For the second preseason week in a row, the Green Bay Packers were able to avoid any major injury and saw plenty of potential from the young players on their roster.
The Green Bay starters looked impressive on both sides of the ball in their 21-7 victory over the St. Louis Rams, and even though their second and third units had their fair share of struggles, there was plenty to get excited about.
Here are my top takeaways from the Packers’ week two preseason matchup against the Rams.
Offensive Starters Look Sharp, Balanced
The Packers first-team offense was nothing short of impressive. With Aaron Rodgers at the helm, the Packers moved the ball up the field with ease, capping off an 86-yard drive with a Rodgers-to-Randall Cobb touchdown pass and an 80-yard drive with a Mason Crosby field goal to go up 10-0 by the end of the first quarter. The Packers’ offensive starters would have been a perfect 2-for-2 in the redzone if it wasn’t for a David Bakhtiari illegal hands to the face penalty that negated a Jordy Nelson touchdown reception.
Impressively, the Packers starting offensive line continues to be a strength on the team, even with first-year starter JC Tretter at center. Going up against one of the best defensive line groups in the NFL in St. Louis, the Packers offensive line gave Rodgers plenty of time to throw and paved the way for Eddie Lacy in the running game.
Lacy’s Role on Offense Will Expand This Season
Lacy showcased just how good he can be in an NFL uniform by amassing 47 total yards of offense in just one series of play. Lacy opened the game with a decisive 13-yard run where he broke several arm tackles to get past the first down, and had a few more nice runs later in the drive.
However, where Lacy seems to have really grown this season is in the passing game. The second-year halfback caught a short checkdown pass on second down, turned upfield, and blew past the defense for 18 yards and the first down. Look for Lacy to get more opportunities in the passing game as he develops into a more complete back on the field.
Tight End Competition Continues On
Andrew Quarless helped himself out in St. Louis by hauling in four receptions for 58 yards, including a 35-yarder down the sideline that put the Packers in the redzone on their second drive of the game. However, Quarless also dropped a relatively easy touchdown pass, while also being called for offensive pass interference when he pushed off on the defender.
Richard Rodgers had a quiet night, not recording a single reception, despite starting the game at tight end. He did have a few nice blocks, but also missed on a couple. Bostick just had one reception for nine yards but left the game because of a lower leg injury.
At this point, there still isn’t a clear winner for the starting tight end job. Quarless may just win by default, unless either Bostick or Rodgers really show up in these last two preseason games. Either way, I still expect some kind of tight-end-by-committee approach when the season gets underway.
Green Bay Defense Tough Against the Run
In three series, the Green Bay defensive starters played physical and were stout against the run, encouraging signs for a team that has struggled in these areas the past few seasons. They held St. Louis’s ground game to 30 yards rushing on a dozen attempts in the first half.
Both inside linebackers A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones were very active and swarmed to the ball. Julius Peppers had a nice tackle for loss when he met St. Louis running back Zac Stacy two yards behind the line of scrimmage and brought him down with authority. Defensive end Datone Jones‘ night won’t show up on the stat sheet, but he was very disruptive against the run and held the point of attack well.
Josh Boyd was also impressive and was difficult for the St. Louis lineman to move. Reserve outside linebackers Nick Perry and Andy Mulumba made several stops at the line of scrimmage and were strong off the edge.
Green Bay Dials Up the Pressure
Perhaps, the most impressive part of the Packers’ afternoon was their ability to generate quarterback pressure throughout the game. They finished the night with seven sacks and a handful of QB pressures.
Green Bay’s front seven was disruptive. Linebacker Sam Barrington broke through the line in an impressive display of explosiveness to take down the quarterback for a loss of seven. The Packers were also successful when blitzing rookie safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who flew by the halfback to bring down the quarterback on a key third down. Both Peppers and Mike Daniels got good push at the line and hurried a few throws.
The reserve outside linebackers had a good day. Jayrone Elliott led the team in sacks with three. Adrian Hubbard recorded a sack and a quarterback hurry, while only playing a handful of snaps, and second-year man Nate Palmer was active off the edge. One things is for certain, this young Packers defense has plenty of guys that can get after the quarterback.
Players That Helped Their Cause
Mike Pennel - For the second week in a row, Pennel was one of the standout young players on the defensive line. He got consistent push at the line and held up well against the run. Pennel’s defining moment came in the second quarter when he spun out of a double team on second-and-long and chased down St. Louis quarterback Shaun Hill for the sack. Pennel’s has been nothing but impressive in camp to this point. Not too many 6-foot-4, 330-pound lineman possess his athleticism and quickness. The Packers would be wise to find a spot for the undrafted rookie on their final roster.
Jayrone Elliott - Another undrafted rookie that had a huge game on the defensive of the ball was outside linebacker Jayrone Elliott. The converted college defensive end didn’t see the field until the fourth quarter, but he made the most of his opportunities. In one series, Elliott almost stopped the St. Louis offense single-handedly. On first-and-ten, Elliott got a second-chance sack after Austin Davis already evaded one Packers defender. Two plays later, Elliot burst off the edge and went nearly untouched to bring down the quarterback within seconds of the ball being snapped. On the very next play, Elliot showcased his quick burst again by blowing past the tackle and stripping the ball out of Davis’s hand to force the fumble. It was three impressive plays that will go a long way for final roster considerations.
Jeff Janis - Sometimes it only takes one play to get everybody’s attention. For Janis, this play came late in the third quarter on a third-and-short with Green Bay’s offense on the St. Louis 34-yard line. Janis ran a drag route across the middle of the field and Flynn hit the rookie wide receiver in full stride. Janis turned on the burners, showcasing his 4.40 speed, and took it to the house, leaving the Rams defense in the dust. Janis’s 34-yard score gave us all a glimpse of how explosive the seventh-round pick can be. It might of been just enough to put him in the lead for the fifth receiver spot on the roster.
Players That Hurt Their Cause
Derek Sherrod/Aaron Adams - After having strong games against Tennessee in the opener, both reserve offensive tackles really struggled keeping their quarterback clean. Sherrod was just flat out beat a handful of times on the edge and surrendered a costly sack to St. Louis’s Michael Sam in the second half. Adams also give up a couple of sacks and seemed to struggle against quicker, more athletic pass rushers. The Packers’ reserve offensive linemen aren’t looking as strong as they did last week, which could be a major problem this season if one of Green Bay’s starters go down with injury this season.
Brandon Bostick - Bostick only recorded one reception before leaving the game early because of a lower leg injury. So far, Bostick only has two receptions in the preseason, and even if the injury isn’t serious, he still may miss some time in camp. For a guy in a heated competition for the starting tight end job, missing time won’t help his cause in beating out Quarless or Rodgers for playing time.
Carl Bradford - It’s tough to tell what is going on with Bradford in the preseason at this point. I expected the fourth-round pick to see more than just a handful of snaps in each game. With other young players at outside linebacker having strong camps, there may not be room for Bradford on the roster if he doesn’t show up soon. Perhaps, Green Bay knows the rookie isn’t ready to take the field yet, or maybe they’re hiding him in hopes of stashing him on the practice squad. Either way, with Palmer, Mulumba, Elliott, and Hubbard all showing a lot more ability at this point, it’s difficult to imagine the Packers keeping Bradford over one of these four based on the small sample size we’ve seen so far.