Secondary, Harrell struggle in preseason opener; Cards breeze past Pack in 17-0 shutout
Looking Pack: Preseason Week 1 Recap
Last November, the Green Bay Packers coasted to a 31-17 win over the Arizona Cardinals in a Week 9 game that found Aaron Rodgers tossing four touchdown passes and the team amassing a combined 176 yards on the ground. Friday brought a drastically different outcome, in which Rodgers (and the rest of the team, for that matter) failed to reach the end zone and the Packers offense struggled mightily in a 17-0 loss to Arizona. Fortunately, the circumstances at Lambeau Field were a bit different this time around.
The preseason opener started off encouragingly enough, as Green Bay embarked on an 86-yard opening drive—including a beautiful and all-to-familiar Rodgers-James Jones hookup down the left sideline, good for 50 of the quarterback’s 62 yards in his sole series. Ultimately, the drive halted at the Arizona one, when James Starks (as part of his 12-carry, 38-yard night) was unable to punch it in on fourth down. That would be the closest the Packers would come to scoring all night, a likely byproduct of being without starting wideouts Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb or rookie running back Eddie Lacy all night.
The Cardinals first unit fared better early on. New (to them, ancient to the rest of football) quarterback Carson Palmer found Larry Fitzgerald twice in the first quarter, and quickly turned a Graham Harrell interception into a 38-yard touchdown pass to Andre Roberts on the next play. Even after Palmer departed, the big pass plays continued. Arizona had a total of four completions of 25 or more yards over the course of the game, at times making Davon House and Jerron McMillian look lost in the process.
While the secondary struggled mightily (save for Jarrett Bush, who looked a god among third and fourth stringers), a handful of linebacker and defensive line reserves put together solid showings. Though the stat sheets don’t show it, recently re-instated Johnny Jolly had an encouraging evening of quarterback pressure, double-teams and plugged running lanes in his first game back after missing the last three seasons due to a drug suspension (for which he also served time in prison).
Additionally, 4th year linebacker Robert Francois showed the same glimmers of encouragement he had at times last season. Francois finished with three tackles and Green Bay’s only sack (narrowly missing another). Undrafted rookie Chris Banjo also made headway in establishing a name for himself—beyond just the guy with “Banjo” written on the back of his jersey, that is—with a team-high four tackles and a more-than capable showing on special teams. First round pick Datone Jones exited the game early with an apparent ankle sprain.
Offensively, the long-held uncertainty regarding backup quarterback remained unsolved by the time the scoreboard read zeroes Friday night. After his interception, Harrell played so-so, going 12 for 19 with a team-high 76 yards (in overwhelmingly the most snaps) on the night, not including a fumble caused when tackle Marshall Newhouse allowed John Abraham through uncontested to lambast the backup quarterback. Lacking knowledge of the offense and much team conditioning, newest Packers signee Vince Young fared OK in his Green Bay debut, while second year Packer B.J. Coleman’s 2 for 7 performance saw his small window of opportunity close a bit more.
One source of worry that was (hopefully) eliminated was who could step in for tackle Bryan Bulaga, who’s out for the season with a torn ACL. Rookie David Bakhtiari had a quiet game, which is a good thing for a lineman—especially one recently tasked with protecting the franchise’s blindside.
Player of the game (Offense) – Ty Walker
The undrafted rookie wide receiver led Green Bay in receptions (five) for 41 yards.
Player of the game (Defense/Special Teams) – Brett Goode
In a game lacking offense, Green Bay’s longsnapper kept busy.
Up Next: At St. Louis Rams at 7 p.m. on Saturday, August 17.