Aaron Rodgers

The Green Bay Packers got in the preseason win column — for whatever that’s worth — for the first time in 2012, with a 27-13 win over the Cincinnati Bengals.

The starters got their most playing time of the preseason, with most guys going a full two quarters. Hell, Randall Cobb even returned some kicks, so you know this was a semi-serious affair.

Here’s what we learned.

Running back Cedric Benson, who was signed early last week, got his first game action and… Cedric Benson is the Packers starting running back. Benson ran six times for 38 yards and caught one pass for 10. Benson also did things neither James Starks nor Alex Green has this preseason — looked fluid, made nice cutbacks, lowered his pads, gained more than four yards per carry and made guys bite on play action. Things can change in the next couple weeks, but we don’t see any reason why Benson doesn’t open week one as the No. 1 back.

———

Receiver Greg Jennings returned to action, playing his first game of the preseason after suffering a concussion on Family Night. Jennings didn’t play extensively, but early on he looked a lot like Pro Bowl receiver Greg Jennings, catching two balls for 37 yards. The Packers have been cautious with Jennings because of the concussion, but he clearly looks ready to pick up where he left off last season. He’ll also have some extra motivation since he’s in his contract year. Huge season? Wouldn’t doubt it.

———

The Packers much-maligned defense did a nice job against the Bengals No. 1 unit. Quarterback Andy Dalton was only 5-of-17 for 40 yards. He didn’t throw a touchdown. The Packers didn’t give up much in the running game, but we should point out the Bengals’ top two running backs were out. More importantly, the D actually put some pressure on the quarterback. Clay Matthews looked like a force, creating a sack (he got credit for half a sack on the play) and knocking down a pass in the first quarter. Erik Walden also spent some time in the offensive backfield and recorded the other sack. Speaking of…

———

Walden looks like a new man this season. He’s playing with mad energy. Nick Perry may end up being the starter at OLB opposite Matthews, but as far as we can see, Walden has played better. He’s not the most reliable guy in coverage, but when it comes to getting after the quarterback, Walden is currently doing a better job than Perry.

———

You know who else is doing a hell of a job? Cornerback Tramon Williams. We’ve singled him out before this preseason, but the difference between Williams right now and last season, when he was battling a shoulder injury, is night and day. The Packers put Williams on the Bengals No. 1 receiver, A.J. Green, who’s already pretty good, but is going to be a stud. Williams blanketed Green for most of the night and knocked away two passes.

———

And then there’s the rest of the cornerbacks. Jarrett Bush was decent, but the two guys we were really keeping an eye on disappointed. Sam Shields, seeing his first game action of the preseason, didn’t do himself any favors. Yes, he picked Tyler Hansen. The ball was slightly behind the receiver, but Shields had tight coverage. So how does he follow that up? He gets wasted by Justin Hilton, who hauls in a 30-yard pass from Hansen. Then there’s rookie Casey Hayward, who’s been better than expected and we’re sure the Packers would love to hand a starting role. Well, Hayward got turned around and looked completely unaware (much like Bush three years ago) on the Bengals’ first touchdown.

With that, some final thoughts.

  • Marshall Newhouse — remove head from ass. The Packers starting left tackle had two penalties on the opening drive. First, an offsides, which moved the Packers from 3rd-and-5 to 3rd-and-10. Then the holding call, which didn’t matter, but was still a crappy play. Newhouse essentially killed the first drive.
  • Tom Crabtree — whaddup! Crabtree was thrown into the starting lineup because Jermichael Finley was in Green Bay visiting his new child and D.J. Williams was hurt. He came up with two catches for 30 yards, but that’s not the whole story. On his second reception, Crabtree was working down the middle of the field. Aaron Rodgers threw a perfect ball that Crabtree caught a split second before getting wasted by safety Taylor Mays. Two things: this guy has come a long way as a pass catcher and the fact that he made that catch in traffic, took the hit and held on tells you what a tough SOB Crabtree is.
  • Dezman Moses came on fairly early for Matthews. The undrafted rookie generated some pressure, looked solid in coverage and made a team-leading four tackles. It’s probably safe to say this guy is for real.
  • Who earned a roster spot? Probably inside linebacker Jamari Lattimore. He made some big plays early in the preseason and he made another Thursday night, providing the fourth-quarter interception return to cement the Packers’ win.
  • Who hurt himself? Receiver Diondre Borel, who most think is competing with Tori Gurley for the Packers’ sixth receiver spot. Borel dropped a pass and let another go through his hands. Fortunately for him, Gurley only had one catch for six yards. Looking at it objectively, it now seems more realistic that the Packers keep only five receivers, as they’ve traditionally done under Mike McCarthy. Both of these guys will need to impress next week.
  • Oh, and Graham Harrell — 5-of-12 for 26 yards. Draw your own conclusions.