Monday, August 29, 2016

Packers 2016 Preseason Game 3, Packers Defeat 49ers, 21-10

We aren't going to see any Green Bay Packers highlights this season featuring QB Joe Callahan (or WR Geronimo Allison) so...
Preseason wins are meaningless but this is the 3rd preseason game in which the Packers starters and potential backups looked collectively better than their opponents. It's also been their 3rd game against three non-playoff teams in 2015 but it's the best we have to evaluate them.

Packers offense:

They'll keep Callahan on the practice squad (or maybe the active roster for a little while if Brett Hundley's ankle is still bothering him) but I can't believe they had any intention of keeping three QBs on the 53-man roster this season. Callahan's still too limited physically to be worried about any other team claiming him, but his accuracy on the deep ball has been impressive.

The starting offense was together for the first time (excepting WR Jordy Nelson) and their first series was a rusty, penalty filled mess. This happens every year and it's better to get it out of the way in the preseason than in Week 1. Their second series was a touchdown drive so it got better quickly.

The offensive line (starters and backups) have looked great this preseason and it's the best collective group I've seen in years. The Packers are usually struggling to find a decent 7th or 8th offensive lineman to keep and this year they'll have no trouble. Even C Don Barclay's looked good at center, though he did get lost on his first snap of the preseason and allowed a safety. LT Jason Spriggs played well again (after a shaky game last week against the Raiders) even with a club on his hand for an entire half. Undrafted G Lucas Patrick hasn't played much but he was a pleasant surprise against the 49ers. I had been high on rookie RT Kyle Murphy but he was a disaster in pass protection during the second half. The Packers might be able to release him now and sign him to the practice squad, he looked that bad in pass protection. They might also have an extra spot if C Corey Linsley (who still hasn't even practiced) has to go on I.R. JC Tretter isn't quite as good as Linsley but the step down is small. Barclay might have to stay if Linsley can't play, and with Spriggs and probably Murphy, there shouldn't be any more open roster spots for lineman.

Usually it's a case of keeping the backup wide receivers who don't drop the ball during preseason games but this year's group has been outstanding. There's an extra roster spot with Jeff Janis almost certain to go onto season ending I.R. but even then there's probably not room for Allison, who is still behind rookie Trevor Davis, and Davis might only stick for a while as a 6th receiver if they decide they need an extra one while they ease Nelson back. Neither Davante Adams or Ty Montgomery has shown much this preseason but they should both stay due to their high draft status. Maybe they're looking to trade Adams or Montgomery?

I'm not expecting a lot of big plays at tight end from Jared Cook but he looks like the player that I hoped Richard Rodgers would become last season. His speed and size make him a tough matchup and he'll get 10 yards on any slot route if they can get him into single coverage. Justin Perillo's been active every game this preseason and he looks set for the 3rd TE job. Though I didn't recall seeing Kennard Backman at all against the 49ers, he should still be on the roster.

As long as FB Aaron Ripkowski's knee injury isn't serious (reportedly not) they might only keep him, and RBs Eddie Lacy and James Starks. They should keep one more back on the practice squad and that spot might come down to whoever's healthy (Crockett's shoulder injury looked painful on the sidelines). They only needed Crockett last season on the active roster because of Lacy's issues, and those issues appear to be in his past.

Packers defense:

DT Kenny Clark didn't make the trip (he was held out as a precaution) and DT Letroy Guion's knee injury reportedly won't keep him out for Week 1. But DT Mike Pennel's four game suspension is looming and they did look outmatched up front when DT Mike Daniels and Pennel weren't in the game. Those four (plus rookie DE Dean Lowry) should be the only five lineman they keep. Probably someone else for the first four games while Pennel's suspended. DT Christian Ringo has probably played the best of the rest but they are looking at more than just sacks when evaluating what they want at tackle.

Speaking of rust, he was only in for several plays during his first action of the preseason, but Julius Peppers lost contain on RB Carlos Hyde for the big play on the 49ers only TD drive. But of course Peppers will start opposite Clay Matthews while Nick Perry and Datone Jones are the backups. Rookie Kyler Fackrell isn't going to be an elite pass rusher but he appears to do everything well, and his high draft status will provide him a roster spot. Jayrone Elliott, Reggie Gilbert and Lerentee McCray will be hoping there's room left for them.

After a shaky first preseason game, ILB Blake Martinez has reassured me that he's the best of the bunch on the inside over these past two games. Before his injury, it looked like ILB Sam Barrington was going to be the every down inside backer who's not great but good at everything (run defense, covering TEs, slot receivers, etc.). Instead that job now belongs to Martinez, who's reminding me of former Packer Nick Barnett. ILB Carl Bradford's in good roster shape after a solid preseason while injuries have kept away his competition. ILB Joe Thomas was out against the 49ers (it's a muscle injury, a few days after a shin injury, and even if neither are serious it comes at the worst time for him). ILB Jake Ryan is back at practice but he hasn't been active for a preseason game yet; he'll have to showcase himself in their final preseason game. They can make room for five inside backers on the roster but I don't know if that's necessary. Maybe they'll choose between Bradford and Thomas plus the other three (Martinez, Barrington, and Ryan).

They've got some choices to make in the secondary among safeties Kentrell Brice and Marwin Evans, who have both played well this preseason, along with Josh Hawkins at cornerback. But these three are still deep down the depth chart, they'll only play if there are injuries, and it's those injuries that concern me. Chris Banjo doesn't think his injury is serious but hamstring injuries can linger (ask Jake Ryan) and Morgan Burnett has hardly played this preseason. The starting corners haven't looked lock-down this preseason (Sam Shields got beat for a would-be TD pass if Blaine Gabbert hadn't overthrown his receiver, and Damarious Randall's shaky preseason continued with a touchdown lateral to the receiver he was covering). The good news is that safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix keeps looking better and I'm wondering what his ceiling is (high for sure). Plus CB/S/DB Micah Hyde is there to fill in the gaps. They've got options here but there might be too many options at the bottom of the roster and injuries are looming.

Overall this hasn't been a surprising preseason (they're beating lesser teams, their starters look good, and they've got quality depth) and the the 2016 draft class is looking solid, but not spectacular. One more tune up against the Chiefs to finalize the roster and then onto the regular season.

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