After another offseason of nearly every NFL player saying they are in the best shape of their life (yes according to the offseason articles, each and everyone of the stories is definitely true), three NFL teams trading up to draft a quarterback in the first round (time will tell if this works), the first salary dump trade in NFL history (Hi Brock Osweiler, how do you like the Cleveland Browns?) and Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson realizing that spending money in free agency can be a useful tool to help build a team, football is BACK!
Well, preseason football that is.
Anyways, that means a whole new season of coverage of the Packers at scoreboardgurus.wordpress.com, starting with some analysis from the first Packers preseason game, a 24-9 home victory vs. the Philadelphia Eagles. Yeah, Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson, Davon House and others didn’t play, but that doesn’t stop us from making observations of the people that did.
Here are a few:
- Wide receiver Trevor Davis is a legitimate threat as a punt returner. Davis wanted to impress special teams coach Ron Zook by practicing punt returns nearly every day at local high school fields. He had the returns recorded, which Zook told Packers reporters he had never had a player do before. With former punt returner and secondary stalwart Micah Hyde signing with the Buffalo Bills, the job is up for grabs with jack-of-all-trades receiver Randall Cobb currently listed at the top of the depth chart. The second year pro, Davis, certainly impressed with a 68 yard punt return touchdown halfway through the second quarter to open up the scoring. Davis showed excellent vision with a few cuts and the breakaway speed that allowed him to be drafted in the fifth round last year as he ran away from would be tacklers. There could be a new name on top of the depth chart soon.
- Brett Hundley and Joe Callahan filled in admirably for the two-time MVP Rodgers who watched from the sidelines in a baseball cap. Rodgers is still a phenomenal quarterback who belongs in any discussion among the top five quarterbacks in the league (cough… best… cough…cough), but being a backup quarterback in the NFL is a very important job. Football is a violent game that results in many injuries to all positions. Rodgers has been fairly healthy the past few seasons which has been great, but in the NFL, that can never be counted upon. Hundley showed maturity after a rough beginning, finding wide receiver Jeff Janis on a pump and go route late in the second quarter for a touchdown. The third year quarterback finished 10-17 for 90 yards, one TD and an interception. Callahan, a member of last year’s practice squad, made a case for himself to make the active roster going 10-16 for 103 yards and taking command of the offense at all times. It will be difficult for the Packers to justify carrying three quarterbacks on the roster, but if Callahan continues to impress, Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy may be forced to find a roster spot for him.
- Turnovers will be a key focus for the rest of training camp after a sloppy start to the preseason, something that will assuredly not be lost on McCarthy. The Packers committed three turnovers and recovered three more fumbles that could have been turnovers themselves. Hundley and fourth string quarterback Taysom Hill threw interceptions, while starting running back Ty Montgomery coughed it up in the first quarter. With a month before the regular season begins, the team will have plenty of time to work on some ball security drills.
- Despite early missed tackles, the defense stepped up and kept the Eagles off the scoreboard. The Eagles also rested and barely played many key starters, but four quarters holding an offense to nine points is definitely an accomplishment. The Packers have many young players to get excited about that performed well in the first game of the 2017 season. Rookie Kevin King was all over the field recording five tackles and responded quickly after allowing a long completion. Second year safety Marwin Evans recorded an interception and led the team with seven tackles. Inside linebacker Joe Thomas made a great play in the second quarter reading the quarterback’s eyes and nearly bringing back an interception all the way back for a touchdown to set up another score. If the defense can continue to bring pressure on both runs and passes, the team will be in good shape when the games start to count.
- Unfortunately, the Packers did not leave the game unscathed with a few injuries to report. Reserve offensive lineman Don Barclay could not put any weight on his right ankle which depending on the severity of the injury, could severely hurt their line depth. Safety Kentrell Brice left with a finger injury and cornerback Raysean Pringle is in the concussion protocol.
- Along with these injuries, rookie Malachi Dupree and cornerback Damarious Randall are both in the concussion protocol over some questionable blocks and hits the Eagles placed. I will not link the video because it is difficult to watch. Football is dangerous enough without blindside blocks or hits to defenseless players who have no idea the hit is coming. Dupree appears to be okay after being carted off, and it is unclear the status of Randall, last year’s starter. McCarthy said that the team has sent in both tapes to the NFL league offices to determine whether any further disciplinary action should be taken. After watching each of these hits, I completely agree with McCarthy saying these were illegal hits. Say what you want about the NFL ignoring and even promoting these plays for years, but the league has been, and is continuing, improving the game for the safety of players. Doing nothing about these hits would look awful in the public’s and players eyes would definitley take a step back in this quest. But hey, the league has a long history of doing the right thing with these types of decisions… I couldn’t even type the sentence with straight face, so here is hoping something will happen following the NFL’s reviews of the videos.
- Final take is this, as much stock as we would like to take in preseason football, it’s all part of a bigger picture and and still an incredibly small sample size. My two favorite examples of this are a 17 year old New York Times article talking about how much first overall pick Ryan Leaf (one of the biggest draft busts in history) outdueled future five time MVP, two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback and Hall of Famer Peyton Manning from 2000. Don’t even try to blame the New York Times (which is assuredly not fake news), there is someone or some publication that publishes a story that ages horrendously nearly every day. Finally, the second example is the 2008 Detroit Lions, the second team in NFL history to not win a single regular season game, although the first team to go 0-16 since the schedule and league expanded. That Lions team’s preseason record, 4-0. I am not saying the Packers will come even close to matching that awful record, but you still can’t expect everything that happens in preseason to translate to the regular season. Countdown, T-minus 30 days to the regular season opener at home vs. the Seattle Seahawks.