Tale of the Tape: Preseason, Game Two
The second week of the preseason brought several camp battles to a close, extended others, and saw a return appearance by our beloved injury bug.
Here’s in-depth analysis from last Friday’s Green Bay Packers preseason win over the [intlink id="174" type="category"]Arizona Cardinals[/intlink].
Even if [intlink id="1613" type="category"]Derek Sherrod[/intlink] didn’t sprain his knee during the Packers’ second series, this game would have sealed his fate as a backup anyway. On his first play from scrimmage, he allowed Calais Campbell to walk him up the line, discard his block, and stuff [intlink id="64" type="category"]Ryan Grant[/intlink] for a 1-yard gain. On his fifth play, Campbell did a swim move on Sherrod and sacked the franchise.
Sherrod didn’t have much better luck at left tackle. In the second half, a [intlink id="84" type="category"]Matt Flynn[/intlink] drive ended abruptly when O’Brien Schofield ran around Sherrod for a sack/fumble that was luckily recovered by [intlink id="1280" type="category"]Dmitri Nance[/intlink]. Sherrod’s sore knee probably didn’t help his cause on the play.
Sherrod’s main problem is hesitation at the snap. He sometimes looks like his feet are stuck in mud. This gets him out of position that even his long arms can’t make up for. It’s unlikely anyone is going to overpower Sherrod, unless Reggie White is reincarnated, but that will hardly matter if players continue to speed rush past him.
Despite Sherrod’s struggles, you could still say [intlink id="583" type="category"]T.J. Lang[/intlink] played his way into the starting job. Lang was on the field during Aaron Rodgers’ scoring drive. On Ryan Grant’s 9-yard run on a stretch play to the right, Lang jumped the weakside linebacker and drove him 15 yards downfield. On Grant’s 7-yard run four plays later, again a stretch right play that Grant cut back to the left, the open lane was there partially because Lang got to the second level and cut blocked the weakside linebacker to the ground.
Lang allowed two QB hurries. Both were on stunts where he reacted too slowly to the rusher crossing his face. One of them was the play where [intlink id="1618" type="category"]Alex Green[/intlink] got ate up by Schofield; Lang was supposed to help Green.
Regardless, Lang is a definite upgrade in the run game while being comparable to [intlink id="94" type="category"]Daryn Colledge[/intlink] in the pass game. Colledge was a cerebral player who might make fewer mistakes, but Lang is a fighter whose tenacity will help cover up any errors he might make.
Cobb didn’t have a single reception and to make matters worse, he bruised both knees on a fruitless third quarter kick return. This will obviously hamper the growth of a player who looked like he was ready to contribute this year. I would be surprised if the rather innocuous injury caused Cobb to miss Week 1, but you can forget about him for the rest of the preseason.
On the other hand, [intlink id="76" type="category"]Donald Driver[/intlink] made three catches and looked much the same as he has for the past dozen years. My announcement of his pending retirement might have been exaggerated.
This was the second starting position to be decided by this game, though not for the best reason. I was fully prepared to exalt the performance of [intlink id="1058" type="category"]Frank Zombo[/intlink], until I heard he had a broken scapula. Now it doesn’t matter if Zombo was crapping bricks of gold at the 50-yard line, [intlink id="1335" type="category"]Erik Walden[/intlink] will be the starter for at least the first month of the season.
Walden’s pass rush has been minimal, and at least twice he failed to set the edge, allowing a running back to get outside for a big gain.
[intlink id="443" type="category"]Brad Jones[/intlink] continues to be MIA, nursing a banged-up knee of his own.
Vic So’oto flashed at times and might have a shot to make the roster. Frankly, he has outplayed Walden and Jones, but he has also only played against second and third stringers.
He’s back and looks as good as ever. Finley appeared to be open on every play he ran a route on. It will be interesting to see how this affects Rodgers, who appeared to focus on him last season. However, on the first Packers third down of the game, Rodgers tried to force the ball to [intlink id="138" type="category"]Greg Jennings[/intlink] when Finley looked open over the middle.
It was a quiet game for the remainder of the tight ends. There aren’t a lot of tight ends that get to run a slant from out wide, so that was a positive sign for [intlink id="1036" type="category"]Andrew Quarless[/intlink].
The hole in the defensive line that’s supposed to be filled by Mike Neal
[intlink id="1042" type="category"]C.J. Wilson[/intlink] actually made his fair share of plays, even after getting hurt early in the second quarter. Somewhat comically, on the first play from scrimmage, Daryn Colledge doubled Walden instead of blocking Wilson, who lined up right in front of him. Wilson sprung into the backfield and tackled Beanie Wells after a 1-yard gain.
On a lead play to the right a drive later, Wilson tossed Colledge to the ground and crushed Wells for a 2-yard loss. On the play he got his bell rung, Wilson split a double team and dropped Wells at the line of scrimmage. Wilson was not as effective as a pass rusher, getting one QB hurry before his exit, but it wasn’t for lack of effort.
Until Wilson or Neal return, Jarius Wynn will be the starter at the end opposite [intlink id="473" type="category"]B.J. Raji[/intlink]. Wynn also flashed at times, getting into the Cardinals’ backfield several times.
His most memorable play was probably when he beat his man clean at the line of scrimmage with a swim move, only to run right past the QB.
Wynn is not as stout against the run as either Wilson or Neal. That’s the prime area where the Packers are affected with Wilson and Neal out.
It’s difficult to judge the secondary, and the pass rush by extension, because of the mostly zone or loose man coverage they’re playing. On several plays, the Packers cornerbacks lined up as much as eight yards off their receivers. Unless it is 3rd-and-20, no one will be seeing that during the regular season.
The hurry-up offense doesn’t allow a defense that’s set up to defend the pass to substitute for the run. That’s a big reason why Grant gained 16 yards in two carries when he found little room in the normal offense. Again, Grant looks back to form, but the Packers need [intlink id="1038" type="category"]James Starks[/intlink] back.
Alex Green briefly showed us why we let [intlink id="77" type="category"]Brandon Jackson[/intlink] go. Green is a big back with quick feet, who excels at catching passes out of the backfield. Yes, he needs to work on his blitz pickup if he’s going to see live action other than the occasional screen play, but he has the kind of frame that should make it easy for him.
The Packers have mostly just relied on fullbacks and tight ends to block in the backfield so far.
The Packers won because of the play of their backup quarterbacks. Flynn was greatly assisted by a soon-to-be-cut Cardinals cornerback watching the grass grow while Chastin West raced up the sideline for a 97-yard TD. [intlink id="1102" type="category"]Graham Harrell[/intlink] impressed again with his big arm and quick release.
Someone get the Bills on the phone. We have their QB right here.
Auditioning for another team
Both Chastin West and Dmitri Nance played well enough to get a shot on someone else’s roster after all this is over. I doubt the Packers will keep more than three halfbacks or five receivers, especially when you consider the depth at tight end, outside linebacker and defensive back. If West makes the roster, someone like Tom Crabtree or Pat Lee, or both, might be gone.
The third game of the preseason is usually the dress rehearsal for the regular season.
The Packers will actually game plan for the Colts, who have been nonexistent on offense so far this preseason. This means that the more important matchup will be against the Colts defense, who will be looking to redeem themselves after making John Beck look like a All Pro.
Let’s hope that the Packers offense can manage a scoring drive without having to hurry to do it.