Aaron Rodgers

This was an issue.

In a dress rehearsal of my own for the regular season, here’s a full review, TiVo Time-style, of the Green Bay Packers’ third preseason game: a 31-28 win over the [intlink id="196" type="category"]Indianapolis Colts[/intlink].

12:47, 1st quarter — On third-and-4, [intlink id="454" type="category"]Clay Matthews[/intlink] hydroplanes around the right tackle to sack Curtis Painter and end the Colts’ first possession after one first down. The Colts had some immediate success on the ground, including a 19-yard scamper by Joseph Addai, where the Colts split Matthews and [intlink id="252" type="category"]Ryan Pickett[/intlink] like the Red Sea. Center Jeff Saturday literally rode Desmond Bishop’s back. After an 8-yard gain up the middle by Addai, the Colts were forced to the air on third down, after their second down run was stuffed by Bishop for a 2-yard loss.

11:04, 1st quarter — [intlink id="25" type="category"]Aaron Rodgers[/intlink] has started slow in every game this preseason. This is more of the same. The Packers were stuffed for no gain on first-and-10, but the Colts had nine guys at the line of scrimmage. [intlink id="583" type="category"]T.J. Lang[/intlink] never got off his double team to take the weak-side linebacker. The same linebacker stuffed [intlink id="64" type="category"]Ryan Grant[/intlink] after Colts safety Melvin Bullitt flew up to take out [intlink id="251" type="category"]John Kuhn[/intlink]. On third-and-3, [intlink id="22" type="category"]Jordy Nelson[/intlink] had the first down, but an inaccurate Rodgers’ pass forced Nelson out of bounds short of the first down.

4:40, 1st quarter — We get our first look at the kind of weapon [intlink id="209" type="category"]Jermichael Finley[/intlink] can be on an 18-yard touchdown that puts the Packers up 7-0. After the Colts went backwards three yards and punted, the Packers went no huddle, leading to a quick score. [intlink id="1038" type="category"]James Starks[/intlink] was the lone running back in the backfield and he did well making a couple catches, including a one-hander.

The Packers faced third down only once. Rodgers converted that by throwing an absolute dart up the middle to [intlink id="76" type="category"]Donald Driver[/intlink]. The offensive line held up well on the drive.

My favorite play was a play fake — rare for this preseason — bootleg dump to [intlink id="1036" type="category"]Andrew Quarless[/intlink] for 16 yards.

12:41, 2nd quarter — A chip shot field goal by [intlink id="152" type="category"]Mason Crosby[/intlink] makes it 10-0, Packers. After another three-and-out by the Colts, the Packers stayed in the no huddle and rolled down the field again.

Rodgers was sharp, throwing on time to Nelson and Driver. Grant was in and ran three times for 13 yards.

Even though this is only the second no huddle drive of the game, the Packers offensive line, most notably [intlink id="225" type="category"]Chad Clifton[/intlink], already look tired. Twice on the drive, Rodgers was flushed to his right by Clifton’s guy. Phil Simms shows his keen observation skills by saying, “This team didn’t game plan… and was supposed to be tired. They look sharp to me.” Two plays later, Dwight Freeney treated Clifton like a blocking sled with wheels and sacked Rodgers to force the field goal.

7:37, 2nd quarter –  After the Colts’ obligatory punt, the Packers reciprocate with a three-and-out of their own. On first down, Grant ran a stretch play to the right. Lang left his double team too early, allowing Colts DT Fili Moala to walk Scott Wells into the backfield and drop Grant for a 1-yard loss. Getting on the same page with his teammates certainly appears to be Lang’s biggest issue. He’s been solid otherwise.

Wells has never been a very good run blocker. If he remains with the Packers after his current contract runs out, he’ll have done it the same way as Frank Winters before him — by being decent in pass protection and by being a decent wingman.

On second down, Driver made a business decision, dropping Rodgers’ pass. A completion would have been good for about five yards. Ernie Sims was preparing to crush Driver and the preseason is no time for a 36-year-old to be taking shots.

On third down, Freeney shows off his inside spin move and gets by Clifton to sack Rodgers again. Clifton looks tired, but he was expecting help from Starks, who was moved over to that side before the snap to help. Starks released to the outside instead. Rodgers has words with Starks after the play.

