Preseason Begins: Early Thoughts on Packers-Browns
I'm going to start the 2010 season by saying right here and now I hate the quarterback rating. Worthless, esoteric stat. Aaron Rodgers lasted 20 plays in the opening preseason game and if the next 700 plays or so are like those 20 this will be a special season for the Packers. Rodgers was 12-13 for 159 yards and a beautiful 25 yard touchdown to Greg Jennings. Now look at those numbers. Pretty impressive, right?
Here's my beef with the quarterback rating: Rodgers had a rating of 143.3, well below the perfect score of 158.3. Really? If Rodgers gets any better than that the Packers might set all sorts of offensive records. In all seriousness Rodgers was sharp and looks ready for the real thing. One of the big keys to any preseason is making sure everyone is on the same page and other than Ryan Grant's early fumble it certainly looks that way for the first team offense.
Surely there will be some concern with the first team defense but there's a lot to consider. First, the Packers were not at full strength, including the absence of pass rushing specialist Clay Matthews. Second, as is usually the case in August, the blitzing was vanilla and should be more aggressive in the regular season. Cleveland's opening drive was tough to swallow with the total absence of a pass rush and the cushion given to the wide receivers but it's only one drive. Third, going back to that drive Jake Delhomme was under center and he's new in Cleveland. There's a limited amount of time to develop a rhythm with the young wide receivers and it looks like the Browns are adding a bit of West Coast flavor to the offense. So the urgency is there for the Browns, for the time being not so much for the Packers. One positive was the run defense. Jerome Harrison ended 2009 running strong but nothing is guaranteed for him this season and he was an afterthought with only 25 yards on seven carries. The Browns are again hoping for production from James Davis and he wasn't much better with only 24 rushing yards.
Yet again we enter a preseason wondering what special teams will look like. Well the first preseason game wasn't pretty. Rookie Sam Shields returned his first punt for only a yard and then muffed a punt in the second quarter. But it wasn't all Shields. One punt was allowed to hit the ground at the ten and was downed at the one yard line. Gerard Lawson returned a kick 30 yards to put Cleveland at their own 37 and the good field position led to a second quarter touchdown. Those types of mistakes, both returning and in coverage, can add up as the season wears on. Again, there's only so much you can take away from preseason and this was only the first game. There was both good and bad for the Packers but from the first look if Rodgers can play like that all year and the Packers can generate a more consistent pass rush it should be another playoff year.