Thursday, September 15, 2016

Packers Start Season With a Win

Green Bay Press-Gazette Cover
It has been a long time since my last post.  I just could not find the motivation in the off-season or the preseason to have much to say about the Packers.  But now that games that actually count have returned, I am back and raring to go.  When people ask how good the Packers will be this year, I say that I expect them to be good, in the playoffs, and have a shot at the Super Bowl.  The trouble is, I say that every year.  But since that is true every year, maybe my optimism is justified!

On the offensive side of the ball, the three big questions for me were: how will Lane Taylor do replacing Josh Sitton; how will Jordy Nelson look; and will Jared Cook make a difference at tight end?  Oddly enough, we got the clearest answer about Lane Taylor in the Packers's 27-23 win over the Jaguars.  He looked fine.  Unlike past replacement guards and tackles who have created real problems, with Rodgers running for his life and/or getting hammered back there, Taylor seemed to be doing a very respectable job of protection.

Nelson looked good, but had none of his explosive plays, as we have seen in the past.  It may be that he has lost a step over his year of recovery, but I think it is way too early to conclude that now.  The starters on offense got almost no time together in the preseason, and of course Nelson got 0 snaps in a preseason game.  So if the offense looked a little rusty, it makes sense.

Well, actually it goes beyond looking rusty.  There was confusion on offense, there were unnecessary timeouts.  The spectacle of Rodgers trying to call a second time out on the same play, and ending up with a delay penalty, is something I won't forget soon.  One more play like that and they will need to put Rodgers through the concussion protocol.  He just doesn't make mistakes like that.

As to Jared Cook, I have been expecting big things of him this year.  You know the argument.  Cook is a top quality tight end, but has never had a top quality quarterback.  The Packers have an important role in their offense for a dependable, big tight end, but have not had a top quality tight end since the forced retirement of Jermichael Finley.  Well,  Cook made very little impact in the first game, but he looked primed to do big things.  He was responsible for a big gainer without catching the ball, by drawing a long pass interference call down the field.  I think Sunday night against the Vikings could be his big debut.

On defense,  I had two main questions: whether shifting Clay Matthews back outside will create the kind of disruption that he supplied before switching him inside.  The early returns are pretty good.  Especially early in the game, Matthews was exactly what I remembered, getting one sack and stopping another play for a loss.  While he was not as big a factor after the first quarter, I wonder if the hot and humid conditions had anything to do with it (or, for that matter, with Julius Peppers' seemingly entering the witness protection program during the game).

My other question was whether the defensive line would be serviceable in light of B.J. Raji's "retirement" and Mike Pennel's short term suspension.  It was.  The line helped to provide pass rush all day, while doing an even better job of protecting against the run.

All in all, to come up with a win in an opening day road game, under insanely hot and humid conditions, against an up and coming team with three excellent pass-receiving weapons, is a pretty good start to the season.

The Packers' unusual (weird might be a better word) schedule this year continues with another road game, opening the Vikings' new stadium on Sunday night, before returning home for a four game home stand, packaged around an early bye in week 4.  The Packers are slight favorites against the Vikings, so I didn't really understand why so many people seem to assume that the Vikings will win.  Sure, new stadium, high emotions, blah blah blah.  But the Packers are still a better team, particularly after the Vikings lost Teddy Bridgewater for the season.

I watched the Vikings' opening day win against the Titans.  Shaun Hill was at quarterback for the Vikings in the opener, and I can easily understand why the Vikings reportedly will switch to the recently-acquired Sam Bradford for the game against the Packers.  Hill did very little for the Vikings, managing to engineer 4 field goal drives.  The other 13 points in the Vikings' 25-16 win were created by defensive scores, an interception return and a fumble return.  My prediction is that the Packers will shake off a little of the rust, and look much sharper on offense, probably winning a fairly close game.  If they manage to accomplish that, with 4 home games coming up, they will be in great shape.

No comments:

Post a Comment