Browns 35, Packers 10: Game Balls and Lame Calls
It’s only preseason. It’s only preseason.
After being willing to forgive the Green Bay Packers’ performance one week ago in a 21-13 loss to the San Diego Chargers, fans are beginning to sweat after the Packers were trounced 35-10 in their preseason home opener.
While fans do a have a reason to be concerned, we must not forget that it is only the preseason. The Detroit Lions went 4-0 in the 2008 preseason and went 0-16 in the regular season. Each team approaches the exhibition games in a different way and Mike McCarthy seemingly has been using them as a scrimmage and not really an actual game.
Despite the lopsided score, there was some good to come from the game for the Packers. There also obviously were some bad things as well.
Let’s get to it in another edition of “Game Balls and Lame Calls.”
With Graham Harrell struggling all night, Boykin was a perfect antidote for a young quarterback trying to develop any kind of rhythm.
Boykin finished with five catches for 63 yards and was the leading receiver for the Packers. Two receptions of 25 and 24 yards respectively helped set up a Mason Crosby field goal for the Packers’ final points of the game.
It’s not clear if Boykin has a shot at making them team but regardless, he made a decent case on Thursday night.
First off, anyone besides Herb Taylor probably would have been better off for the health of Aaron Rodgers.
That said, Newhouse had a fine performance in his preseason debut. He made a couple key blocks that allowed Rodgers to move out of the pocket and do what he does best. More importantly, Newhouse’s presence seemed to help ease the pass protection woes of just a week earlier.
Newhouse has been considered by some as a weak spot along the offensive line but his absence proved to cause even more damage and exposed how thin the Packers are along the offensive line.
He didn’t set the world on fire, but Green showed some promise in his first game action of 2012.
While he didn’t break any long runs, Green displayed the ability to be decisive that James Starks seems to have been lacking. Green would take the ball, make his cut and go. Starks has a tendency to have “happy feet” in the backfield and has earned the scorn of many in being a side to side runner instead of just plowing straight ahead.
With Green flashing some potential and the arrival of Cedric Benson, Starks is on notice that perhaps not only is his starting job in jeopardy but so perhaps is his spot on the roster.
After struggling a bit against the Chargers, McMillian made the most of his opportunity Thursday with Charles Woodson and Morgan Burnett playing a combined three series.
McMillian made two tackles for a loss in a five play span. He also displayed the hard-hitting ability the Packers saw when they drafted him in April.
M.D. Jennings has seen all the first team reps in practice so far, but if McMillian can continue to build on his performance against the Browns then The Doctor could be facing some pressure to keep his starting job.
Harrell took such a beating following Thursday’s game that even after McCarthy and Rodgers came to his defense, people still have little to no faith in Harrell’s ability to relieve Rodgers in the regular season should the reigning MVP suffer an injury.
Make no bones about it, Harrell had another tough night. His accuracy was off and the “weak arm” criticism he has been facing seemed to be validated when he took a shot down the field and the pass floated in the air like a wounded duck that was intercepted.
McCarthy said Harrell’s two interceptions were not the quarterback’s fault, but he still missed a lot of opportunities. It’s fair to say that Harrell’s receivers and offensive line did him no favors, but Harrell displayed none of the fast thinking under fire NFL quarterbacks must be able to do in order to succeed.
Some fans have already started clamoring for a veteran to be brought in to backup Rodgers, but McCarthy insists no decision will be made on Harrell until all four preseason games are complete.
It’s a smart move on McCarthy’s move. Harrell right now seems to be lacking experience and he will get it in the next two games just like the first two. If he doesn’t show even some slight improvement though, the Packers may have no choice but to look at other options.
It’s getting tough not to include Cobb in the category of “yeah he’s talented, but….”
Everyone has seen what Cobb can do in the return game as well as the passing game. He’s an incredibly gifted athlete that brings even more explosiveness to an offense that already was the league’s most potent. He’s considered the “heir apparent” to Donald Driver in the Packers’ passing game which is high praise indeed.
He has had ball control issues and they reared their ugly head again against the Browns. Cobb caught a pass from Rodgers and as he was turned around, the football went straight up and was plucked out of the air by Browns defensive end Emmanuel Stephens who nearly ran the ball in for a touchdown.
Cobb has got to get better at maintaining control of the ball. It won’t do the Packers any good if they have to hold their breath every time their return man runs back a kickoff or a punt. Racking up all those yards as Cobb can do will be a futile exercise if the ball is put on the ground and Cobb has to work on that.
The issue that plagued the Packers defense in 2011 cropped up again, although it was mainly in the second half.
The first half saw a decent tackling effort by the starting defense but when it came time for the second and third string players to play, things quickly went downhill. Browns receivers were racking up yards after the catch like they were the Packers. They made rookie Brandon Weeden look like an experienced veteran.
This again shows how thin the Packers are in the secondary. If Tramon Williams or Woodson go down, the unit is in a world of trouble. Jarrett Bush showed some improvement in his tackling, but it’s going to be awhile before any fans have confidence in Bush in the defensive backfield.
The NFL rule book
This is for one reason. McCarthy got flagged for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for challenging a non-challengeable play. McCarthy threw the red flag after a turnover when he thought the Browns defender stepped out of bounds on the return of a fumble. A new rule for 2012, all turnovers are now automatically reviewed.
McCarthy, however, was not challenging the turnover. He was challenging the spot of the ball but was still flagged regardless. It’s a gray area to be sure, but the league needs to make the new rule clear to the head coaches so such confusion doesn’t cost someone a game in the regular season.——————
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