My Thoughts After Green Bay’s First Pre Season Game
Impressive. That is the first word that comes to mind after the Packers first pre season game. The Green Bay Packers defense looked like night and day compared to the 2008 version. The first team offense was clicking on all cylinders and the Packers faithful, the G-Force, has to be excited about the start of the 2009 season.
Aaron Rodgers has the look of a player who is about to enter super-star status. Rodgers is the unquestioned “leader of the Pack”. He doesn’t have the distraction named Brett Favre lurking over his head this year and seems to have an excellent grasp of Mike McCarthy’s offense. Rodgers can make all the throws with high accuracy and excellent touch. He worked this off season with 3 time Super Bowl winning, former MVP and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and if Rodgers looks as good as he did against the Browns look out NFL.
Rodgers backup’s are Brian Brohm and Matt Flynn. Flynn will be the second string as long as Brohm’s struggles continue. Their isn’t a lot of depth here, that was part of the reason the Packers had interest in Michael Vick. McCarthy seems to think they are fine here.
QB Grade: A- (Brohm’s poor play took a half point off this group.)
Ryan Grant’s 1,200 yard season was a disappointment to everyone, including Grant. He didn’t seem as explosive as he did in 2007 and after his contract holdout last season which led to a bad hamstring, he looks like the running back that solidified the Packers running game in their 13-3 season. He has that burst back and seems to run “down hill” which he didn’t do a season ago. Brandon Jackson also looked good and will be a nice compliment to Grant, if he is the back up.
I say if because DeShawn Wynn has really looked impressive this camp. Wynn has always had the tools but his attitude and work ethic left a lot to be desired. That seemed to have changed this year and if what the coaches are saying is true, the Packers could be four deep at halfback. Kregg Lumpkin, last years rookie free agent surprise and Tyrell Sutton, the rookie free agent out of Northwestern are both making noise this year and will battle it out for the forth string running back spot.
RB Grade: A
At wide reciever the Packers are loaded and may have the deepest group in the NFL. That group is led by Greg Jennings and Donald Driver, both of whom caught for over 1,000 yards last season. Jennings is Rodgers favorite target and one of the best recievers in the NFL in only his forth season. His 80 balls, for over 1,200 yards were career highs and he looks to build on his 9 touchdowns receptions. Driver has been “old reliable” and is entering his 11th season. He has been a leader on and off the field but his play and production have not fallen off a bit. The Packers do however think that James Jones is almost ready to challenge Driver for the #2 wide reciever role. Jordy Nelson and Ruvell Martin round out this talented group.
The Packers most interesting position may be the tight ends. Donald Lee is steady and balanced while 2nd year player Jermichael Finley has all the tools to be an All Pro. Finley has been the talk of camp, both for his play and his mouth, but this kid is impressive and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him start in the very near future, maybe week 1.
WR/TE Grade: A
The Packers offensive line will be tested and under the most pressure in 2009. GM/V.P. of Player Personel Ted Thompson has invested heavily in this group via the draft and is looking for some returns. Darryn Colledge was the Packers most steady lineman last year at left guard and enters a contract year. Chad Clifton enters his most critical year. His play was inconsistent to say the least and age and injury are creeping up on him. The packers also are going with a new center in Jason Spitz taking over for Scott Wells.
On the right side of the line the Packers have a second year player they really like in Josh Sitton at right guard. He has that “nasty” they are looking for and can over power opposing defenders. Allen Barbe seems to have a tight grip on the right tackle spot. Barbe is a lot like Sitton and is highly athletic. The Packers drafted T.J. Lang and Jamon Meredith with the hope one or both players could develop into a potential starter in a year or two.
OL Grade: B
Overall Offensive Grade: A-
Out with bland Bob Sanders defense and enter the 23 year NFL coaching vet and master of the blitzing 3-4 defense Dom Capers. What a difference a year makes. As many Packers fans saw against the Browns last night the Packers will put pressure on opposing teams offenses and force them to make mistakes.
The Packers defensive line will be much improved in Capers’ defense. The Packers defensive line was hit hard by injury last year, so the Packers decided that B.J. Raji would be the perfect fit to anchor the defensive line for years to come and made him their first round pick in the draft. Raji will play both nose tackle and defensive end. Ryan Pickett will play nose tackle with Cullen Jenkins lined up next to him at the other end position. Jonny Jolly, Jarius Wynn, Mike Montgomery and former 1st round pick Justin Harrell will be the primary backups.
DL Grade: B+
The Packers linebackers are a group that has to be better then what they were last year. Nick Barnett and AJ Hawk both need to have big years. Barnett is coming off a knee injury and has yet to be cleared to practice. By all acounts he is in great shape, but the Packers doctors feel he needs more time to let his knee heal. Hawk on the other hand has to be the player the Packers thought he would be when they took him fifth overall in 2005. I think the move to an inside backer in Capers’ 3-4 will help him. The player to keep an eye on is Desmond Bishop. He is a perfect fit for the 3-4 and has been a star at training camp thus far.
On the outside much has been made of the transition to left outside rush backer for Aaron Kampman. From all accounts he has been better then advertised and the move will only make him a more dangerous player. On the right side rookie Clay Mattews and second year player Jeremy Thompson are battling it out. I think Mattews will beat out Thompson and because of that will give the Packers great depth with Brady Poppinga and another camp stud, Brandon Chillar.
LB Grade: B
The Green Bay corner’s are in for one heck of a year if all goes well. Charles Woodson is a perfect fit for the attacking defense Capers’ runs. Woodson and Al Harris’ aggressive style of play will give opposing quarterbacks fits with pressure barring down on them. The question is will Harris be able to adapt to the defense. Capers’ likes to run a lot of zone, while Harris prefers man coverage. Harris is a hard worker and a pro so I don’t see him having to much trouble. Tramon Williams and Will Blackmon both have a bright future a head of them, especially Williams who many feel will be a future starter.
Pat Lee, Jarrett Bush and rookie Brandon Underwood will battle for the fifth and sixth cornerback spots. Lee has been dinged up with a bad back, but many feel he could also be starter.
At safety the Packers have a playmaker in Nick Collins, who wants a new contract. Collins is considered one of the “new breed” of safeties in the NFL. The other safety spot is not as settled. Atari Bigy brings a physical style of play, but has limited coverage skills, while Anthony Smith is a player with 3-4 expierence has solid cover skills but makes mistakes when defending the run. Aaron Rouse is a big dude who love to hit with decent speed and has made a few plays in the past.
Seconday Grade: B-
Overall Defensive Grade: A-
The special teams need to be that, special. Blackmon is an electricfying returner at times, but also has moments when he tries to do to much. Mason Crosby didn’t have a great sophomore season but he has the look of being one of the best young kickers in the NFL. The punting situation is not as settled as the return or kicking positions. Durrant Brooks and Jeremy Kapinos are the two players in camp now, but that doesn’t mean either of them will be the guy when the season ends.
Special Teams Grade: C+ (Crosby’s 2 misses bring the grade down.)
Overall Team Performence Grade: A
How could it be anything less. Yes it is the first pre season game but to hold the Browns to under 150 yards and cause four turnovers can’t be overlooked. The first team offense was clicking on all cylinders and remember the Packers used one third of their defensive plays and still looked great. If injuries don’t creep in it will be a fun year for Packers fans.
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