre-season game. On offense, the starters (minus Jermichael Finley, who was held out with a minor injury) did not look sharp on their first drive, going 3 and out. But they got it together on the next drive (the last drive for Rodgers), and moved crisply down the field, scoring in 7 plays, including nice looking passes to Donald Driver and to Greg Jennings for the touchdown.
Matt Flynn led the offense for the rest of the first half, and he looked like a very capable backup, who could lead the offense if necessary. He put 10 points on the board, on a couple of scoring drives, and made no big mistakes. Graham Harrell played quarterbacks with an all-backup team for the entire second half, and did not look nearly as good. He completed 50% of his passes, but gave up the big play of the game, a blind-side sack and strip that was returned for a touchdown. He had two other fumbles to add to this. In fairness to him, there was a lot of rotation of offensive linemen in the game, but especially in the second half, presumably so that Coach McCarthy can test out different players at different OL positions.
The defense never showed any consistency at any time in the game. Of course, they were playing without Charles Woodson (just resting) and Sam Shields (minor injury). Plus, Dom Capers called a pretty plain-vanilla style defense, as you might expect at this point. Still, the coaching staff can't be happy about letting Colt McCoy complete 90% of his passes and two scoring drives.
Among the new players, there was one real standout: rookie WR and KR Randall Cobb (the Packers' second pick in the draft this year). He was the leading receiver for the Packers in this game (3 catches for 60 yards), and he looked really promising, especially as a kickoff returner. He returned two kickoffs for a total of 58 yards, and in both cases he got an extra 5-8 yards after I expected him to go down. The league has deliberately de-emphasized kickoffs this year, by moving the kickoffs back to the 35 yard line. This will result in more touchbacks and fewer runbacks. Which might be too bad, now that we have a promising kick returner.
The bottom line is that when you add Cobb to an already-excellent receiving corps, the Packers really have something special. Plus, if Cobb is the main kick returner, we can keep Tramon Williams out of having to return kicks, which scared me every time he lined up back there. I anxiously await the return of Jermichael Finley. They can't keep all the WRs and TEs on the roster, but if they keep the good ones healthy, they will be in great shape.
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