Monday, August 18, 2014

Packers Preseason: Beat Rams 21-7 in St. Louis

The headliners were the two starting QBs. It was the first preseason action for Aaron Rodgers, and the first time Sam Bradford played in a game since last October, when he tore his ACL. Rodgers looked great, but the offensive line gave him a time to throw and he made it look easy.

The biggest play of the game was made by the rookie, in his first preseason NFL game:
Janis and WR Davante Adams stood out and took the lead in the battle for the No. 4 and 5 WR spot. Adams was always going to make the final roster, but he could still slip down the depth chart if he struggles in the final two preseason games.

On offense and defense, the first team players still look like the opening week starters. There are only two positions that still could change:

Tight end. TE Brandon Bostick was their lone reported injury, which was unfortunate because he probably had the best game among the top three TEs. Rookie Richard Rodgers wasn't even targeted and he didn't look good blocking. Andrew Quarless had a big gain at the end of the 1st quarter on a busted coverage, but he also committed offensive pass interference on a 4th quarter pass attempt. If Bostick can bounce back quickly, he's probably in the lead to start.

FS HaHa Clinton-Dix. On a 41 yard completion to Rams' WR Brian Quick near the start of the 2nd quarter, CB Sam Shields went underneath in coverage expecting safety help. Instead, Clinton-Dix didn't go for the ball or the tackle, and Quick ran right around him on his way to an extra 20 yards. It wasn't a great day for safeties, TE Lance Kendricks beat Micah Hyde for a touchdown later on the same drive, but Clinton-Dix isn't ready to start.

Speaking of 1st round picks, I expect him to start, but I still haven't seen much from DE Datone Jones. I don't know what to expect from him.

Matt Flynn vs. Scott Tolzien. Tolzien is the one who's making quick decisions and getting the ball out his hand. Flynn is the one throwing short, dump-off passes (Janis's TD pass was almost entirely yards after the catch) and he's holding the ball too long. But Tolzien's drives don't lead to touchdowns, though a Tolzien TD pass to WR Myles White was waived off because of a penalty on rookie C Corey Lindsay. Meanwhile, Flynn is more likely to lead them to points. They'll still need the final two preseason games to sort out who should be the backup, but I don't know who's in the lead.

As for the backups on offense, I already mentioned Janis, but elsewhere on offense RB DuJuan Harris fumbled away the only turnover in the game, which will put some pressure on him for the remainder of the preseason. OT Derek Sherrod struggled in pass protection on at least three occasions after a good game against the Titans. He's still the biggest lineman on the roster, and I don't expect them to give up yet on their former 1st round pick, but he's not ready to step in and start if needed.

As for the backups on defense, former 1st round LB Nick Perry is definitely on the second team now that LB Julius Peppers is on the roster, but the entire second team front seven looked good. I wasn't ready to jump on the NT Mike Pennel bandwagon last week, the guy couldn't get on the field at Arizona State in college, but he did look good again this week. His biggest problem is that I'm not sure whether the Packers intend to keep two nose tackles.

It was a sack-fest for undrafted LBs Jayrone Elliott and Adrian Hubbard, but they were rushing against a sieve of a left tackle for the Rams. They both showed speed around the edges, but it's not clear they're faster than either backup LB Nate Palmer or Andy Mulumba. A three sack performance (Elliott) would usually be enough for any player to earn a roster spot, however, Elliott will have to keep it up to prove this game was no fluke.

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