Monday, August 22, 2016

Packers 2016 Preseason: Win Over Raiders

This was an odd preseason game to evaluate for the Green Bay Packers. With so many stars sitting in these first two preseason games, it's not like we're watching the team that's going to play in the regular season opener, and there are few starting jobs being fought over. JC Tretter and Blake Martinez both played well, but it might not matter at all if they're just keeping the seats warm for Corey Linsley and Jake Ryan, respectively. It's important to avoid injuries (the ankle injury doesn't appear serious for QB Brett Hundley) and sort out the battles at the end of the bench. Speaking of which...
After two games, the biggest surprise has been CB Josh Hawkins. Among the rookies, maybe Kenny Clark and Blake Martinez might have outplayed him, and among the returning players, it's good to see ILB Carl Bradford emerge. But I know who those guys are and I knew little of Hawkins before he stood out in both preseason games. On the play pictured above, Hawkins went up high to make a play on the ball and grab the INT on a pass that should have been over his head.

Offensive evaluation:

After an opening TD drive that featured RB Eddie Lacy (who's looked better than last season, so far), maybe the plan was to air it out with Hundley, but instead he re-injured his ankle shortly after Lacy took a seat. The injury did show that rookie LT Jason Spriggs isn't yet up to pass blocking against an All-Pro like DE Khalil Mack. After Hundley left, the Packers called a lot of running plays for James Starks and John Crockett, and by the end of the game they were almost exclusively calling running plays for QB Marquise Williams. That ground heavy performance did make the offensive line look good, and showed that rookie RT Kyle Murphy is a pretty good run blocker, but it provided few opportunities for the receivers.
But when they did throw the ball, they did have success throwing to WR Davante Adams. Mike McCarthy also complemented Adams during his post-game press conference. After a disappointing sophomore season, Adams is starting to show the promise that was expected last year. The only negative in the passing game was all the incompletions thrown to WR Ty Montgomery who is slowly moving down the depth chart this preseason.

Defensive evaluation:

With a lot of sure tackling and great coverage by the secondary, the Raiders struggled to get much of anything going against the Packers' first or second team defenses. Outside of two long completions to Amari Cooper and Seth Roberts, the Raiders moved the ball little through the air, and only averaged 2.4 ypc on the ground. I would like to stop seeing CB Damarious Randall stop getting beaten in coverage, and his INT wasn't a big sign of improvement when he had to push off (not called) to make the play. On the ground, the Raiders had little success moving the Packers' tackles off the line, and the Packers' linebackers did a good job of moving through all the traffic around the line of scrimmage to make the tackles.

But the one thing that was really missing was their pass rush. The Packers didn't record a single sack or even a quarterback hit. Part of that was the result of the Raiders' QBs getting the ball out of their hands quickly. If the Packers were hoping LB Nick Perry and/or LB Kyler Fackrell were going to provide a consistent pass rush this season, it hasn't worked out so far.

Special teams:

It's kind of pointless to discuss special teams during the preseason, when the Packers are using so many different players on each unit compared to the ones who will be lining up during the regular season. But the Raiders scored their only touchdown when CB LaDarius Gunter whiffed on a block that led to a blocked punt recovered in the end zone. The return situation hasn't looked great either, other than a couple nice returns from rookie WR Trevor Davis, who seems unlikely to stick with so many other receivers ahead of him on offense.

So the Packers didn't look bad, and they mostly looked really good, but this is all happening with a number of key players sitting out and/or hurt. At least it looks like the Packers are a deep team, if they need to call on that depth later in the regular season due to injuries.

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