Packers-Cardinals: After review
After taking a second look at the Packers 17-0 loss to Arizona Friday night a few things stood out:
While I normally don't read too much into preseason play calling I found it interesting that the Packers opened the game by running the ball on first down nine straight times. Maybe Mike McCarthy is sending a message to his team, and the rest of the league, that he will be true to his word when it comes to improving the run game.
On the third-and-goal on the opening drive Jermichael Finley dropped a pass at the goal line. It would've been a tough catch to make but that's what he needs to do to win back fan support, especially when it comes to making plays in the red zone. Fellow tight end D.J. Williams had two drops in the first half. Williams is at a crossroads with the franchise and he needs a better showing than what we saw on Friday.
David Bakhtiari was one of the few consistent bright spots. He played the entire first half at left tackle and was solid with both run blocking and pass protection. 2012 was a dreadful year for the Cardinals but defensively they held their own, finishing 12th in total defense while accumulating 38 sacks. It was a goods first test for Bakhtiari and he passed with flying colors. Marshall Newhouse opened the game at right tackle and then rotated with Don Barclay in the first half. In the second half Newhouse took over at left tackle before giving way to Kevin Hughes midway through the fourth quarter.
Speaking of Newhouse, he was beaten badly by John Abraham early in the second quarter on a Graham Harrell sack that led to a turnover. Harrell was also sacked in the third quarter by Tyrann Mathieu. On that play Johnathan Franklin was lined up on the left side and Mathieu blitzed from the right with a clean shot at Harrell. That's part of the inexperience that comes with Harrell. He either didn't read the blitz correctly or wasn't able to locate the hot receiver quickly enough. Harrell's other big mistake came when he was intercepted by Patrick Peterson. It was a telegraphed throw all the way and Peterson is the kind of corner who will make that play.
Harrell ended up with the most playing time, seeing 36 snaps. Aaron Rodgers played 12 snaps while Vince Young and B.J. Coleman saw 12 and 8 snaps respectively. Some wondered why Harrell played so long in favor of Young. The problem was that with Young joining the team so late there was no way he would've had time to absorb the playbook. Putting Young out there for more than about a dozen snaps only would've set him up for failure. My guess is he'll see more snaps on Saturday, especially after Harrell's performance. Young was able to pick up and execute the keep pass, which was called early in the fourth quarter. A longtime staple of the West Coast offense Young is built for the kind of play which allows him to roll out and improvise. Young finished 1-3 though one of his incompletions was a drop by Alex Gillett.
It was a quiet night for the defensive line. Datone Jones lasted just one play before leaving with an ankle injury. Jones didn't start but his lone snap came on a 3rd-and-6. Johnny Jolly saw quite a bit of playing time in the second half and even applied some pressure early in the 3rd quarter. At the very least, it was good to see Jolly not just on the field but contributring. However, other than a handful of other plays the Packers just weren't able to put much pressure on Arizona's quarterbacks. Couple that with a rough night for Davon House and Micah Hyde and the Packers gave up the usual amount of explosive plays. Hyde is still a guy to watch though as he was good in run support and has nice instincts in the open field.
As just about everyone noted the player of the night was receiver Ty Walker. While Walker has had a great camp the issue is if there's a spot for him on the roster. If the Packers only keep five wide receivers Walker will likely be out as Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Randall Cobb, Jarrett Boykin and Jeremy Ross are all ahead of him on the depth chart. Ross saw plenty of action as a return man and his return ability makes him a valuable player, so it's not likely that Walker can leap over Ross. However if the Packers keep six receivers Walker at this point would make the team. It's all a question of how many guys the Packers want at that position.