I can’t read lips, but I believe Rodgers said something along the lines of, “I changed my mind about our priorities. Get Mike Holmgren on the phone. I propose a trade: James Jones for Brandon Jackson!”

5:34, 2nd quarter — With Matthews and [intlink id="143" type="category"]Charles Woodson[/intlink] out of the game, the Colts finally show a flash of offense. Addai gets nine yards around the right end when [intlink id="443" type="category"]Brad Jones[/intlink] stumbles over his own feet trying to keep the edge. Jones is immediately pulled for Vic So’oto.

On third-and-9, Painter and the Colts get a gift when [intlink id="1034" type="category"]Morgan Burnett[/intlink] decides to triple cover the short route, allowing the Colts All Pro receiver Reggie Wayne to stroll down the sideline for a 57-yard TD.

This is a perfect learning experience for Burnett, who has been borderline overaggressive all preseason. Hopefully, he’s less likely to make the same mistake after giving up an embarrassing score on national TV.

2:00, 2nd quarter — The Packers drive right down the field again, mixing in a couple screen passes to help slow the Colts’ pass rush. Starks looks great on all of them. He has good hands and runs hard. On one play, he ran through two Colts before two others managed to bring him down.

The biggest play in the drive was a nifty catch and run up the right sideline by Nelson, who’s starting to look more and more like a solid No. 2 receiver. Rodgers appears unaware [intlink id="204" type="category"]James Jones[/intlink] is even on the field.

After a Chad Clifton holding penalty took away a sweet touchdown catch by Chastin West, [intlink id="90" type="category"]Josh Sitton[/intlink] got beat for the second time in two games, giving up a sack to Tommie Harris. Like a senile magician, Harris is still capable of pulling a rabbit out of his hat every once in a while. I’m not the least concerned about Sitton.

The Packers still managed to win the Super Bowl last year, even with a season-long knack for coming up empty after long drives. So, I’m not sure whether to hope for the same when Crosby picks up where he left off last year by missing a 41-yard field goal.

00:37, 2nd quarter — Speaking of magic, somehow Painter leads an actual touchdown drive to give the Colts a 14-10 lead after being dominated all half. On the biggest play of the drive, [intlink id="162" type="category"]Nick Collins[/intlink] overran a pass he should have picked and Pierre Garcon made a diving catch inside the Packers’ 10.

No one noticed Garcon wasn’t touched post-possession by Collins and was actually live when [intlink id="82" type="category"]Tramon Williams[/intlink] stripped him at the 1. Great play by Tramon and it should have been Packers’ ball.

It’s fine the Packers didn’t challenge the play; it’s only preseason.

[intlink id="88" type="category"]Jarrett Bush[/intlink] actually had good coverage on the touchdown, but it doesn’t matter how well you cover if you don’t locate the ball. This seems a recurring theme for Bush.

10:18, 3rd quarter –  So’oto runs by the Colts starting right tackle and gets a sack/fumble on Painter.

So’oto could be another [intlink id="20" type="category"]Ted Thompson[/intlink] find. I love the fact this guy gives the Packers an outside linebacker with size. He’s been strong setting the edge all preseason.

Really, the pass rush is just a bonus.

Three things tell me this guy could be poised for greatness: he wears the same number as Tim Harris, he has an apostrophe in his name, and he went to BYU, which doesn’t allow its players to have premarital sex while in school, so you know he’s pissed off.

8:45, 3rd quarter – Crosby kicks a short field goal to make it 14-13. [intlink id="84" type="category"]Matt Flynn[/intlink] keeps throwing short of the first down. Better than holding onto the ball and getting hit, I guess.

7:50, 3rd quarter —  Edgerrin James’ cousin gets a carry around the left end and is greeted with the best hit in the game, delivered by [intlink id="1626" type="category"]D.J. Smith[/intlink]. [intlink id="1622" type="category"]Davon House[/intlink] also does well on the play of holding the outside.

3:34, 3rd quarter – Smith drops Delone Carter for a 1-yard loss. Smith, So’oto and House continue to fly around hitting people. A few plays later, So’oto strips Carter for an apparent fumble that gets overturned via replay.

The Colts end up punting, as their second-string offensive line continues to be terrorized by So’oto, Jamari Lattimore, and even Brad Jones on a play.

