16

August

Packers – Browns Preview: Shaking Off The Shaky Start

Packers vs BrownsIs it possible for a preseason game to suck?

If it is, then the Green Bay Packers experienced it last Thursday in their 21-13 loss to the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium in their preseason opener.  Not only did the Packers lose, the starting offense came out flat with reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers posting a quarterback rating of 0.0 (yes, it’s a meaningless stat, but the offense looked putrid regardless).

Throw in a possible season ending hamstring injury to starting linebacker Desmond Bishop and the 2012 season opened with a rather loud thud for Packer Nation.

That said, it’s a new week and football returns to Lambeau Field tonight when the Green Bay Packers take on the Cleveland Browns.

The Packers enter the game a little healthier than in the game against the Chargers, they still have a ways to go before they can be declared ready to go before the regular season starts.  Greg Jennings is still out with a concussion and the Packers must be more worried about his health than they are letting on.  Marshall Newhouse finally returned to practice and should see his first game action of the season.

With the starters likely seeing very limited action once again, here are some things to look forward to as the Packers’ preseason schedule hits the halfway point:

James Starks has been put on notice

That’s the first thing that crossed my mind when I read the Packers signed veteran running back Cedric Benson to a one year contract earlier this week. Starks got off to a horrible start last week as his dropped pass sent the first team offense into a tailspin from which it never recovered.

Throw in Starks’ disappointing 2011 and his inability to remain fully healthy and the Packers had no choice but to bring someone in to light a fire under his rear end.  Mike McCarthy has said he wants to “fundamentally change” how the Packers run the ball which was a not too subtle shot across the bow for Starks.

It’s a good sign that the Packers seem intent on getting a run game going, but do they have the proper personnel to help take some pressure off of Rodgers?  Stay tuned.  Benson won’t be playing in the game, so this is a golden opportunity for Starks to show he can be the man.

If not, Alex Green will have his chance too.  It’s been nothing short of remarkable how far Green has come in his rehab from his injury that kept him sidelined for most of 2011 and he has shown enough in practice to at least raise some eyebrows.

Could Green and Benson leave Neo in the dust?

The offense: Does it have rhythm?

No one should be overly concerned at the starting offense’s poor showing against the Chargers, but many fans probably will feel better if they see Rodgers sling a touchdown pass against the Browns.  Even without Jennings, the Packers still have plenty of weapons so Rodgers won’t be lacking targets to throw to.

With the Packers still nursing injuries, it’s hard to imagine Rodgers and the starters playing much beyond the first quarter.  The offense will be fine in the real games as McCarthy is running a watered down playbook in the preseason.   Still, it would be nice to see the juggernaut that was the Packers 2011 offense make an encore appearance.

If the Packers continue to struggle, fans still should not be concerned.  McCarthy needs to keep his horses healthy.  He won’t risk his players just to show the offense is still a machine.

Pass protection

When Jarrett Lee looks like an All-Pro, you might a problem.

The good news? The tackling by the Packers secondary showed improvement.  Also, Tramon Williams flashed his 2010 form that gave Packer fans hope that he would once again be the playmaker that propelled the Packers to Super Bowl XLV.

The bad news? The secondary is awfully thin.  Casey Hayward, who showed promise during practice in camp, looked like a rookie at times and didn’t turn his head when he had the chance to make a play on the ball. Jarrett Bush was Jarrett Bush.  Devon House showed promise….until he got hurt.

With some game action under their belt, the Packers should have an easier time against a Browns offense that is starting a 28 year old rookie at quarterback who will then give way to Colt McCoy.  It’s not exactly the high octane passing game the Chargers run, so this is a chance for the second and third stringers to learn the ropes.

Turnovers

They have to take care of the ball.  Let’s just hope it was some rust.

Prediction

Packers 27, Browns 14

The offense gets some mojo back and the team overall grows from the loss to the Chargers.  The backups on defense gain some confidence and the Packers get their first win of the preseason.

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Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com. Follow @KrisLBurke

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16 Responses to “Packers – Browns Preview: Shaking Off The Shaky Start”

  1. Kevin says:

    Am I the only one who didn’t think Starks was THAT awful in the SD game? I only watched it once, but I thought he overall played like he did most of last year, taking what was there and maybe falling forward an extra yard. Drop was awful, but what am I not seeing?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

    • Tarynfor12 Tarynfor12 says:

      No you’re not!

      It follows suit ala Lang,Nelson,JJ…most wanted them gone before giving them the real chance.
      Lang has blossomed,Nelson exploded,JJ grew and so will Starks once he gets a REAL chance…too much impatience with some.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

      • Oppy says:

        Interestingly, most Packers fans were EXTREMELY high on TJ Lang, since he came in as a basically unknown mid round draft pick and as a rookie, stepped in when injury struck and played both tackle positions with little to no drop off from the level set by Tauscher and Clifton. He also played some guard, too.

        As far as Jordy Nelson is concerned, many Packers fans were not thrilled that a second round draft pick was used on a wide out when the Packers were already stocked at the position. I don’t recall too many fans belly aching or griping about Jordy’s play- they griped about TT picking another WR instead of (insert perceived position of need here).

