No good, but plenty of bad and ugly

Whether it was the rookie offensive linemen missing blocks, Greg Jennings dropping a pass or the linebackers running themselves out of position, there was little to like in the preseason opener at San Diego, PackerReport.com's Steve Lawrence says.

Well, didn't that just take the wind out of your sails?

Training camp, like baseball spring training, is a time for optimism. Then the games begin, and reality hits like a sledgehammer.

The Packers lost their preseason opener 17-3 on Saturday night at San Diego. Sure, it was only a preseason game, but the score might as well have been 100-3, because the Packers were outclassed in nearly every facet of the contest.

Before the game, I gave you six areas to watch. In every area, the Packers were lacking.

1. Young offensive line

Rookie second-round pick Daryn Colledge has a lot of improving to do before he's even a competent left guard.

On third down on the Packers' first series, Colledge was beaten at the line of scrimmage, forcing Brett Favre to dump off the ball to Najeh Davenport before getting tagged.

On second-and-3 on the Packers' next possession, Colledge was pushed into the backfield, and Davenport gained just a yard.

On third-and-1 on the next possession, Colledge was stood up at the line of scrimmage and fellow rookie guard Jason Spitz was beaten badly to the inside — which should never, ever happen in the zone scheme — and Davenport was stuffed.

And on the first play of Favre's final possession, Colledge allowed Favre to get drilled again.

"We had back-to-back sacks with the first team. Aaron ran around a lot. There was a lot of pressure," coach Mike McCarthy said. "We've got some work to do."

2. Pitch ...

Favre never had a chance. In 12 dropbacks, Favre was hit eight times. Not all of it was the fault of Colledge and Spitz. Right tackle Mark Tauscher allowed a sack, though the downfield coverage deserves some of the credit. Another sack came when Davenport whiffed on a blitz pickup. As the night wore on, the Packers resorted to rollouts to get Favre out of harm's way.

On the plus side, Favre didn't force any passes. He only threw one truly bad pass, and that was his first one of the night. Facing a rush up the middle, Favre threw off his back foot instead of stepping into the throw, and the pass short-hopped Robert Ferguson. He finished 5 of 10 for 66 yards.

Aaron Rodgers, his interception notwithstanding, looked very good. He finished 9 of 11 for 124 yards. He looked down the field instead of settling for dinks and dumps, like he did last fall.

Combined, Rodgers and Favre were sacked five times.

3. ... and catch

On paper, with team highs of four catches and 68 yards, rookie Greg Jennings took a big step toward winning a starting job at wide receiver. The reality is a very different story.

Both Jennings and Robert Ferguson made nice plays on long passes. Ferguson made a leaping grab for a 28-yard gain from Favre, and Jennings hauled in a 47-yarder from Rodgers.

But Jennings nearly caused an interception when he dropped a pass from Favre in the second quarter. It looked like Jennings wasn't ready for the ball, a cardinal sin with Favre running the show. Worse, later in the drive, Jennings killed the Packers' only positive Favre-led excursion of the night when he dropped a pass on fourth-and-2 because he started to run before he had the ball secured.

The other receiver in the mix, Rod Gardner, caught two passes for 31 yards. Both came on third down, with the latter being a nice grab along the sideline when Rodgers escaped the rush.

4. The linebackers

Nick Barnett, A.J. Hawk and Abdul Hodge had their moments, both good and bad.

Barnett sprinted to his left on a first-quarter screen pass. Unfortunately for the Packers, the screen went the opposite direction, and Brandon Manumaleuna picked up 30 yards because there was nobody there to make a play.

Hawk was torched for 17 yards by tight end Antonio Gates on the Chargers' second play from scrimmage. Let's keep some perspective here, though. Gates is a Pro Bowl player and should go down as one of the greatest tight ends in NFL history. Gates is an athletic veteran who was split out wide. That would be a mismatch for most linebackers, much less a rookie. Later, he made a nice play in coverage and also drilled a Chargers runner for no gain.

Hodge finished second on the team with six tackles, and was as active as he has been throughout training camp. On the Chargers' second touchdown, however, Hodge got caught up inside while Michael Turner jogged 13 yards around end for a touchdown.

5. Special teams

Nothing was solved in the kicking battle. Billy Cundiff made a chip-shot field goal and Dave Rayner's onside kick caught the Chargers napping.

As for the punters, Canadian Jon Ryan averaged 46.3 yards per punt with a net of 41.0, while B.J. Sander averaged 36.7 yards per punt with a net of 33.7. Ryan's only weak punt was his first one, and that came after a low snap.

The coverage units were adequate but the return teams were lacking. On the plus side, Cory Rodgers caught the ball on both punt returns.

6. McCarthy running the show

McCarthy has said he would stick with the running game, through thick and thin. Well, in his first preseason game, with the scoreboard basically irrelevant, the quarterbacks threw 26 passes, were sacked five times and scrambled three times. That's 34 passing plays. The running backs carried the ball 15 times.

That's not even close to the 53 percent pass to 47 percent run ratio he hoped to maintain this season.

Clearly, McCarthy has his work cut out for him in the next few weeks. The offensive line looks soft and unprepared. The running backs gained 23 yards on 15 attempts. The Packers' pass rush was nonexistent before Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila got a sack with 11 minutes to play in the first half, and that lack of heat allowed first-year starter Philip Rivers to pick apart the Packers' ballyhooed secondary.

It all conspired to ruin a debut McCarthy made no secret he badly wanted to win.

"This isn't about me," he said. "But this is about where we are as a football team. We didn't play the way we're capable of playing."

Lawrence is a regular contributor to PackerReport.com. Send comments to steve_lawrence_packers@yahoo.com.


Packer Report Top Stories