Game fails to clear up bubble battles

In the words of Packers coach Mike Sherman, there were "maybe five" spots open on the roster entering Friday night's preseason finale at Tennessee. If there were five open spots entering the 27-7 clunker, there were five open spots immediately after the game, as well.

Sherman and his coaches have to slice the roster from 74 players to the final 53 by 3 p.m. Sunday. If Sherman wanted some of the players on the bubble to step up and grab a spot, he was sorely disappointed. Perhaps that explained the angered look on his face as the backups failed to move the ball on offense and failed to stop Tennessee on defense.

— Starting with the marquee position, quarterback, Tim Couch showed his usual lack of arm strength during his one series, undrafted rookie Scott McBrien did nothing with his three possessions, and incumbent Craig Nall was good one throw, bad the next.

Couch finished 3-of-6 for 14 yards. The three completions were all dumpoffs. Every pass was thrown with finesse instead of zip. In his three possessions, McBrien was 1-of-3 for 5 yards and too quickly looked to run.

Nall certainly left nothing to chance, going deep three times on his nine attempts. Starting with the ball at the 24-yard line, Nall's first pass was a bomb to Kelvin Kight, who had beaten his man by a couple steps. The ball was perfectly thrown, but Kight dropped what certainly would have been a 76-yard touchdown.

After a short flip turned into an 11-yard completion to running back Walter Williams, Nall's next pass should have been intercepted. Pass interference gave the Packers 11 yards on the next play, and Nall hooked up with Kight on another bomb, but Kight caught the ball about a yard out of bounds. Nall's next pass was dropped by Williams, and a throw to leaping tight end Tony Donald whistled through his fingertips.

On a third-and-10, wide receiver Wilson Thomas made a great move and got wide open for a 40-yard gain that should have been a touchdown had Thomas kept his feet. On a third-and-9, however, Nall threw a horrible pass off his back foot for an interception in the end zone.

Nall got one last chance, but Scottie Vines was stripped after a 23-yard gain on a perfectly run slant. Like last week, when Nall was victimized by a couple drops en route to an 0-for-5 preseason debut at Jacksonville, Nall finished 3-for-9 for 71 yards and the interception.

"It's a tough evaluation sometimes because of who's in there with you as a quarterback and if the guys are doing the right things," Sherman said of the quarterback battle.

— In the battle to be the third tight end, neither Donald nor Steve Bush caught a pass. Bush gets some snaps with the first-team offense out of two-tight-end sets, so he likely entered the game ahead of Donald.

— In the battle to be the fifth receiver, Kight hurt his cause with the drop and also fair-catching a punt with only one defender — and he was blocked — around him. Vines has been impressive throughout training camp but fumbled the ball for the second time in as many games. Carl Ford had one catch for 4 yards and returned a kickoff 24 yards. In fairness to all three players, none of the backup quarterbacks has played well. And in fairness to the quarterbacks, they haven't had much protection.

— In the battle to be the ninth offensive lineman, rookie center Scott Wells showed some versatility with some effective snaps at guard. Also in the hunt are guard/tackle Atlas Herrion and tackle Jason Jimenez. Herrion has been out with an injury while Jimenez has struggled a bit in pass protection. The second- and third-team offense failed to get into the end zone in any of the four games, so it's not like any of these guys are dominating.

— The Packers entered the game with 12 defensive linemen but only will keep 10. Sherman's decisions will depend heavily on the health of reliable veteran Larry Smith, who injured his thigh against New Orleans and hasn't practiced since, Kenny Peterson, who injured his knee Friday at Tennessee, and Chukie Nwokorie, who was steady last season but has barely practiced this summer with a hamstring injury. Five players entered the game fighting for three jobs — Nwokorie, Smith, Cullen Jenkins, Tyrone Rogers and pass-rushing end Kenny Holmes. The injuries could allow the Packers to keep Jenkins, Rogers and Holmes for now. Rogers had a decent game, Jenkins' dive on to the pile injured Peterson, and Holmes failed to produce any pressure on the passer.

— In the battle to be the sixth linebacker, Tyreo Harrison was active on defense and special teams, while Josue showed his explosiveness a couple times. On one 9-yard run by Eddie Payton in the fourth quarter, Harrison was obliterated by Titans rookie fullback Troy Fleming.

— The secondary became a lot less muddled when the Packers traded safety Marques Anderson to the Raiders before the game. With Anderson released, the backup safeties likely will be Bhawoh Jue and special-teams standout James Whitley. The backup corners have been pretty well set for a few weeks, with rookies Ahmad Carroll (assuming he's not promoted) and Joey Thomas and former Canadian Football League player Jason Horton.

Packer Report Top Stories