13:50, 4th quarter –  Graham Harrell’s first drive ends with a D.J. Williams’ drop. I’ve been waiting for someone to throw the rookie the ball and then he drops it. Bummer.

12:21, 4th quarter — This game is in full-on sleep mod,e as the Colts follow with their own three-and-out. On third-and-3, Dan Orlovsky tries to complete a slant and House almost picks it off.

House is impressive for his first game.

5:32, 4th quarter — Zzzzzzz… D.J. Smith sacks Orlovsky after Lattimore just misses. I’m no longer concerned about the depth at inside linebacker.

5:32, 4th quarter —   Harrell eschews the dump off and tries to thread a seam route into a triple-covered Kerry Taylor. The ball is intercepted and returned to the 2-yard line. [intlink id="1613" type="category"]Derek Sherrod[/intlink] makes his best play of this preseason in making the tackle. The Colts score on the very next play to make it 21-13.

The only points scored in the second half have been after turnovers made it nearly unavoidable.

0:35, 4th quarter — Harrell redeems himself by leading a last-second scoring drive to tie the game. The drive was greatly assisted by a Colts safety committing consecutive personal fouls.

Harrell capitalizes by finding [intlink id="1629" type="category"]Ryan Taylor[/intlink] for an 11-yard touchdown and then again for the two-point conversion to tie.

Crosby follows with his best moment of the preseason, first by converting an onside kick and then by making a 50-yard field goal to win it. Maybe actually making a kick with at least a little bit of meaning will help Crosby’s confidence.

———

The preseason has been a mixed bag for the Packers.

They’ve settled their left guard position and I think they’ve ultimately improved from last year.

Derek Sherrod’s struggles have, however, left the Packers without a dependable backup at left tackle. It’s hard to imagine Chad Clifton holding up for 16 games. If he doesn’t, who takes his spot? Do you trust the back of the franchise to second-year player Marshall Newhouse? If you can, then why do the Packers need Sherrod?

I find it more likely the Packers would move T.J. Lang to left tackle and Sherrod to left guard. Clearly, Sherrod could have used OTAs. In that sense, it’s kind of unfair to compare him to [intlink id="925" type="category"]Bryan Bulaga[/intlink], who had much more time to get ready.

It’s also hard to imagine [intlink id="1616" type="category"]Randall Cobb[/intlink] contributing a lot during the first half of the season. He’s seen very limited action and has a knee injury to slow him down even more.

I’ve seen no progression from Jarrett Bush or [intlink id="157" type="category"]Pat Lee[/intlink] that makes me think they’re ready to step up their games.

Mike Neal’s injury makes him a giant question mark, as usual.

[intlink id="1042" type="category"]C.J. Wilson[/intlink] and Jarius Wynn have made some plays, but they’ve had their own issues staying on the field.

The Packers best right outside linebacker, [intlink id="1058" type="category"]Frank Zombo[/intlink], has been shelved and neither [intlink id="1335" type="category"]Erik Walden[/intlink] nor Brad Jones have exactly taken advantage.

On the other hand…

The Packers’ most important player, their quarterback, has been sharp beyond the first series. Rodgers has a touchdown in every preseason game and no interceptions.

Finley, Jennings, Nelson, Driver and Starks all look like the weapons we expected them to be. The Packers have an offense that presents a lot of problems to any defense it faces.

Ryan Grant looks pretty much like his old self, whether that’s a good or bad thing is debatable.

It’s pretty difficult to be too critical of the defense at this point. So much of the success of a Dom Capers’ defense relies on the scheme. The Packers best defensive player, Clay Matthews, played one series against Cleveland and didn’t rush the passer, not at all against Arizona, and only two series against the Colts.

Charles Woodson has barely played.

Morgan Burnett has made plays and should be a great addition to a playmaking defense as long as he stays assignment sure.

Even if the Packers first two draft picks don’t contribute immediately, Davon House, D.J. Smith, Vic So’oto, and Ryan Taylor have all shown promise. If nothing else, the continued progress of these players and Graham Harrell give us a reason to watch Thursday night, when most of the starters take a bye.

Ultimately, we won’t really know where this team stands until it opens against New Orleans. All the Packers can do until then is stay as healthy as possible.