        Lastly, and I can only speak for myself on this one, James Jones. I’ve always seen the inherent talent Jones possesses.. I’ve posted often when the JJ haters came out of the wood work and stated Jones exhibits great talent as a WR, and the only thing stopping him from realizing his potential is his lack of focus- he needs to look in the ball and secure it before turning up field.

        Now that I have that out of the way- I don’t think Starks looks good at all. I Don’t know how you think he got all the yards that were available on the field. Clear cutback lanes were unused, he did a great job of being indecisive and then running straight into the backs of his blocks, chopping his feet in place until being tackled.

        For a comparison of what a good RB is supposed to look like, go no further than the Cedric Benson highlight reel that was posted. I’m not even beating the Benson drum.. Just compare how once the rock is in Benson’s hands, how he quickly decides where he’s going, he makes one cut, and he hits the hole. That’s how our RB’s are supposed to be doing it.

        It’s what Starks looked like in the 2010 play off run. It’s what Starks hasn’t done since the 2010 play off run.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    • Mojo says:

      Starks dropped an easy first down catch, fumbled a handoff and rushed for just over 3 yards a carry(16yds/5) vs SD. Add in the missed blocks in these scrimmages and that’s the definition of awful.

      That said, I think Starks can be an asset provided he figures out he needs to react more and think less.

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  2. Ron LC says:

    Individuals, many individuals, must show they are progressing and learning their roles. The score? Who cares in the pre-season.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  3. Sven says:

    Good article.

    I have rewatched last weeks game a few times. Starks did not have a great game, but he also was not terrible. On several plays he was being hit in the back field as there were some major blocking issues early on. He made some quality runs and afew good blocks.

    Alot of young players looked fantastic. Especially Jerel Worthy, who I heard none of the talking heads compliment, but in rewatching the game I saw several runs where he shut the run down and turned the runner in side which led to a quick stop. House and heyward also looked great, as well as DJ smith as usual.

    Alot of “analysts” must not do much more than read the box score or maybe watch the game once through before writing an article. I appreciate tha Jerseyal has such goos content.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  4. JerseyAl always has worthwhile content. A daily must-read .

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  5. tlvincent4 says:

    Boy, Graham crackers Harrell is just plain hard to watch… even for a football junkie like myself. I know McCarthy thinks he is the QB whisperer but lets just face it, Harrell isn’t going to “EVER” be an effective even backup quality caliber QB, he just doesn’t have it, the end.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

    • Oppy says:

      I’m not willing to say he won’t EVER be a quality back up, but it sure looks like he won’t be ready to do it this year. Who knows.

      MM has been pretty forthright in stating Harrell is at the stage in his career where he needs the live action reps to progress. A Part of the need for reps isn’t for Harrell’s benefit, it’s for McCarthy’s- to find out if Harrell’s really got what it takes or not.

      Harrell’s ability to make good decisions under fire does not look like it’s where it needs to be.

      That said, if they think he can work it out, I would not be surprised if they stuck with him through the year even if he really ISN’T ready. Still probably a better option than inserting a last-second FA QB who would have to learn our entire scheme, terminology, etc, and hope he fits in the locker room and works out okay. Don’t forget, veteran back up QB’s are guys who have PROVEN they can’t be reliable starters. At least guys like Harrell, the jury’s still out.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  6. tlvincent4 says:

    Also, from the looks/results of two preseason games, I don’t think we can say that GB has such a loaded, talented backend roster like we have in the past, I mean getting waxed by the Browns at home by 30+pts, maybe some of our guys aren’t really that good…or is it just the fact that Harrell is god awful, every QB that we have played against in two games is better than him.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  7. Ron LC says:

    The above mentioned individuals did not progress they regressed. Better get off their cans and start playing with enthusiasm next week.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  8. Bearmeat Bearmeat says:

    Well… that was not a bounce back game.

    eek.

    One point of solace here – 19 guys not playing this game. Including a lot of front line backups.

    The Browns weren’t playing 2′s vs 2′s. The Browns were playing like 2′s vs 3.5′s

    That being said… that game sucked.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    • Oppy says:

      Browns had 17 players scratched due to injury as well… 5 of 11 starters on Defense were out, and 3 offensive starters as well.

      Bearmeat, it was actually a pretty ‘even contest’ on the injury/talent available front.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  9. Dan says:

    The good news is having Newhouse back. the pass protection was much better.
    Once Finley,Jenings and Benson are on the field,The offense will be as good or better then 2011,allthough Cobb must secure the ball. What was concerning tonite was the rookies didnt stand out. Perry, Worthy, Daniels, Hayward, Moses all were uninspiring

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    • Sven says:

      I thought Hayward and Moses both looked pretty good. Daniels really got blown off the ball on one play.

      Over all I thought the player got great expeience last night. A good game to learn from. It is great that all of these depth players got to play vs starters. Losing still stinks, but I would rather see the packers developing players now and not worrying about the score, than see them need to use and untested rookie in mid-season.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  10. Dan says:

    The Browns have one of the worst offenses in the NFL, yet they were able to run on our no1 D. I wonder how they’ll do against Frank Gore and Brandon Jacobs in week one?

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