Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers felt the heat in Jacksonville, literally and figuratively, in Sunday’s 27-23 victory over the Jaguars.
What did we learn about the Packers after week one?
WDUZ radio host in Green Bay, Marques Eversoll, has all the answers.
Q. How would you assess Lane Taylor’s performance?
Eversoll: I’d answer that question by saying Lane Taylor “didn’t play poorly.” Pass protection is not Taylor’s strong suit, as he’s not the athlete that Josh Sitton was/is, but he didn’t get embarrassed against the Jaguars. In fact, Taylor did a great job on fourth-and-1 when Mike McCarthy called an Eddie Lacy run right up the gut. It worked, and it seemed like a statement.
Q. Blake Bortles threw for over 300 yards and seemed to expose the Packers’ secondary. How would you evaluate their performance and is there any reason to be concerned moving forward?
Eversoll: First of all, I think the Jaguars’ talent on offense is just a lot better than given credit for. Overall, Sam Shields did a great job on Allen Robinson, who didn’t really get going until Shields left the game. Jacksonville’s third and fourth options (Julius Thomas, Marcedes Lewis) can present matchup problems against team’s third and fourth cover guys. Not to make excuses for the secondary, but Bortles is going to throw for 300 yards against a lot of defenses this year. If not for a couple questionable penalties, an eventual scoring drive would have ended early and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix would have essentially ended the game with an interception. I think the secondary will prove to be a strength of the team.
Q. Jordy Nelson returned to action for the first time since tearing his ACL in last season’s pre-season game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. How did you think Nelson performed in his first game back?
Eversoll: He was fine. It was good to see him make a few catches and take a few hits, but it was pretty clear that he wasn’t going to play every snap. He got off to a slow start, but came up big on the drive before halftime, catching his first pass since the NFC Championship in Seattle, and finding the end zone on the same drive. It’ll be interesting to see when Nelson has his first big game, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s not until after the (early) bye week. As far as conditioning, there’s just no substitute for playing actual games. I remember running on the treadmill, trying to get ready for basketball season. I ran on the treadmill a lot, but the first week of practice always sucked. There’s “in-shape,” and there’s “in-game-shape.” It’s a work in progress.
Q. In the preseason we saw a good amount of Jared Cook involved in the offense. Any particular reason why he wasn’t featured as much today?
Eversoll: This is how it’s always been, and this is how it’s going to be. He’ll have some quiet games. Jermichael Finley would have his two-catch-for-14-yards kinda games, then he’d catch five for 90 and a touchdown. When the Packers offense is at its best, the “big games” rotate between the receivers. Cook will have his fair share of catches this season. That being said, the passing game revolves around Nelson and Cobb. They’ll always get their targets. Guys like Cook and Davante Adams will be feast-or-famine as long as Nelson and Cobb are healthy.
Q. Clay Matthews was back playing in his natural position at OLB. How much better is the Packers’ defense with him there?
Eversoll: Rushing the passer is what got Clay Matthews $20-plus-million guaranteed on his last contract. He’ll still lineup all over the formation for Dom Capers because he’s a special talent, and Capers likes to be creative with his best players. Seeing him shoot the gap and stop a run play in the backfield before the offensive lineman could even get two hands on him. Matthews makes a big difference on the edge.
Q. The Jacksonville Jaguars out-gained the Packers 348 yards to 294, Aaron Rodgers only threw for 199 yards, are you surprised with how the offense performed?
Eversoll: I was encouraged by what I saw from the Packers’ offense. Taylor was a big question mark taking over for Sitton, but he avoided disaster and passed the test. They stayed patient enough with the run with Lacy and James Starks. And though the numbers weren’t sexy, Aaron Rodgers certainly made some Aaron Rodgers throws. They got into a rhythm in the no-huddle, too. If the Packers ride the run game or push the tempo, they’re nearly impossible to stop. Plus, what if the Jaguars’ defense is pretty good, after all? We don’t know yet. We’ll see.
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Q. Which player surprised you and played a much better game than you expected? Which player did you expect to excel struggle in Sunday’s victory?
I’m a believer in Davante Adams. I’ve seen him make too many “wow” plays in practice to think he can’t play. But for every thumbs up, there seems to be a thumbs down. Adams should have caught the deep ball from Rodgers in the first quarter, but he made a heck of a play on the touchdown. You saw good Davante and bad Davante on Sunday, so I guess he’s an answer to both questions. Kinda.