Packers vs. Cardinals: Things to Watch in Preseason Week 2
In the lead up to the Packers and Cardinals preseason matchup, consider this: in two of the last three games between these two clubs, there has been some serious offensive fireworks—to the tune of 177 total points and nearly 2,000 total offensive yards.
Most remember (or would rather forget) the 2009 Wildcard Card game in Arizona—a back-and-forth affair in which the Packers and Cardinals engaged in one of the wildest shootouts in playoff history.
A week after the Packers dismantled the Cardinals in Week 17 of the regular season, Arizona jumped out to leads of 17-0, 24-7 and 31-10 before Aaron Rodgers and the Packers mounted two impressive comebacks.
With the score 31-10, Rodgers lead the Packers on four straight touchdown drives—all ending on Rodgers’ touchdown passes—to tie the game at 38.
Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner, who threw for five touchdown passes and 379 yards, put Arizona back into the lead with 4:55 left when he hit Steve Breaston for a 17-yard score. Rodgers remained unfazed, however, as he led the Packers right down the field for another tying-touchdown. His 11-yard pass to Spencer Havner with 1:52 left helped send the game into overtime tied at 45 (of course, so did a Neil Rackers missed chip-shot 34-yard field goal on the Cardinals next drive).
Then, the game abruptly ended when Rodgers was stripped on a controversial play during the Packers first offensive series, giving the Cardinals a 51-45 win. The loss was certainly disappointing from a Packers perspective but the stat line was not: Rodgers threw for 423 yards and four touchdowns and ran for another. The two teams combined for over 1,000 yards and 96 points, and to this day it remains the highest scoring playoff game in NFL history.
But before the Packers and Cardinals gave the 2009 NFL playoffs an aerial assault that hasn’t been seen since, they put together a high-scoring preseason affair that same year.
In the third week of exhibition play in ’09, the Packers were the ones who jumped out to a big lead in Arizona. In fact, with their No. 1 offense playing the entire first half, the Packers raced out to a 38-10 lead—only to see that advantage shrink to a final score of 44-37.
Rodgers threw three first half touchdown passes, including a 76-yarder to Jordy Nelson, and finished the first half 14-of-19 passing for 258 yards and a 155.2 passer rating. Matt Leinart led the Cardinals back in the second half, throwing three fourth quarter touchdown passes against the Packers second unit to close the gap to 38-37. After their final score, Arizona could have chosen to tie it but instead went for two and failed. Ruvell Martin returned the ensuing onside kick for a touchdown to complete the final score line.
The stats again looked good from an offensive standpoint, as the two teams finished with 84 points and almost 1,000 combined yards. Nearly 800 of those came through the air.
Overall, in the two games mentioned here in 2009, the Packers and Cardinals combined for 177 points, 1,995 total yards and 1,519 yards passing. Don’t expect those blistering numbers to continue Friday, but it’s certainly something to think about as these two prepare to face off once again.
Here are some other things to watch in the Packers-Cardinals preseason game:
Revolving door at left guard
The Packers left guard position has been a major point of contention since Daryn Colledge signed a $28 million dollar deal with the Cardinals this offseason.
Coach Mike McCarthy somewhat surprisingly gave rookie Derek Sherrod the first crack at winning the job, but he’s looked like a tackle since the day he arrived at camp. Sherrod is a little out of his element at guard and that’s forced McCarthy to give T.J. Lang a chance at holding down the position.
Most think Lang is a better fit for the position, as he has better bend in the knees and a wider base. Jersey Al disagrees here, and has the video evidence to prove it.
Overall, I don’t think this competition is over by any means. There is plenty of preseason games to be played, leaving Sherrod ample opportunity to regain the position. Friday’s game is just another test for the two.
Leader in the clubhouse?
The outside linebacker position is another to watch closely on Friday night. The Packers have rotated snaps between Erik Walden, Frank Zombo and Brad Jones, but there might be leader to that group heading into preseason Week 2.
Walden has took the first team snaps the past two practices, which should mean he starts against the Cardinals. Zombo started the Packers first preseason game in Cleveland, but he’ll also likely start with Clay Matthews a no-go due to soreness in his hamstrings.
Like left guard, this position has a long ways to go before a starter is named. But Walden will certainly have a chance on Friday to give himself some wiggle room with an impressive performance.
Continue to impress?
Undoubtedly, the talk of Packers camp has been rookie receiver Randall Cobb. He’s impressed at nearly practice, and he’s good for at least one “impressed with Cobb” tweet from the Packers beat writers during each session.
Last Saturday, Cobb extended those impressive practice showings out to live action against the Browns. He caught three passes for 60 yards and looked like he could be an offensive threat in the slot for Green Bay this season.
However, with so much talent at receiver for the Packers, the hits must keep coming for Cobb. He’ll make it impossible for the coaches to keep him off the field once the games matter if he keeps playing this well during camp and the preseason.
A “Green” rookie’s debut
Cobb has been impressive, but the rookie I’ll be excited to watch Friday is running back Alex Green. McCarthy called him a “dynamic individual” and said he’s “done a very good job in pass protection,” giving me the impression that he’s very much in the running for carries despite a log-jammed back field.
There’s obviously nothing wrong with having too much talent at any one position, but I want to see Green carry the ball in a live game scenario. I think he could turn some heads on Friday.
More from Harrell
McCarthy seems to sing the praises of third string quarterback Graham Harrell often, but he needs to show more Friday against the Cardinals. Harrell completed 11-of-22 passes for 100 yards in Cleveland, but failed to lead a scoring drive and allowed a strip-sack that gave the Browns an easy defensive touchdown.
The lockout certainly hurt Harrell’s progression, but I want to see more from him on Friday. He could be the Packers future backup at quarterback if Matt Flynn leaves next offseason.
Return of YOTTO
Packers tight end Jermichael Finley will make his first appearance Friday since tearing his meniscus in Week 5 of last season against Washington. I wouldn’t expect much from the Packers electrifying tight end, as Green Bay will continue to be cautious in their handling of Finley.
Still, his return will be a welcome sight for everyone involved.
Final cornerback spot
The bottom of the Packers depth chart at cornerback should again see plenty of snaps against the Cardinals, and their performance will go a long ways in deciding which player makes the team as the final cornerback.
In the running for that final spot is likely Pat Lee, Josh Gordy and Brandian Ross.
Lee is a former second-rounder who hasn’t done much of anything (besides get hurt) since being drafted in 2008. He is a solid special teams player. Gordy hasn’t had a good camp, but he made plays in game action against Cleveland. Ross has also shown some play-making ability and could also help at safety.
Friday will be just another evaluation period for that trio as they fight to make the Packers 53-man roster.——————
Zach Kruse is a 23-year-old sports journalist with a passion for the Green Bay Packers. He currently lives in Wisconsin and is working on his journalism degree, while also covering prep sports for The Dunn Co. News.
You can read more of Zach's Packers articles on AllGreenBayPackers.com.Follow @zachkruse2